LLB Student De Sheng Lim on How Mooting at La Trobe Opened Doors for an ECCC Internship in Cambodia

By De Sheng Lim

Recently I was asked to write about my internship and subsequent consultancy at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia ‘ECCC’. In brief, the experience was incredible both professionally and personally.

First I should give some background to the Court. The ECCC was established in 1997 to investigate and prosecute the most senior and responsible leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea period. In less than 3 years the policies implemented by the Khmer Rouge led to over 2 million deaths, from starvation, disease and murder.

My journey there started in 2012 when I entered into my first mooting competition, the International Humanitarian Law Moot. From there I participated in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot and later the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court. Under the guidance and coaching of Magda Karagiannakis, who is a Lecturer in International Criminal Law at La Trobe Law School and Dr. Lola Akin Ojelabi who is a Senior Lecturer in Public International Law, I developed valuable skills in memorandum writing and oral advocacy. These skills proved to be essential during the internship and consultancy.

In early 2015 I began my internship at the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges ‘OCIJ’ first under Judge Mark Harmon (USA) and later under Judge Michael Bohlander (Germany). The team is diverse in background consisting of people from different countries and legal systems. Many of my colleagues have worked at the ICTY, ICTR, the ICC and other international tribunals. As a result they bring a wealth of experience to the investigation. There is also a strong collegiate culture at the OCIJ; all staff, including interns are expected to contribute to the investigation process.

Interns are generally tasked with preparing materials for witness interviews, reviewing evidence and placing it into the closing order (indictment). Interns are also required to help with legal research and prepare memorandums on procedural issues.

Towards the end of my internship I was asked by my supervisor, with the permission of the Judge, to stay on as a legal consultant. Since becoming a consultant I have been given more responsibility and tasks. I am encouraged to contribute my ideas and take initiative on the various projects that arise. It has been a rewarding and enriching experience, and it has inspired me to pursue a career in international criminal law. Starting in 2016 I will begin an honours thesis at La Trobe Law School based on an issue relevant to the ECCC and International Criminal Tribunals.

I should also note that the ECCC internship was done in conjunction with the Legal Internship Subject (LAW4INT), and funding was made possible by virtue of the OS-HELP loan. Finally I would like to thank Magda Karagiannakis and Dr. Lola Akin Ojelabi for their incredible faith and support they have given me over the past couple of years.

De Sheng Lim is currently a student at La Trobe Law School.

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