Monday, January 21, 2008

Belgian Beer and Harvard Law

Attending an amazing two-day session with a Harvard Law School war crimes delegation, to which I was invited by one of my best 2L friends, Albert Chang, I was fortunate to listen to and discuss cases with lead prosecutors and defense attorneys at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Den Hague. We met with the lead prosecutor for the Serbian propaganda chief on trial in the ICTY. Though I visited the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania in September, I was not able to enter. As I scanned my passport and entered the metal detector, it was fitting that my security agent was a Tanzanian with whom I could conduct similing Swahili banter, and mention the fact that I had a beer with his national team’s goalkeeper, Ivo Mapunda.

I was struck by our meeting with the lead ICC defense attorney for Charles Taylor. How could one stand with the conviction to defend a man who has allegedly sold arms to fuel war in Liberia and Sierra Leone, endorsed or at least not opposed the use of child soldiers and diamond mine exploitation? In his black and gold-rimmed glasses and gold watch, the bedazzled persona of Charles Taylor makes a difficult case even tougher. It’s difficult to consider how the cost of extradition, in that it’s likely a reasonable assumption of guilt, influences the perception of justice for the convicted. ICC has historically acquitted far fewer than 10 percent of cases, so then is the role of defense attorney merely a formality? I pensively drew lines in the condensation on my Belgain beer glass as an articulate man explained his belief in justice and reconcilliation as separate processes.

From The Hague we journeyed to Amsterdam where I walked the canals with Simon, my buddy from Munich. I visited my favorite gallery, and constructed my own version of the FT’s “Perfect Weekend” column, a feat that included two pre-India McDonald's burgers eaten in about 1 minute.

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