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Externships at The Hague: “A Dream Opportunity”

June 30, 2011

ICTY Headquarters
Morgan Simpson & Emily Cohen
Emily Cohen in Istanbul

By Elisabeth Donovan, Communications Student Assistant

To third year TJSL student Emily Cohen, getting hands-on international criminal law experience in Europe sounded like a dream opportunity. During the Spring 2011 semester, she got the chance to live that dream by working at The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a United Nations court in The Hague, Netherlands. According to its official website, ICTY deals with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990’s.

Cohen was selected to participate in this sought-after program along with TJSL students Morgan Simpson, Taylor Olson, Joey White and Suzie Mohr. “I couldn’t wait to start,” Cohen said. In anticipation of the adventure, she moved all of her belongings into storage, gave up her apartment and found a new place on the other side of the world to call home.

Upon arriving, Cohen was stunned by how cold the weather was in comparison to San Diego. “I was so shocked I couldn’t leave my apartment for a few days,” she recalled. However, Cohen did not mind, as she described her European pad as “one of the coolest she had ever seen.”

When Cohen explored The Hague, she was pleased that most people spoke English, which made navigating the city easier. “The Dutch people have incredible linguistic talents, as they speak Dutch, German, and English, and most speak French as well as various other languages,” she said.

Cohen delved into international humanitarian law when she began working at the ICTY, which helped prepare her for her assignment. She worked on the Karadzic Standby Defence Team representing Radovan Karadzic, the former President of Republika Srpska (Serbia) who is accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed during the war in Bosnia from 1992-1996. Cohen worked with international lawyers Colleen Rohan and Richard Harvey, whom she described as being “very smart and worldly.”

“I learned something new every day,” Cohen said.  “At work, we continuously learned about the Bosnian conflict and international law, which can be very different from American law. For example, international civil procedure is so different than federal civil procedure. Another example is that there is no hearsay in International law.”

Outside of work, Cohen continued to take advantage of opportunities to broaden her view of the world. “When you go home, your friends, who are usually from different countries, continue talking about different political situations throughout the world,” she explained. “It’s really great to go home and discuss current issues with people who see the world through a different perspective. It was also really interesting to hear the perspectives on the legality of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination from some of the most experienced international law lawyers.”

One of Cohen’s most memorable experiences at ICTY was being there for the Dorvedic Trial Judgment.  “These cases last a long time, so it was surreal seeing one come to an end.”

Although Cohen says she worked hard, she also enjoyed her downtime, as she got to experience the culture first hand and soak up the beauty of Europe. “One of the best experiences outside of The Hague was going to the Keukenoff Gardens,” she said.  “Keukenoff is a park full of tulips, hyacinths and other flowers.  It was so beautiful, especially looking out and seeing a sea of beautiful colors.” 
Cohen also spent traveled on the weekends. Her other destinations included Turkey, Belgium, Switzerland, Serbia, and Bosnia.  During her last week, she backpacked from Budapest to Brussels.

“Although I missed home, I had so much fun that I don’t regret one second!” she said.