Den Haag

Trip Start Jun 17, 2009
Trip End Aug 15, 2009

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Flag of Netherlands  , Zuid-Holland,
Sunday, June 28, 2009

After our Amazing Amsterdam Adventure, it was time to begin school in Den Haag (The Hague), which is the center of government activities in The Netherlands.  Also, it is the home of the Peace Palace, home of the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court, a new organization that hears the cases of the world's most recent war criminals.

School began bright and early on Sunday morning, which was quite a shock to my system, since I had been living a life of sleeping late and waking even later.  After some quick introductions to our classmates and to the classes that we would be taking, we embarked on a walking tour of the city, which included culture and history as well as pointed out some cute shops and good restaurants.  We saw the old royal palace (the royal family now lives in a bigger palace in another part of the country), the smallest house in The Hague (only 1.5 meters wide), and the golden fountain where the queen rides her royal carriage at the beginning of every year before addressing the country.  After waking up early and walking the center of the city, I had very little energy left to do anything other than sleep that night.

On our second day we visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).  We didn't see any action at either institution, but we did hear lectures from the President of the ICJ as well as one of the judges of the ICC.  The ICJ is located in the Peace Palace, a beautiful building that was created by the Netherlands, a formerly neutral country, to hold peace-keeping hearings, because Nicholas of Russia did not want to go to war with Germany at the end of the 19th century.  Because the Netherlands agreed to put up the building, it was up to other countries to donate the interior decorations.  The U.S. donated a ceiling, while Nicholas of Russia donated the world's largest faberge egg.  

The ICC is housed in a building that used to be a large telecommunications company's headquarters.  Because of the need for security, it looks a little like walking up to a prison.  Unfortunately, no pictures could be taken inside the building, so we just heard some information from one of the prosecutors with the ICC, as well as one of the judges who is currently presiding over a war crimes case out of Sudan. 

On our last night in The Hague, after the Criminal Tribunal, some friends and I went down to the beach.  We learned that the "beach" is the North Sea, which didn't sound too inviting, so nobody tried to go to touch the water.  We walked along the boardwalk, which seemed pretty touristy, but still fun, and ended up eating in a piano bar, where 2 guys play requests.  We heard both American and Dutch music, and were all quite entertained at the whole situation.

 The following day, after an evening of walking around the city, we went to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  After a somewhat lengthy lecture from one of the many people who work there in the capacity of a researcher and aide to the judges, we were able to watch some of a hearing where 3 men are accused of war crimes, including false imprisonment, rape, torture, and other varieties of war crimes for their roles as high-ranking government and military officials during the Bosnia conflict.  That was incredibly interesting, since many people who were involved in the proceeding spoke different languages, the accused sat several feet away from us, and there was a different procedure than the average American court.  The big nerd law student in me was excited. :)
Next stop, Brussels...
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