A group of BCL/MJur students from the University of Oxford and LLM students from the University of Glasgow visited The Hague between 16-18 April 2013 in a trip organised by the conveners of the International Dispute Settlement courses at the two universities (Antonios Tzanakopoulos and Christian J Tams, respectively). On the first day, the students visited the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), where they met Legal Counsel Dirk Pulkowski. Dirk spoke with the students at length about the history and role of the PCA, its structure and operation, and its current case load. He also discussed some seminal PCA-administered arbitrations and a Q&A session followed. After an informal tour of the Peace Palace, the students went on to the second part of the visit: this was centered around the Cambodia v Thailand case currently being argued before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also housed in the Peace Palace. First, students met with senior counsel for Cambodia, Sir Franklin Berman QC, also a member of the Oxford Law Faculty. Sir Frank put the Cambodian argument to the students, who asked questions about the case and about practice at the international bar. The first day ended with a group dinner in a nearby restaurant. The Oxford-Glasgow group was joined by Dr James Sloan, Lecturer at the University of Glasgow and currently Professional Visitor at the International Criminal Court, Dr Ilias Plakokefalos, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam, and--the 'guest of honour'--Dr Francesco Messineo, currently Associate Legal Officer with the International Court of Justice (and Lecturer at the University of Kent). Francesco spoke to the students about the role of legal officers at the Court's registry, and took questions on possible career paths.
On the second day, the group continued in ICJ mode: the students attended the hearings in the Cambodia v Thailand case, on the first day of argument by the Respondent (Thailand). They heard argument by Professor James Crawford, SC, Professor Alain Pellet, Professor Donald McRae, and Alina Miron. During the lunch break, Professor Pellet met with the students in the Peace Palace gardens. He put to them the Thai argument, and gave them a flavour of his closing argument which would take place in the afternoon. He took questions about practice at the ICJ and about the role of counsel, as well as about the specifics of the case being heard. He was followed (lunch breaks at the ICJ are rather long: a healthy two hours is set aside for lunch) by Daniel Mueller, who has been junior counsel in a number of cases before the ICJ, the ITLOS, and other international tribunals. Daniel spoke about the role of junior counsel in teams, and about career perspectives. The group then went back into Court for the afternoon hearing. In parallel with the hearings, the students visited The Hague Academy of International Law, housed in the Peace Palace together with the PCA and ICJ, as well as the famous Peace Palace Library. After the hearing, the students were invited to meet Judge Kenneth Keith in the historical reading room, in the Peace Palace. Judge Keith spoke to the students about the life and work of a judge at the ICJ and answered many questions in a session that went on for more than an hour.
On the third day of the trip, the Oxford-Glasgow group visited the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), where they were met by press officers at the rather young and certainly unusual court. The students had a tour of the court room, a converted gym in a building that used to house Dutch intelligence services. They learned about the STL and its unique mandate, and met with officials working in Chambers and in the Office of the Prosecutor. The visit ended with a lively debate on the merits and demerits of ad hoc 'hybrid' or 'internationalised' criminal courts.