Rome Statute: The International Criminal Court

We are a group of US students striving for a deeper understanding of the International Criminal Court, the U.S., and The Hague Tradition

Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all of the world -Joseph Campbell.

Pictured from left to right are: 1) Dustin Sigsbee (seated); 2) Megan Blue; 3) Josh Brown; 4) Jacob Comfort; 5) Erica Maylee; and 6) Kiel Martyn (seated)


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The Hague’s Imprint: My Life Changing Experience



As I settle back into my life in the United States, I feel as if my heart is still in The Netherlands. When I decided to study abroad I did not know how much of an impact and change it would have on my life. This experience has helped me find the fuel to my passions and had forever changed me. I have taken so much from this trip and it has truly helped me in developing my personal identity. As sad as it was to leave Dr. Hope May so wisely stated to us on our last night, “this is only the beginning”. 

This trip has opened my eyes up to a whole new world of organizations and people that are devoted to a field I am passionate about. A first impact this trip has had on me was opening doors to organizations where I can work with victims of armed combat. The Trust Fund for Victims is an unique organizations that works to give reparations to the victims of armed combat. This organization is the first of it’s kind. It works with the International Criminal Court to get the victims reparations when a person is convicted. What draws me to the trust fund is that it is not simply money given to the victims. The mandates giving to the Trust Fund by the Rome Statue includes psychological, physical, and emotional trauma support to victims under the ICC jurisdiction. Since I have returned home I have gotten a job working as a victimology research assistant and I hope to continue doing this work with The Trust Fund someday. 


Since I have been home my focus has been centered around getting back. I have begun my application to Leiden and have learned a great deal about myself and my personal identity because I studied abroad. I want to continue my studies in The Netherlands and continue to fight for peace through law. Here on the home front I have gotten opportunities to continue to work with my fellow travelers in spreading the idea of peace and justice on our own campus. I made the choice to study abroad because I had no idea what I wanted to do after I graduate in May. I found my passion and my career goals through this program. I am applying to Leiden to study International Public Law specifically peace development and relations. This program has given more than I ever thought it would.

One reading that we have done that has really opened my eyes to my own possibilities is ‘Do The Work’ written by Steven Pressfield. This small, but powerful book, is an attack on the resistance in one’s life. The resistance that stops one from achieving greatness. 

"Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get."

"Resistance is always lying and always full of shit."

These particular lines of the book on resistance have come to be a part of my day-to-day life since I have returned home.This book has motivated me to realize that I have the capability to achieve what I feel in my heart. I am able to pick up my life and move to another Country to follow and chase my dreams. Since my return the resistance in my life seems to be at an all time high, people telling me there is no way I can go, others saying that I am crazy. The one thing I have learned from this trip is that if my heart  tells me it is what I need to do and where I need to be then blind faith will have to be trusted. This is exactly what the message in ‘Do The Work’ is, to act not think and once you start the worst thing you can do is stop. This is where I have gotten my drive to keep going even though resistance seems to rearing its ugly head at me. This book came from Pressfield being unhappy with his life and his work, he started things he did not finish and faced a lot of resistance in his writing career. This book’s message is not just for people doing world changing projects, but even the minuet task. In today’s society everyone is faced with more resistance than ever before. I highly recommend this read to people even if you do not feel you are not acomlished. There is always more work to do in today’s world. 


An inspirational person I was lucky to meet during my time in The Hague was Lyemah Gbowee. She won the nobel peace prize in 2011 for ending the 2003 civil war in Liberia. Upon meeting her I presented her with the question Dr. Hope May asked us students around the table at lunch one day. I asked her what the most important thing she has learned in her life. Her response was immensely inspirational to me for beginning my journey in fighting for peace. Her answer was not to ignore humble beginnings, but embrace them. She followed by saying that if your heart tells you to do something and everyone else is telling you that you are crazy, follow your heart and trust in it. She said that she did not do what she did to become famous and does not really enjoy the lime light, she did it because it was the right thing to do for her people, because her heart told her to do it. A women of her color and age had no place in an international crisis but she put herself there because she knew it is what she had to do. I became to admire her more than I already did before I met her. She faced so much resistance and still continued to fight for her people and her country. I live everyday not ignoring what my heart is telling me even though people do actually think I am crazy. Leyhma’s life and her stories captured not only my mind but my heart. 

The imprint that The Hague left on me will forever stay with me till my hopeful return. I learned so much about myself and my passions from being in an environment that fueled my mind, heart and soul. Peace through law is what I hope to continue to fight for even in a small way. I would not trade the friendships I made, the memories I made, and the education I gained for anything. 

Remembering The Hague: Spreading the Tradition.



I have been home in the United States for a month now.  In that time, the memories I made, and my enjoyment in telling them to anyone willing to listen, have not diminished one iota.  I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in this event. This gratefulness is the drive behind my main take home point.  My take home point is that more people need to know what I now know; more need to experience what I was lucky enough to experience.  The Hague tradition should not be the best kept secret in the world.  As witnesses of this tradition I feel that it is our duty to spread this knowledge.

One particular writing we studied in class touches on this subject well.  Charles Malik’s “Talk on Human Rights” stresses the importance of not settling for “modern times to be happy and self-sufficient” but; rather, to “step forth and lead.”  Malik says that “if your institutions and traditions are not adapted for the production of a ringing message which will appeal to the mind and hearts of others and on which you can stake your whole life, then in the present world…you cannot lead.”  I think that this message should be taken to heart.  We were lucky enough to be able to experience The Hague tradition, but if we do nothing with that gift we are betraying the peace movement.  Malik’s article also talks extensively about The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Malik mentions a few specific rights spelled out in the Declaration and says surely “there is no full life without these rights.”  One of the rights he mentions is the right to education.  Established in Article 26 of the Declaration, education is a critical right guaranteed to all peoples.  The article says education will promote friendship among nations which will further the United Nations goal of maintaining peace.  This article does much more than declare everyone has an inherent right to an education.  I believe it is also a call to action for everyone already blessed with an education to share what they have been given.  I am one of the few Americans who knows about the Peace Palace, the International Criminal Court, and the worldwide peace movement.  According to the Declaration of Human Rights and Charles Malik, it is my duty as a human being to spread this crucial knowledge,


I would like to talk now about what I gained on this study abroad trip to The Netherlands.  I gained a knowledge of the intricacies of international law and relations, I gained a deeper understanding of myself, and I gained a greater understanding of what it means to be a part of a global society.  It’s one thing to learn about international law though a book; it’s quite another thing to learn about it in The Hague.  As the home of the International Criminal Court, the Peace Palace, etc.. The Hague is the perfect place to study international law.  I was able to learn from traveling expert lawyers, professors, and ambassadors.  Had I not gone on this trip, I have no doubt I would not have this knowledge augmenting my education.

It is because of this education that I also gained a greater understanding of myself.  The evening we had dinner with Peace Prize Laureate Laymah Gbowee she asked me what I planned to do with my life.  Up till that moment I had always been rather proud to say I planned to go to law school and practice law.  However, telling that to a woman who did so much for peace was something entirely new to me.  It made me think of what is truly important in life and what I can do to reach those things.  I realized that there are more important things in life than living for money and finite possessions.  Things such as global justice and human rights are much more important things to live for.  This brings me to my third thing I learned - being a part of a global society.  As the world continues to become more and more globalized, it is no longer enough to know only about your own country.  For Americans especially, knowledge of the world beyond our boarders is imperative.  After experiencing this trip, the most important thing I learned is that this knowledge is not mine to keep under a basket.  If it’s true that education is key to world peace, this knowledge must be shared, and it is now my responsibility to help share it.

The Introduction of a New and Improved Life



When I first began this study abroad course, I had no idea that it would have such a large impact on my life.  I came across the option of a study abroad experience when I was organizing my electives to fulfill the criteria of my philosophy major.  At this time I had only left the United States once in which I was twelve years old and traveled to Guatemala.  By choosing to study abroad, I found myself a good excuse to have a bit more experience with traveling and to have the chance to see a different part of the world.  Although I was clueless as to any aspects of international law or the specifics of the course, it was law, and it was philosophy, and so it was relevant.  The first two weeks of the course were an interesting experience for me.  It was not until later when I experienced some of the topics firsthand that I was actually able to comprehend the magnitude of what we were learning.  The experiences that I was fortunate enough to have will forever be in my memory.

Now that I have been home for about a month, my life seems to be significantly different.  One of the goals of this course was to gain a deeper understanding of myself.  It was through accomplishing this goal in which I was able to receive one of my most beneficial take-aways of any of my life experiences thus far.  My greatest take-away from this course would be my enlightenment of another world and a passion powered by knowledge.  In order for me to explain how this experience was able to change my outlook on life, I must first expose a bit of personal history.  I grew up in a very small town in Michigan which is only about a five minute drive from my current location.  I am still living with my parents and have never really left this small area.  Throughout my life I have always had a high level of determination to succeed.  I had my life plan set out; I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to do it.  Although I had always though that I was doing well with this, being exposed to this ‘new world’ as I have termed it, has made me realize that I was going about it all in the completely wrong way.  I am going to school and using my best efforts to receive the best grades possible.  However, somewhere along this path I forgot to do one of the most important things that a person should do throughout this, to learn.  This was not my only misguided focus.  I became more concerned with my social life and material goods than with school.  It did not take me long to realize my ignorance.  I realized that, although I had sat through numerous hours of classes and taken multiple exams, all I had to show for this was a decent grade point average.  I thought that I was being successful because I was on a path in which I could get a job which would make me seem respectable and benefit me with large amounts of money.  It is easy to memorize information and do well in classes.  It is difficult to challenge yourself and actually learn the material.  After I returned back to CMU, I attended a Speak Up, Speak Out event in which a discussion was facilitated about why we were each here at University.  Professor Andrew Delbanco of Columbia wrote a book, ʺCollege: What it Was, Is, and Should Be,ʺ which provided insight on the topic.  This discussion helped me to have a greater understanding of my view of education.  Once I made this connection I remembered back to my first year of college and a paper I wrote for my English course.  In this paper I detailed different types of students.  One type in which I related myself to was termed a garbage disposal.  This type of student just took all of the information in and then regurgitated it for assignments and exams.  

One example of important information that I failed to actually learn was world history.  I may have received an ‘A’ in all of my history classes but, until I recently did some research, I would not have been able to give any details of World War II.  After being exposed to the concepts of the Peace Palace, International Criminal Court, and global justice, I am disappointed that I had previously assumed that this historical information was not relevant to my life and that I neglected to see it as important.  When I say that my greatest take-away from this experience is an awakening to another world, I mean not only the world of education, but also the world outside of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  There are more important things happening in the world which people need to worry about.  One of the main themes of the peace movement is to educate others on the importance of global justice.  I think that I have gained so much and can say from experience that exposure is a very beneficial route to obtaining knowledge of this importance.  When I say that I have gained a passion powered by knowledge, I am referring to my newly found passion of educating others, who may have had a similar outlook, to this new world.


Although it seems that I have a rather negative outlook on myself, I do not see it as a bad thing.  It is important for people to make such realizations in order to make necessary changes which inspire life improvements.  The changes that I have made display my greatest take-away from this study abroad  experience.  It was through this course in which I realized that I needed to make a choice.  I could continue the easy path that I was on in which I was materialistic and appeared to have knowledge, or I could change what I was doing and challenge myself to have true knowledge.  One of our assigned readings, ʺDo the Work,ʺ was what helped to motivate me to choose the more difficult path.  

This short read exposes the difficulties that a person faces in life when challenged with a task.  Every person encounters this ‘resistance’ daily which impedes their completion of the task.  I found the book incredibly motivating as I felt that it pointed out exactly what I was feeling.  I have this difficult choice to make but it requires a significant amount of effort and it would be much more simple to choose a route in which life is easier.  After reading the book three times now, I have referred to it as motivating as it reminds me that there are things in life which are not so important to focus on and that I must fight these distractions to obtain what is actually important.  The author points out that when we are faced with these more difficult tasks which are further from our comfort zone, there is more resistance to be overcome.  It was also through this reading in which I was encouraged to not remain as I am; that pursuing passions and accomplishing tasks is what makes for a more fulfilling life.  Now, when I am in class or completing my daily activities, I commonly refer my thoughts to this book and the motivations that it has given me.

Now that I have returned home and am actually acting in accordance with these new perspectives, I have realized that it was the correct path and the way to a truly fulfilling life.  I find so much more enjoyment through attending classes.  I have been pursuing my interests by participating in events on campus, such as the Speak Up, Speak Out event, as well as through joining student organizations, something in which I had never done before.  I have achieved a new sense of purpose which makes these new passions something in which I want to educate others about.  Although I learned about numerous interesting aspects of the international world, my greatest take-away was my awakening of another world, and a passion driven by knowledge, in which I am able to begin a new and improved way of life.

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