One of the best things about this trip is that, although any one of us may have traveled or intent to travel back to these countries/cities, I doubt that we will chose or get the opportunity to visit and sit in on these international courts and tribunals which have brought countries together for a greater purpose.
Although we were unable to stay in Luxembourg for an extended period of time, I found the country to be an amazing, remarkable and gorgeous place. While in Luxembourg we visited the European Union. It was interesting to sit in on one of the hearings and be a part of an international union which has brought countries together and kept them out of war. Having learned a fair amount about the European Union while I was in Ireland, this experience cemented my feelings towards its purpose and validity within the confines of the countries which are signatories.
Our next stop was The Hague, Netherlands. (Being of Germany heritage, of course it meant a great deal to me to be in the country of my ancestors, but educationally I was the most excited to be in The Hague). First, when we were in The Hague, we went to the Peace Palace, which is the home of the International Court of Justice. The building itself was a work of art that I cannot put into words. Also, the best part about the building and the artwork contained in it was that it was all donated by various countries, including a remarkable wood ceiling by the United States (I assure you it is much more impressive than it sounds because it is a work of art itself). One of the most memorable pieces though was of a mural in one of the courtrooms which was begun by in artist in order to depict the horrors and emotional toll of war on people in order to promote peace. Sadly, and in an ironic twist, this artist was killed during WWII and the artwork was never finished. Now it stands as a reminder to all of us the atrocities of war and those who fought, in various ways, to keep the peace. Besides the Peace Palace itself, we were able to have a discussion with the clerk for the United States judge on the Court. It is awe inspiring that various nations will take their disputes to the Court for arbitration rather than fight among themselves via war or other negative means. It is these countries giving up a little bit of their power to have a conflict resolution which will is a positive means rather than a negative one to get their a fair solution.
Finally, while visiting The Hague came my favorite part, attending a trial at the International Criminal Court. The ICC has had a lot of criticisms in the past because of their lack of backing and enforcement. They are heavily dependent on their member countries to bring forward the criminals (unless they willingly surrender on their own) and rely on the countries to house the criminal if convicted. It is a fledgling tribunal, but it is one that I hope flourishes in the future. Also, I look forward to seeing the new grounds which, if memory serves me correctly will break ground in 2016. Nevertheless, this was so incredibly amazing to attend part of the trial, specifically witness testimony, of Jean Pierre Bemba’s trial. He was on trial for various war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some may have heard about him on the news, but as a class, we got to sit merely 20 feet or so away, behind glass of course, from this man. He looked so normal (so to speak). I so wish we could have stayed longer to watch the trial, but in those minutes listening, via headphones for translations, was inspiring. It made me feel how big the word is and the problems that face other nations, cultures, and individuals were so different than those that I faced. Sitting in that room, compiled with all the information we were able to take in while in Germany… what would I do if I was in a different country, with different cultural beliefs (whether in war or peace) which I felt were not conducive to my moral compass. Would I just lie down and let the chips fall where they may, or would I fight for my own personal beliefs and what I truly believed was right? It is a daunting question…