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AEL: Summer Course on Human Rights (LAW-SS-AELHRL-23)


Department LAW
Course category LAW Intensive Seminar - 6 credits
Course type Summer School
Academic year 2023-2024
Credits 6 (EUI Law credits)
Contact Academy,
  Course materials


Theme: Encountering International Criminal Law through a Reenactment of the Ongwen trial

The summer school consists of a set of introductory lectures and a so-called “documentary role-play” as its mainstay. The lectures, by practitioners and academics, will introduce the participants to the topics: (a) the history (or histories) of the conflict in Uganda; (b) the Ongwen case; (c) defense and prosecutorial strategies at the ICC and  (d) re-enactment and law. The documentary role-play will be performed by all participants, based on a script that the course organisers have developed by reworking transcripts of the Ongwen case. Students perform a variety of roles, including that of defendant, defense lawyer, prosecutor, judge and victim representative.

The documentary role play fits in a broader theatrical tradition of so-called ‘ad verbatim plays’. Several court cases have been reworked into theatre performances, based on the literal text spoken during the procedures. So far, however, this form of role-play has hardly been used as educational tool in the field of law. This is surprising, given the recent wave of interest in experiential learning, "learning through reflection on doing".  Documentary role-plays fit this tradition very well: they let students experience what it is to perform a role in an actual case, followed by a critical reflection on the meaning of the case and our own perspectives on this case. Re-enactments add an extra dimension to experiential learning through their claim to veracity. Unlike for example moot court competitions, students do not perform the role of a ‘typical lawyer’, but re-enact what has happened in the past. And yet, the point of a re-enactment is not to get as closely as possible to ‘how it really was’, rather to “intensify an awareness of the separation between the lost object and its reenactment” (Bill Nichols).
The unavoidable gap between the past (the lost object) and the re-enactment offers space for critical reflection on the case, on law, on the reconstruction of the case in the script, on the performance, as well as on our own relation to all of the above. This is also what the summer school seeks to achieve: learning through reflection on performance.  Unavoidably this goes beyond rules of positive law. It also involves questions regarding the limits of law, who gets to speak and listen, the responsibility of lawyers and the way in which law is embedded in political struggles. Most of all, it involves reflection on questions we do not know yet, as they will emerge out of what happens on stage during the re-enactment.

Sessions: 17 – 28 June 2024 

Neha Jain, Professor of Public International Law, European University Institute
Sarah Nouwen, Professor of Public International Law, European University Institute
Wouter G. Werner, Chair International Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Barney Afako, Lawyer and Expert on Transitional Justice; Tribunal Judge in the United Kingdom
Lino Owor Ogora, Executive Director, Foundation for Justice and Development Initiatives
Liana Minkova, Junior Research Fellow, Newnham College, University of Cambridge and Fellow, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Cambridge
Sarah Nouwen, Professor of Public International Law, European University Institute
Sofia Stolk, Assistant Professor in International Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Associate Fellow, TMC Asser Instituut (The Hague) 
Warner Ten Kate, Head of Migration Division, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Wouter G. Werner, Chair International Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

First, Second & Third Term: registration from 25 to 28 September

Register for this course

Page last updated on 05 September 2023

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