Study Trip to The Hague 2014

During my time at University of Vienna’s department of International Law, study trips such as visits to WTO and the UN institutions in Geneva and Vienna, formed an integral part of our LL.M. program.

During our LL.M. International Legal studies trip to Den Haag in 2014, we had the chance to visit the very important institutions that have shaped international law for more than half a century. Together with Prof. Gerhard Hafner and Prof. Christina Binder were we able to visit the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, and  the International Criminal Court, US-Iran Claims Tribunal, Lebanon Tribunal and at the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  At the visit to the ICTY, we had the chance to get familiar with the work of the court, and complex preparations the court has to undertake before starting criminal proceedings.

Professionals with remarkable experience explained us in detail how complicated it is to form a working group consisting of the group of evidence gathering teams in the terrain together with the governments of the particular countries under investigation. It became clear what challenges had to be faced to find reliable evidence before the beginning of criminal proceedings.

Here, also the intricacy which had to be overcome to ensure the safety of the witnesses, they journey from their home towns to Den Haag, and the procedures to bring the witnesses before the court – were illustrated clearly.

During our visit to the Peace Palace we became aware of the fact how cases that we have dealt with during our study program, were decided in the very same room where we were sitting in. We also had the chance to meet judges of the International Court of Justice.

In the other half of the Palace building, we visited the Permanent Court of Arbitration, where members of the staff described their work and the growing importance of the PCA.

A particularly exciting experience was to witness the Lebanon Tribunal, established through a UNSC resolution under Article 41 of UN Charter. There, the members of the prosecution and defense presented their cases to us, so that we were allowed to argue briefly about the reliability of their claims, which made us feel like a part of the Tribunal – for a short moment.

At the International Criminal Court we were introduced to the work of the ICC by ICC professionals, and had the chance to see a short documentary about the ICC, including the moment when the Rome Statute for International Criminal Court was signed. Watching this historical moment in a film made us feel a little emotional as well, seeing how much people with good will can achieve to ensure a certain amount of respect towards an International Legal Order and how much this signature of the Rome Statute means to them and now -to us.

After the ICC, we visited the US-Iran Claims Tribunal, where representatives of the US and Iran showed us their progress on resolving the disputed between US and Iran.

Last but not least, a visit to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was very informative for all the students. Excitement did not come only from seeing the achievement of OPCW to prohibit use and production of Chemical Weapons, but also that our knowledge as students of International Law was gently tested, and we had the chance to discuss issues concerning Chemical Weapons and International Law.

At the end of the trip, the Embassy of Austria in Den Haag organized a dinner for all the students at the Ambassador’s residence. There, we had the chance to discuss some of the issues which form part of the agenda of the Austrian Ambassador to the Netherlands.

Our stay in Den Haag, was not only limited to visits to the above mentioned institutions, but we also had time to enjoy the city, the sea and the food in Den Haag.

Finally, I want to recommend every student to participate in the study trips offered by the program management. This is a good chance to visit the most remarkable Institutions that have shaped international law. You may also be able to establish contacts to one or the other representative you meet at those occasions.

Arber AHMETI (LL.M. program 2013-14)