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Apr 25, 2016

Law Students Amina and Dean Internship Experience at ICTY – The Hague

Strathmore Law School students Amina Mohamed and Dean George Wanjala, going into their 4th year were the proud winners of a 2 week internship opportunity at the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) following their tremendous win at last year’s International Criminal Law moot court competition. The two expressed great joy as they discussed their fortunate journey that saw them build stronger linkages, gaining reliable networks for their future.

 

The pair had never spoken to each other prior to this internship experience, but have now learnt the joy of such opportunities even towards building new friendships and fostering productive friendships as students.

 

Strathmore Law School paid half of the internship trip cost while the office of the prosecutor paid the other half; to the two students, all they needed to do was show up.  

 

How did you get this opportunity?

 

Amina; The current graduating class had done a similar moot court competition when in 3rd year that saw them participate in a similar internship, therefore we also got to participate in a moot court that had the same opportunity.

 

Dean; The Public International Law unit we study, has International Criminal Law as a topic that the Chief Prosecutor ICTY gets to teach for three weeks. Part of this lessons involves participating in an international criminal law moot court. Our competition was held in August last year, where we presented in front of the Chief Justice of Kenya, Hon. Dr. Willy Mutunga, and the Chief Prosecutor ICTY Dr. Serge Brammertz. We were going against each other, Amina and I; I was the best speaker prosecutor and she was the best speaker defense.

 

How was the experience?

 

Amina; we came out of there having grown, more than we had when we got in. We got great mentorship from our supervisor Mr. Kevin Hughes, which allowed us to experience more than we had ever thought of.

 

Dean; we were interns at the Office of the prosecutor with interns from other countries, real professionals who had taken time off to come intern in the same office to improve their knowledge. It was great to be put together with them as we learnt how systems work in many parts of the world. Moreso, we were privileged to intern with professionals from those countries.

 

Amina; we were also privileged to sit in on judgment rulings for two major cases; Vojislav Seselj’s case – Former Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, and Radovan Karadzic’s case – Former Bosnian Serb politician convicted of war crimes. We sat in the gallery and got to witness the rulings in the presence of victims who were keen on these cases, giving life to law, in a way we had never experienced.

 

What was so major about the cases rulings you witnessed?

 

Dean; we were present to witness cases that would practically make case law. When we do moot courts we have to analyze case laws; in the next moot courts probably these cases will be analyzed. Especially because the judgments were contrary to what most lawyers expected. We also learnt on the different rulings conducted in different countries, pointing out that law is not black and white.

 

Amina; if we never went to ICTY we would never have known the differences with sentencing in different countries. We learnt on a new way of thinking that should inform our decisions in future.

 

What lessons did you learn from the people you worked under?

 

Dean; these experts had been working on their cases for many years, but they never gave up, even after ruling had been made. They were highly motivated to start new proceedings to fight the ruling that had been made. I realized they were so passionate about their work.

 

Amina; you find people working on Saturdays, one of my colleagues, on one Saturday morning was standing at the gate of the office from 8:30 yet offices open at 9 am, ready to go and research on her cases and do more.

 

How was it visiting the Evidence Vault – (A room that stores items used as evidence during trial cases)

 

Amina; it felt like we were in a war zone, the items were so real. We saw guns which was really exciting for me.

 

Dean; I saw wedding rings that brought some real truth to me, explained why the men and women work hard, to get justice for the victims.

 

The activities of each day involved researching, writing, and reviewing articles, as well as analyzing the tasks conducted by ICC and ICTY, the differences and similarities in both courts. They also participated in a cake competition from cakes baked by the office staff, this created a very great opportunity for bonding as an office.

 

Amina; we also learnt on how to write our CVs, to boost our skills.

 

Have your perceptions in different areas changed after the internship program?

 

Amina; I realized I am not keen on getting into public litigation and becoming a prosecutor, a line I thought I would get into previously. I am not sure which path of Law I will therefore take, but I am considering getting in a line that would bring great change for the law systems, such as being in the judiciary.

 

Dean; I love the Chief Prosecutors job, which involved going from country to country to negotiate options, and be a people person. Therefore, I may go into becoming a diplomat because of the kind of personality I am. I also realized the foreign languages we learn are so important for survival outside of Kenya, my French lessons came in handy, and Amina’s German lessons also helped especially when we almost caught the wrong train to the office.

 

What would you advise students on being involved with more than just studies at school?

 

Amina; we have students from all different kinds of background at Strathmore, and such opportunities would be so great for all kinds of students. You get to build contacts, networks and enjoy experiences that would never have been before, on top of that a student gets to learn a lot more on their course.

 

Dean; it is important for students to do extra-curricular activities and not just focus on studying, there are many opportunities Strathmore presents. We had prejudices before going for the internship because we had never spoken to each other, we only knew we were classmates. Therefore the experience was fantastic, as we ended up bonding, and learn a lot from each other.

 

Amina; When I got to know Dean, I learnt that he is one individual I would prefer working with in future. 

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