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Discover the world at the Leiden Law Summer Schools in The Hague

The Grotius Centre has been running summer schools for many years now. The International Criminal Law Summer School will run for the 15th time this summer, and new schools are being added to the curriculum each year. Dr. Robert Heinsch, Associate Professor of International Law & Director Kalshoven-Gieskes Forum and Martine Wierenga, Programme Manager at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies answer a few questions.

ICL summer school students.

What kind of summer schools does Leiden Law School offer in The Hague?

Martine Wierenga:
'The Grotius Centre offers a range of summer courses which focus on different areas of international law and human rights. The International Criminal Law Summer School and the International Humanitarian Law Summer School are open to Bachelor students, while our other courses are mostly geared towards master students, PhD candidates and professionals. All summer schools encourage active participation, and they try to link theory to practice. The workshops, simulations and exercises are not only taught by academics but also by practitioners from the international courts, tribunals and organisations that are present in The Hague. Apart from the summer schools that are run by the Grotius Centre, a new summer  school on the Europeanisation of National Administrative Law in the EU Member States will be offered by the Constitutional and Administrative Law Department this year.'

The International Criminal Law Summer School is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. What can participants expect?

Martine Wierenga:
'Participants can expect an intensive, challenging course with inspiring lectures and workshops from renowned academics and practitioners, and an enriching exchange with participants from all over the world. Apart from that, we are planning a festive opening and a number of side events which will be open to the public.'

Why did you decide to run an International Humanitarian Law Summer School in The Hague?

Dr. Robert Heinsch:
'In 2011 we created a separate centre for International Humanitarian Law within the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, the Kalshoven-Gieskes Forum on International Humanitarian Law. We started a specialised track for IHL in the context of our regular Public International Law programme,  and we successfully established an IHL Clinic, which produced research reports for various humanitarian actors in the field. It was a logical next step to offer an IHL Summer School as well. We decided to run the IHL Summer School in The Hague, because the city is home to some of the most important enforcement mechanisms of international humanitarian law: the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the other international criminal tribunals. It therefore seemed like an obvious choice.'

What is your role in the IHL Summer School?

Dr. Robert Heinsch:
'Together with my colleagues from the Grotius Centre and the Netherlands Red Cross, I designed the format and programme of the summer school, which covers the most important fields of IHL, while giving insight into theory as well as practice. During the summer school I moderate the sessions, together with my colleague from the Netherlands Red Cross, Ms. Mirjam de Bruin LL.M. This year I will also be in charge of the final Moot Court session.'

Paintball simulation IHL summer school.

How did you experience the first edition of the IHL Summer School?

Dr. Robert Heinsch:
'From my perspective, the first edition of the IHL Summer School was a great success. 28 participants from 20 countries came from all over the world to learn about international humanitarian law in the International City of Peace and Justice.  It was wonderful to see these young and motivated law students and professionals engaging in interesting discussions with our speakers: international judges, professors, and representatives from government as well as the Red Cross. In addition, we were not only able to show the participants the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Netherlands Red Cross Headquarters, but they could also apply their newly acquired knowledge in practice during a paintball session with realistic conflict situations. And it was beautiful weather!'

Why should people sign up for the upcoming summer school?

Dr. Robert Heinsch:
'People should sign up because we offer a special combination of theory and practice. We provide theoretical knowledge as well as insight into the practical application of the area of law, in the field and before international tribunals. The participants will have the chance to meet like-minded people from all over the world, and they can interact with some of the most distinguished experts we have in this field. And finally, they can experience the special atmosphere of the Leiden University Campus in The Hague, one of the unique locations where international legal theory meets international legal practice.'
Martine Wierenga:
'On top of that, The Hague is listed as one of the Best University Cities of 2017. A summer school will give participants a taste of what it’s like to study in The Hague.'

What would you like to achieve in the coming year?

Martine Wierenga:
'Our summer schools are of high quality, and we want our summer schools to make a lasting impression. We are always looking for ways to improve our courses, and we work closely with the course coordinators to implement changes in the curriculum. We generally receive very positive feedback from our participants, and many of them come back to The Hague after completing one of our summer schools, either for another summer school or for a master’s degree, a PhD or an internship. We hope that even more people will find their way to our summer schools in the coming months. We have a wonderful international audience each year, but we also encourage Leiden students to join, because our summer schools provide a unique opportunity to gain international experience at home.'