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UN interns and EC trainees trip to The Hague

On the 20th of August 2013, a group of Brussels based interns from the United Nations and trainees from the European Commission embarked on a study trip to The Hague. 

 The trip was organized byUNIDO intern, Fabian Stricker. Fabian decided to organize the study trip because he saw “the benefit of exposing young professionals to international organizations and strengthening their curricula.” (Watch video and interviews about the trip here.)

The group consisted of around 25 interns and trainees, most of whom were working for different UN agencies in Brussels. It was a truly international group, with 12 different nationalities from all over the world. Some of the interns were on the final leg of their stay in Brussels, while others were just starting their internship.

Wednesday was the first official day of the trip, which started with a filling breakfast at the hostel for the group before they headed over to the International Court of Justice (IJC) and the Peace Palace. The ICJ is the principal judicial organ at the United Nations, delivering binding judgments on international issues submitted by states, as well as giving advisory opinions on legal questions referred by the UN organs and agencies. The group was given a very entertaining and informative briefing by the information officer of the ICJ, Boris Heim, followed by a guided tour by the Carnegie Foundation around the beautiful Peace Palace. 

After a quick lunch the group got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and attended a hearing of the Ratko Mladić case. The ICTY is currently processing its last two cases related to the war crimes that took place in the Balkans in the 1990’s. Mr. Aleksandar Kontic, Head of the ICTY’s Transition Team, updated the group on the progress in the last two cases and Mr. Andrew Begg, Legal Officer, provided a concise overview of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). After the completion of ICTY’s mandate, The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals will continue the jurisdiction, rights and obligations as well as essential functions of the former Tribunal. . At the end of a long day, the group’s final visit was to attend a briefing at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons (OPCW), which was a very timely visit concidering the recent allegations of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.

The second day commenced with a visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the first international court that helps end impunity of the most serious crimes according to the international community. The group attended a briefing on legal matters by Mr. Simon De Smet, Legal Officer, as well as political science questions by Ms. Antônia Pereira de Sousa, Associate Cooperation Officer, before attending the hearing with the accused, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. The following visit was to Eurojust, one of the institutions many were quite unfamiliar with. The group received a briefing by Nicolas Karayannis, Head of the Conference and Events Management Sector and gained a deeper understanding of the institution and its functions. Eurojust is a decentralized coordinating unit of investigations and prosecutions in Member States of the European Union.

The following day concluded the study trip. The first visit was to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where a briefing was held by Mr. Solomon Moriba, Programme, Outreach, Press and Public Affairs Officer. Mr Moriba elaborated on the history of the SCSL and showed the interns and trainees the Antonio Cassese Courtroom, which the SCSL shares with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This briefing was followed by one by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The group was briefed by both the Prosecutor office and the Defense office on how they see the upcoming trials and of their respective functions. The last day of the trip was finished off with a visit to the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY), a non-profit youth-led network of 58 member organizations working with youth participation in peace.

The study trip was an interesting experience and gave many participants new knowledge and thoughts to help them continue in their internships and traineeships. All the briefings were engaging and it was a great opportunity to discuss and ask questions. As many of the participants were UN interns, it was also an educational experience to see some of the UN institutions and learn more about their functions. For both UN interns and EC trainees visiting the organizations was a valuable and rewarding experience.

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