La Trobe Law Student Spends 6 Months with United Nations War Crimes Tribunal

By Jagpreet Sandhu

This time last year I was preparing my application for an internship that I had heard about. It involved spending about 6 months in Cambodia, working for the United Nations. The background for this is quite interesting. The Cambodian people had lived through some devastating times and the world was now trying to do its best to help them find justice in the aftermath.

What an opportunity I thought. I’d done some international humanitarian law moots before and always found the area of law extremely interesting, but this was simply something else! So it came as no surprise that when I realised the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was receiving applications, I got to work.

I spoke to former La Trobe Law students who had spent time there. It quickly became apparent to me that our University had been sending students all over the world over the last few years! During my time in Cambodia, I was surrounded by four other La Trobe Law students. From July onwards, another three will be there.

The work and experiences I was exposed to simply cannot be done justice by words alone.

I was accepted in October 2015 and commenced my internship with the Office of the Co-Investigating Judge in January 2016. The work and experiences I was exposed to simply cannot be done justice by words alone. Not only was I afforded the opportunity to work on some incredibly significant matters, I was also surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the international criminal law arena in doing so.  The ability to work with people of so many different nationalities on the same issues has been a one of my most personally rewarding experiences. An overwhelming majority of the people at the ECCC were bright, engaging, and entirely personable individuals. I can state with absolute certainty that it was the single most international environment I have ever had the good fortune of coming across. My immediate working team at one point consisted of four different nationalities across four people! More than legal experience, I’ve gained friendships for life. Italy, Germany, Canada, Bahrain, USA, France, Switzerland, and more – the doors are open now.

I also got to travel and explore the Cambodian culture during my time there. The Cambodian people are some of the kindest and sincerest people I have ever met. Their hospitality knows no ends and their personalities are some of the richest. Working hard during the week with the option of hopping on a bus and seeing some of the world’s greatest temples such as Angkor Wat over the weekend captures the beauty of an internship at the ECCC. It’s simply unlike any other experience. I’m thoroughly glad I had the courage to do it, and I’m even more glad I had the proper training to do it right.

Moving forward, I’ll be undertaking another two internships this year. They’ll be focused on the arena of international commercial arbitration this time around and my time interning will see me spend two months in South Korea and six weeks in Hong Kong. My time in South Korea will have me working with the United Nations International Commission on Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and Hong Kong will see me working with the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. I’m excited not just for the opportunity but to further document and share my experiences with La Trobe. It’s something I truly found pride in, to know that La Trobe University was able to provide its students with not only these excellent opportunities but also the training to thrive in such practical legal settings.

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