Study Trip Report to the Hague

The University of Vienna School of Law organized a three-day trip to The Hague in the Netherlands. Together with Professor Manfred Nowak and Frank Höpfel, the students of the LL.M. Program International Legal Studies visited the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), and the Residence of the Austrian Ambassador in the Hague. Students had the great opportunity to observe high-profile cases which were in progress, and to speak to the Judges presiding over the cases.  Throughout the whole study trip, Professor Manfred Nowak provided insights into international organizations and their role in shaping the future of international law. The most valuable experience in this study trip was the opportunity for the students to combine practical with the theoretical knowledge gained during theirs studies.

The visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was extremely rewarding. Besides a general introduction to the premises of the ICC, it was extremely interesting to hear about current cases and developments at the ICC from Rod Rastan, the Legal Advisor of the Office of the Prosecutor. It was most exciting to meet the Vice-President Judge Sanji Monageng from the Republic of Botswana and Judge Sylvia Steiner from Brazil. Both judges spoke about their personal experiences in some of the ICC’s cases and gave students a better understanding of the intricacies of the Court. It was great to speak to the judges in this premises and to receive answers to many difficult questions.

The next destination was the Residence of the Austrian Ambassador in The Hague. The students were greeted in the Austrian Embassy by the Minister Plenipotentiary Adelheid Folie who gave a good insight on the activities of the Austrian Embassy regarding the international organizations and institutions based in The Hague, their role and their challenges.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) the students attended the trials of two high-profile cases “Radovan Karadzic” and “Ratco Mladic” which provided us with an inside glimpse into the persecutions, inhumane acts and mass genocide that transpired in Srebrencia. Radovan Karadzic, the former president of the Republic of Serbia, was indicted for genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation, inhumane acts, unlawful attack on civilians and taking hostages, and acts of violence, the primary purpose of which was to spread terror among the civilian population. Ratko Mladic, the former Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, is currently being accused of having committed several crimes against humanity during the war that devastated the Balkans from 1992 to 1995. It was extremely interesting for students to observe the courtroom procedure, how the prosecutor questioned the witnesses and especially the self-defence of Radovan Karadzic.

One of the most fascinating visits was to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the strikingly beautiful Peace Palace. The Judge and President of the International Court of Justice, Peter Tomka, welcomed students warmly in the beautiful Great courtroom. Students had a great opportunity to present questions about the complexities of the current cases and how the International Court of Justice handles the contentious issues that fall within its jurisdiction.

At the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) students heard a lecture on the main aims of OPCW – a world free of chemical weapons and a world in which cooperation and peaceful use of chemistry is fostered. Students were able to better understand that eliminating an entire category of weapons of mass destruction meant prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by states parties. Students realised that the threat of chemical weapons still exist and that there is an need of international organizations -such as the OPCW- to work towards a total disappearance and permanent destruction of such dreadful weapons.

On the third and last day of this study trip, students visited the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) whose primary mandate is to hold trials for the people accused of carrying out the attack of 14 February 2005 which killed 23 people, including the former prime minister of Lebanon. In addition to the great courtroom tour in STL, students had a possibility to brief the representatives from the Prosecution and Defence Offices who also explained a number of features, which do not exist in other international tribunals or courts.

Myroslava Marushchak (LL.M. class of 2012-13)