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Penn Law Study Abroad: Letters from London

January 17, 2019

By: Shane Fischman L’19

This piece originally appears in the 2018 Global Affairs Review.

October 15, 2018

Dear Rangita,

LSE is going really well. I’ve been going to some interesting events here as well. There was a panel last week on global extremism, and tomorrow I’ll be attending an event on the Muslim Brotherhood and Gulf Monarchs. On Monday mornings I have a class on International Criminal Law: Prosecution and Practice, and one of the tribunals we covered today is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). While discussing hybrid courts and the STL specifically, a couple of us got into a very interesting discussion about the nature of justice. The STL was created by international law, but it applies domestic law. They were tasked with investigating a political assassination, yet political assassinations have historically been an occupational hazard. The international community’s insistence on establishing the tribunal was obviously seeped in regional political concerns and balancing Iran against Saudi Arabia, but this double standard begs the question of international law’s jurisdiction. The investigation was delayed by two years, the trials didn’t begin until 2009, and they were still occurring this summer. And Hezbollah, the source of this investigation, has only benefitted by these delays. In the course of these years, they’ve managed to redefine themselves as a political party, and transform from a terrorist cell and Iran’s puppet into a bedrock of Lebanese politics. Because the process stagnated, the guilty had plenty of time to escape and/or get killed, which is ironic considering the investigation started with an assassination.

The pursuit of justice often causes political problems, just like political problems often launch a pursuit of justice. However, in this case the international community capitalized on a norm (be it a morally repugnant one) and used it as a guise to regulate regional rivals. Constantly walking out of class with these questions on my mind has been one of the greatest benefits of studying at LSE this semester. I hope you don’t mind me sharing these thoughts with you.


November 11, 2018

Dear Rangita,

Today was Remembrance Day, a communal commitment to the power of collective memory. It’s often uncomfortable being an interloper on a national day of commemoration— at best, you’re a spectator to the emotion of others. But today, I felt moved and encouraged by London’s sentiment. Like the war they were commemorating, the day’s meaning transcended borders, because as an American, and moreover as a citizen of the world, there was a message for me. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the end of the Great War, marked the birth of the League of Nations, a new world order that, though it failed, was regenerated from the ashes of World War II in the UN – the world order governing state actions today. It was the beginning of the promise that we, as people, have both rights and duties to live better, do better, and be better.

The power of war is not the evil it pledges to destroy, but the peace, tranquility and community it births. And the lessons it continues to teach for centuries after. England is a country of tradition, and while in America we give our respects to tradition by embracing change and promising a better future, tradition and history are the sole bearers of the lessons from the past. Remembrance Day is a testament to our duty to listen and adhere to the voices of the generations that sacrificed their today for our tomorrow. As someone who has devoted so much time and energy to these lessons, I wanted to share these thoughts with you— thank you for everything.

Regards from London,

December 3, 2018

Dear Rangita,

I hope everything is going well! I know I haven’t been in touch in a whil., I’ve been a bit consumed with my final papers, but I’m writing about some very interesting legal topics and I wanted to share some clips with you. So far, for my Use of Force Class, I wrote a paper discussing how terrorism, rather than being a new phenomenon as pundits have insisted in the wake of 9/11, is a centuries old military technique, reappearing over the years in various iterations. But the policy exercised by governments against terrorists, and the law governing this policy as states, seeks to respond to terror threats by nonstate actors in foreign territory, has not only evolved but has become considerably less constraining in the past fifteen years. For my International Criminal Law class, I wrote a paper on whether the Prosecutor should recommend an ICC investigation into the case with Palestine and Israel, and whether this investigation would constitute lawfare.

My final paper in my Comparative Constitutional Law class is far more theoretical—in evaluating whether a written constitution is inherently antagonistic to fundamental rights, I conclude that the written constitution, with its ability to be amended, is the requisite continuation of the reconciliation between natural and written law. This week, I’m handing in a paper for my theory of human rights law class on whether judicial review is undemocratic.

This semester in London has been a truly remarkable experience. I have learned so much: from my use of force class, I actually was able to edit the legal section of my paper arguing for a new definition on the law of war. I submitted that paper to the Journal of International Law comments competition and it was accepted for publication. None of this would have been possible without your advocacy on my behalf!

Thinking of you in London,


Penn Law’s educational objectives for studying abroad are deepening knowledge of foreign law and developing comparative strength. Students who choose to spend a semester or year at an elite overseas institution build global peer networks, push their language and cross-cultural skills to the next level, and distinguish their resumes with demonstrated connections to an important country or region.