From 31 March to 8 April 2017, our LLM students went on a nine-day study trip to Belgrade and Kosovo where they met with a wide range of leading actors in the region working on international humanitarian law, human rights, international criminal law, transitional justice, and migration.
‘Taking the law out and away from the books allowed us to look at our object of study in a new light, with added complexity and interest’ stresses Silvia Scozia, LLM student at the Geneva Academy.
This study trip – itinerary, meetings, visits and travel logistics - was organized by Annabelle Gagnon-Bischoff, Laura Baron-Mendoza, and Alexis Comninos of the Geneva Academy Student Council, with the financial support of the Geneva Academy.
In Belgrade, LLM students met with the Legal Director of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), Milica Kostic, with the Director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Anita Mitic, and with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
‘Milica gave an outstanding presentation of HLC's work, its documentation activities and methodology, as well as its monitoring of war crime trials’ underlines Namindranasoa Ny Haja, LLM student at the Geneva Academy. ‘Our meeting with Anita highlighted the importance of bringing young people from different parts of the former Yugoslavia together, to foster dialogue and tolerance’ adds Maarten Van Der Heijden.
Before heading to Kosovo, students had the week-end off in Belgrade to visit the city, the Museum of the History of Yugoslavia, or the mausoleum of Tito. ‘As Serbia was holding presidential elections on Sunday 2 April, we were able to witness the last couple of days of the campaign, and have interesting discussions with locals about the political future of their country’ recalls Làzarie Eeckeloo.
After a long drive, students arrived in Pristina, Kosovo, where they notably met with the Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Human Rights Review Panel of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), and the Human Security Division of the Swiss embassy in Kosovo.
‘These meetings allowed us to understand UNMIK’s mandate and activities, current human rights and transitional justice challenges in the region, the work of the ICRC on the 1,600 remaining missing persons in Kosovo, as well as the situation of ethnic minorities, in particular the vulnerability of the Roma’ stresses Juhi Bansal.
While in Kosovo, LLM students also had the opportunity to travel to the municipality of Gracanica, a Serb enclave about 10 kilometres away from Pristina, to visit the divided city of Mitrovica, the Kosovo Liberation Army memorial of Prekaz and the southern historic city of Prizren.
‘These visits allowed us to further understand the different social, cultural and political dynamics that have influenced identity construction and tensions in the region’ stresses Alessandro Amoroso.
On 4 April, the International Day of Mine Awareness, LLM students joined the Mine Action Day global flashmob to raise awareness about the dangers and impacts of landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war and show support for a mine-free world.
Before flying back on Saturday evening to Geneva, students enjoyed a well-deserved a day off in Pristina, during which they visited the city and ate a last tasty meal for the equivalent of two Swiss Francs!
‘This experience no doubt constituted a valuable insight into transitional justice mechanisms, as well as the importance of education, dialogue, human rights, justice and the acceptance of difference in achieving coexistence and reconciliation’ underlines Elena Piasentin.
Olivier Chamard / Geneva Academy
A brief update by Frank Haldemann and Thomas Unger, Co-Directors of the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law
In this interview, Laura Baron-Mendoza, currently enrolled in the LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.