Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Strasbourg City Limits

It’s a sunny day in Utrecht today with the feeling of Spring hanging in the air. I soaked up the sunshine on my hurried five-minute bike ride to school and rushed to class only to realize I had arrived a full two hours early. Ah, the joys of having a new timetable. With two floors of open study rooms that boast long wooden tables, at least the building is set up for hanging around. What better excuse to study, or in my case, to stop by and tell you a bit about my trip to Strasbourg with the SIM Clinic Program at the university.

There are few things better than seeing something you have worked on come to fruition. In the case of our Clinic Group, we helped research a case before the European Court of Human Rights and were able to attend the Grand Chamber hearing of the case in Strasbourg. The culmination of our three months of research ended in the best possible way: a road trip.

After a few minor navigation problems and some short pit stops, my three colleagues and I arrived in beautiful Strasbourg the night before the hearing, hung our business clothes in anticipation and got some sleep to prepare for the early morning ahead. The next day we were shuffled into the busy Press Room at the Court (which held mostly students) to watch the action play out on a large screen. A short summary of the case lay out on the tables for incoming observers filled with facts we have read so many times we could probably recite them by heart. For us, the most interesting part was to see how a case gets presented. It is one thing to read all the relevant files and quite another to see how each side argues their case.

Following the hearing, we had the privilege of meeting the Dutch counsel, for whom we did the research, in the cafeteria for a quick chat and a coffee. I had the pleasure of talking about the facts of the case, the arguments and even some tangent topics such as the role of journalists in covering legal issues, before we excused ourselves to go to a meeting relating to our next Clinic Group project.
Later that evening, we explored the charming streets of Strasbourg and celebrated by watching the Milan vs Atlético Madrid in a small pub full of football fans yelling at the TV screens in a mix of French, Spanish and Italian.

One day, four pain au chocolat and one quick stop at the Council of Europe later, we headed on our route back to Utrecht, arriving just in time to give back the car and get our readings done for class the following day.

While we don’t get the satisfaction of knowing the Court’s decision right away (that could take up to a year), we were certainly left completely satisfied with the experience. Now, it’s on to the next project and to new deadlines. The end of Block 3 (the official end of our classes) is fast approaching and time seems to fly by. Luckily, we have that sunshine and the promise of chilling out on one of the many terraces that pop up all over the city in good weather, to keep us on track.

Until the next time/Tot de volgende keer!


The SIM Clinic Group at the European Court of Human Rights

The SIM Clinic Group at the Council of Europe

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