FIU students have spent the summer doing some pretty cool things. You can read about their adventures in our Summer Sojourn series. In this edition, we hear from FIU Law student Daniel Rock who took summer courses in international law at The Hague Academy, a prestigious institution for advanced empirical research and higher learning. Rock shares his unique experience among top scholars.
By Daniel Rock
I was sipping espresso with fellow students of The Hague Academy of International Law, sitting outside a small dining hall that was covered by the shade of an aging, austere clock tower. Eventually, the small talk between classmates took a serious turn. We began debating the legality of Israel’s preemptive military strikes against Iraq’s nuclear power plant in the 1980s. Law, politics, morality—every aspect of the event was subject to detailed scrutiny.
This was no ordinary debate between friends at a café. To start, my classmates were highly qualified: one clerked for the Supreme Court of the Philippines, another taught at the NATO school in Germany, another was in the Israeli military, and the last one worked for the Supreme Court of Guatemala. We talked in the magnificent gardens of the Peace Palace—the home to the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice, (a.k.a. The World Court). This was no Starbucks. I wondered, what foreign dignitaries and world leaders previously sat in these very chairs? Who would sit here tomorrow?
I was fortunate to be among the few Americans attending the courses at The Hague Academy, a premier institution for advanced empirical research and higher learning. Every year, The Hague Academy hosts prestigious summer courses in international law to students coming from around the world. More than 90 nations were represented at the Academy, with students of the highest caliber learning together in what was truly an international community.
While at the Peace Palace, I had the opportunity to meet and converse with three Judges from the World Court. Think of it like personal lectures from Justices of the Supreme Court of Earth; it was an incredible privilege. While each judge represented a unique personality in The World Court, they all spoke to us as though they were speaking to friends. They were so casual and cordial that you almost forgot the power of their day job—they can adjudicate the liability of entire governments. It served as a reminder to me of the judges’ humanity. They are pillars of justice, but they are people.
The awe-inspiring Peace Palace was just the beginning of my adventure in The Hague. I also visited some of the primary international judicial institutions. While visiting the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, I was able to witness the trials of defendants who stand accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. Those accused of organizing mass murder were but 10 feet from where I sat. It was no longer a chapter in a textbook; I could see international law at work right in front of my eyes.
Before I arrived at The Hague Academy, I was concerned that I would not measure up to the incredibly high caliber of student that the Academy attracts. After all, many of the attendees were Ph.D. candidates or even professors on law faculties. Now that I am home, I report to you that I had nothing to fear; an education from FIU is top-tier. Our outstanding international law faculty—Dean Matthew Mirow, Professor Noah Weisbord and several others—prepared me thoroughly for my trip. I was proud to discover that The Hague Academy, which only advertises the best international law textbooks, showcased a set of books written by Professor Charles Jalloh, who teaches in the College of Law.
I will treasure my experiences in The Hague for the rest of my life. I am grateful to the College of Law for giving me the opportunity.