One-Eighty by Summer

| Joshua Alter | 18 July 2012 | The Hague, Netherlands |

Three assumptions I was fairly certain about on New Year’s Eve were: 1) I would spend the upcoming summer in America; 2) criminal defence was not something I was interested in pursuing; and 3) appellate advocacy was a lot more exciting than trial advocacy. The first assumption was shattered when I boarded a flight for Amsterdam in early June. The second assumption disappeared before I even finished my first week at the ICTY. And the third assumption evaporated yesterday.

On Tuesday afternoon, I joined 23 other interns in an ICTY Interns Advocacy Training Course. We had a mixture of prosecution, defence, chambers and registry interns. Even more impressive, the 24 of us came from 6 continents (still no interns from Antarctica). It was yet another reminder of how global international criminal law truly is. But the best part of the training was having world-renowned trainers guide us through our sessions. His Excellency Judge Howard Morrison and ICTY Senior Trial Attorney Joanna Korner were our trainers. It was another example of the perks that come with  being an ICTY Intern; how many law students can say they argued before an ICTY Judge?

The Training Course officially began a week earlier when I received a 42 page packet with the Indictment, Case Summary, Witness Statements and Exhibits. We were each assigned an Examination-in-Chief for one witness and a Cross-Examination for a different witness. Having an appellate advocacy background, I am used to a ‘cold record’ and focusing on issues of law. But these witness statements were designed to make us work hard to establish facts. Each witness statement contradicted something in another statement. As I furiously scribbled notes, I tried to think of the best way to attack on Cross-Examination and the best way to defend during my Examination-in-Chief.

When Tuesday afternoon arrived, we were seated in Courtroom 1. It was my first time inside an ICTY courtroom and it was much different from the American trial courts we are all familiar with from television. Because of the multitude of languages, the need for confidentiality and the larger benches, the room was configured completely different from what I am used to. There were computers everywhere, places for translators, security cameras, and separate rooms outside the courtroom.

We began with a crash course on the Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination. Like everything else, Americans decided to be difficult and refer to the Examination-in-Chief as a ‘Direct Examination.’ However, having spent months dealing with different terminology for the Jessup competition (e.g., Compromis, Memorials, Applicants and Learned Colleagues), this was not much of a shock to me. Thirty minutes later, I was standing up in Courtroom 3, cross-examining Ibrahim Mautner, the Prosecution’s first witness. Having spent five months in the made up world of Rantania and Aprophe for Jessup, I was immediately back in my element with a war between Ruritania and Zenda. All the witnesses were played by dedicated ICTY staff who memorised their statements. As I grilled Mr. Mautner (who was actually Ms. Mautner), I finally conceded to myself that this was more enjoyable than I previously assumed.

The real shock came at the end; when I realised how much I enjoyed conducting an Examination-in-Chief and a Cross-Examination. Being in the Moot Court camp, I’ve enjoyed a ‘cold record,’ being one step removed from the actual controversy. However, the interaction with witnesses was something I truly enjoyed. For my Examination-in-Chief, I began by informing the witness we were going to go into detail about his extensive love life. I’m pretty sure I would lose some points for that in Moot Court land. Working on Defence this summer, I was happy to conduct my Examination-in-Chief on the Accused and my Cross-Examination on one of the Prosecution’s witnesses. I may have been a little too ‘Hollywood’ in my Cross-Examination, but as an American at the ICTY, I do have a reputation to live up to.

I never really had anything against criminal law; I just enjoyed general public international law too much to take my attention away from border disputes, international humanitarian law, and environmental issues. However, my attitude began to change as I delved deeper and deeper into Jessup. For those of you who do not know me (or keep me on mute), Jessup is the premier international law moot court competition and my favourite part of law school. I spent months engrossed in the law of intentional destruction of cultural heritage and jurisdictional immunities of States. Defending the actions taken by a military leader to destroy a cultural heritage site in order to save her people resonated with me in a way I could not have imagined.

Jessup sparked my interest in criminal defence. And yesterday’s training sparked my interest in trial advocacy.

I need safer assumptions next year.


One response to “One-Eighty by Summer

  1. Pingback: Friday Recap: Benelux States & How Soccer Explains the World | CICL Field Notes·

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