From Nuremberg to The Hague; Strathmore Law School students gain international experience
For the past one week, a group of Strathmore Law students got front-row seats to the most relevant international courts and tribunals through an academic trip abroad in Europe. The trip is an annual event that takes the students to various cities like Nuremberg, Brussels and notably The Hague in order to visit institutions such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The trip is organized by Strathmore Law School and is part of the school’s commitment to ensuring its students exposure to critical legal institutions and experts to acquaint them with the real-world experience of law, human rights and justice at work.
On 26th to 31st October 2015, the first group of students started their trip with a first stop in Nuremberg, the Bavarian city of Germany that hosted the Nazi war crimes trials after World War II and is considered the birthplace of modern international criminal law.
The students had an opportunity to learn firsthand about the holocaust in a session held in courtroom 600 in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. They were treated thereafter to a tour of the court’s museum with artifacts dating back to 70 years ago when the criminal leaders of Nazi Germany were tried and prosecuted.
While still in Germany, the University of Cologne was the next stop for Strathmore Law School. At over 600 years old, the university of Cologne is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Germany. Here, the students host was the university’s law faculty. Discussion between Strathmore students and team members from Cologne centered around international criminal law and the perception of the relationship of the ICC and Kenya.
Presentation of findings from the various group discussions in a plenary session afterwards were lauded by Prof Claus Kreß, director of the institute for criminal law and criminal procedure at the university of Cologne as very mature and insightful. He was impressed by Strathmore students confidence and understanding of international law, and had this to say about the students, they are fantastic: eloquent, intelligent and so enormously kind.
After three fulfilling days in Germany, Strathmore Law school students were off to The Hague, Netherlands. The Hague is recognized across the globe as a center for international institutions and tribunals. The city of peace. Here the students were exposed to an unprecedented array of historical and legal experiences.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was the first to host the students and granted them a private audience with ICC judge, Justice Joyce Aluoch. She is a former judge of the High Court of Kenya and the students could not hide their excitement about meeting a fellow Kenyan at the ICC. They also had the opportunity to meet with legal counsel from the Office of the Prosecutor and the different chambers of the court, to gain an insight into the challenges associated with investigating and prosecuting international crimes. The Kenyan case at the ICC was of particular interest to the Strathmore Law School students.
“Listening to the ICC’s representatives and getting the chance to look at its main courtroom, see the layout and the reasoning behind why specific people sit at specified places in the court room was a real learning experience for me. Also knowing that it is likely that some of the most wanted human rights abusers will one day sit a close distance from where I sat in the observation room is quite surreal” recalls Lucy (3rd Year Law Student)
After the ICC visit, the students were split into two groups with one group visiting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the other visiting the office of Organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW). At the Special tribunal for Lebanon, invaluable insights from a series of briefs and presentations on the history and mandate of the court were gained. This court was set up primarily to hold trials for the people accused of carrying out the attack of 14 February 2005 in Beirut killing 22 and injuring others, including the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri.
This day ended with a visit to the Embassy of Kenya in the Kingdom of Netherlands. The Ambassador was away and students were welcomed by senior embassy officials, and treated to both Kenyan and Dutch delicacies. The conversation revolved around the students views on the Dutch and Kenyan societies and both parties were eager to share their observations.
Friday 30th October started with a visit to the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was created to prosecute high level political and military leaders alleged to have committed international crimes during the internal civil war in Yugoslavia. ICTY representatives gave the students detailed background into the crimes committed by some of those leaders and the outcomes of the trials. Moving testimonies of the court hearings were also played that left the students in awe at the exceptional courage displayed by the victims of the horrific experience in the Balkans.
This trip has offered me the unique opportunity to place myself within the real world of Law and Human rights. It offered me and my friends a practical depth of the real challenge in promoting human rights and advancing the course of humanity, Victor (3rd year Law student) explains after the ICTY tour.
Next stop after the ICTY was the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). The court is located at the magnificent Peace Palace in Hague and the role of its 15 judges is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by various States.
Strathmore Law School student enjoyed an enlightening session with ICJs Vice President, Abdulqawui Ahmed Yusuf from Somalia and Judge Julia Sebutinde from Uganda within the famous Hall of Justice. The session gave an overview of the procedures ICJ judges go through to come to a judgment, some debate about the case, and career advice. During the Q & A session, the two ICJ judges were impressed by the depth and quality of questions posed by the Strathmore students.
Justice Yusuf, Vice President of the International Court of Justice, had this to say on hosting the Strathmore Law School Students, We enjoyed very much talking to the students. They are bright intelligent and interested in the law. I have no doubt they will have a lot of success.
Joy, a 3rd year law student was quick to point out her experience after the ICJ session.
This trip has impacted me on a personal level and will make a difference in my future career. It has enhanced my knowledge and self-confidence and increased my determination to achieve my ambition in the field of law
The next stop of the day was the Leiden University campus in The Hague. The university is firmly rooted in great academic tradition and being located in The Hague has enriched its teaching of international law. Strathmore Law School students had the opportunity to attend a lecture dubbed the The international judicial function and the legitimacy of international courts and tribunals delivered by Prof Joe Powderly, an assistant professor of public international law.
On Friday evening, the Strathmore students paid a courtesy call to the office of the deputy mayor, Hague. They were warmly received by the deputy mayor and his team who shared with the students a brief history of the city and thereafter took them on a guided tour of their beautiful city.
The guided tour was to continue the next day, 31st Saturday but in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, legacies of the citys 17th-century Golden Age of the Dutch society. The students enjoyed a canal trip aboard one of the famous canal cruises in Amsterdam that allowed them to explore the local heritage and gain a rich cultural experience to cap off their European trip.