24 May 2018
From 18 to 26 April 2018, our LLM students travelled to Belgrade and Pristina where they met a wide range of experts and institutions who work in the fields of international humanitarian law (IHL), human rights, international criminal law, transitional justice and migration. Alongside, they also had the opportunity to discover a new region and culture!
‘This study trip was a unique platform for us to interact with organizations working at the local level and to experience the practicalities of IHL and human rights through a historical, cultural and political post-conflict situation’ underlines Wanyuan Hao.
‘The opportunity to meet with local human rights NGOs and international organizations in Belgrade and Kosovo gave our group a special insight: not only into the complex challenges faced by citizens in a post-conflict zone, but also into the positive impact that can be made by civil society towards building a hopeful future’ stresses Paola Fudakowska.
In Belgrade, LLM students met with various actors – NGOs, academic institutions and international organizations – including Human Rights House, Civil Rights Defenders, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the University of Belgrade and the Humanitarian Law Centre.
At Human Rights House, LLM students learned about the difficulties faced by asylum seekers and refugees in Belgrade and its surroundings. The Humanitarian Law Centre presented their on-going work and documentation activities related to the monitoring of war crime trials, while Civil Rights Defenders presented their work to combat the repression and discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual people (LGBTI) in Serbia.
‘There is still a long way to go, but the motivation and passion shown by the experts we met are extremely promising. Many of us left Belgrade with the idea of coming back in the future for a work experience’ underlines Pertsh Boshnagyan.
‘The study trip provided real-life context to what we were studying and the opportunity to learn about the work of numerous humanitarian and human rights organizations, but also gave us the time to bond as a class and to solidify the life-long friendships we've made at the Geneva Academy!’ stresses Katherine Walton.
Before heading to Pristina, LLM students enjoyed a sunny weekend in Belgrade to visit the city and its surroundings. They were accompanied by Pavle Kilibarda, Teaching Assistant at the Geneva Academy, who showed them the beauties of Belgrade while telling them about the rich history of his home city. The delicious and cheap Serbian food made the LLM stay even better!
In Pristina, LLM students met with the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) Kosovo, the Centre for Peace and Tolerance, OSCE, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss Embassy and discussed the challenges related to the implementation of a transitional justice process in Kosovo.
‘The work carried out by the international organizations and NGOs is outstanding. Yet, it clearly appeared from our meetings that some structural problems intrinsic in such a fragmented community made the transitional justice process even more difficult: scars of war are still visible today’ underlines Martina Salini.
Students were particularly inspired by the work carried out by the HLC Kosovo. ‘Besides monitoring and reporting on trials, HLC Kosovo is actively involved in locating victims and their families and representing them in courts in Kosovo and Serbia’ underlines Ayat Ansari ‘We had the opportunity to observe their database on missing persons which reminded us how important it is for the families of victims of armed conflicts to know the fate of their beloved ones!’ adds Masrur Ansari.
During their stay in Pristina, students also had the opportunity to visit the municipality of Grananica, a Serb enclave, ten kilometres away from Pristina, as well as the Decani monastery, a medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery decorated with 14th century fresco paintings, situated in the picturesque valley of the Bistrica River surrounded by mountains and forests.
LLM students did not miss the chance to make interesting and fun discoveries while in Pristina! ‘The hostel had some electrical issues. As soon as I plugged my phone charger, it exploded. Afterwards, we knew from the owner that he was a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Pristina and he personally installed all the electrical facilities’ tells Francisco Astudillo.
Melina Fidelis Tzourou is enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. From 7 to 14 March, she will travel to Bali, Indonesia to represent the Geneva Academy at the Anglophone Edition of the 2020 Jean-Pictet Competition – along with Chiemelie Michael Agu and Yulia Mogutova.
In this interview, Melina Fidelis-Tzourou, who is enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, tells us about the programme and life in Geneva.