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In Q&A, Justin Prelogar L’20 shares his experience working at the International Criminal Court

June 27, 2019

Last summer, Justin Prelogar L’20 worked abroad as an intern at the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), located at The Hague in the Netherlands. He spoke with Penn Law’s Office of Communications about his experience and how it fits into his larger goals for his legal education and career.

Penn Law: Tell us about your internship. What kinds of things did you work on at the ICC?

Justin Prelogar: I was one of three interns in the Office of the Director for the Division of External Operations at the ICC. My team leader, Christian Mahr, was the Director of the Division of External Operations at the ICC, which is a part of the Registry. The office oversees the Court’s six field offices in situations countries and, additionally, the Liaison to the United Nations. The Director also manages three sections based at ICC Headquarters: the Victims and Witnesses Section (VWS), the External Operations Support Section (EOSS), and the Public Information and Outreach Section (PIOS). The scope of my work was quite diverse; I found myself working on both legal and policy-related research and writing projects, speechwriting, and event planning. I also helped prepare a platform to streamline communication and work-distribution across offices.

PL: What was your day-to-day schedule and workflow?

JP: Our team met in the morning three times a week to discuss ongoing projects and to hear input from the Director on how to approach different issues. These meetings allowed me a first-hand look at how the field offices and sections were managed, as well as what the work of each of these offices looked like on a more granular scale. The bulk of my summer was spent working closely with each member of our team on distinct projects. This work generally centered on outward-facing questions of policy, State engagement, and stakeholder cooperation.

PL: What were some of the most interesting projects you worked on over the summer?

JP: In my first week at the Court, I attended the annual conference of NGOs. This was an opportunity for NGOs to visit the Court and for NGOs and the Court to share ideas about how to work together more effectively to accomplish their shared goals. I found it fascinating to get a more robust understanding of the intense cooperation between the ICC and NGOs. I also found it compelling to learn the extent to which the ICC relied on NGOs for information about the local populations and cultural landscapes, as well as for assistance with information campaigns about the work of the Court.

Later in the summer, I helped research, outline, and draft a Middle East/North African external relations strategy for the Registry. I also spent several weeks researching various States Parties’ mechanisms for freezing and forfeiture of assets of the accused, and also helped draft the Division’s reports to the Committee on Budget and Finance. The latter project centered on fund usage across the division and outcomes associated with the use of these funds, which provided me a useful window into the functioning of the Court.

I also assisted with two large events hosted by the Court over the summer: an Asia-Pacific Forum geared toward highlighting the work of the Court in the Asia-Pacific region and acknowledging the Court’s interest in fostering greater participation from Asia-Pacific States; and the celebration of the 20thanniversary of the Rome Statute. These were remarkable events, among many highlights of the summer. 

PL: Since the ICC is an international body, during your internship were you able to work alongside interns and other colleagues from other parts of the world?

JP: Yes. Our team in the Office of the Director for the Division of External Operations was wonderfully diverse; it included seven people, each from different countries which collectively span three continents. Across the Court as a whole, there were a significant number of interns from all over the world, and we ate lunch together frequently, met over coffee, and explored the city. We also watched the World Cup together and rooted for everyone’s teams until they were knocked out; then we celebrated with the French interns when they won.

PL: How will your experience working at the ICC inform your career going forward?

JP: The internship provided me an invaluable window into international criminal law, the operational aspects of international tribunals, and the complexity and delicacy of the lattice of cooperation that underpins Court’s ability to carry out its mandate. The summer also gave me the opportunity to develop an international professional network in a legal space that I am very interested in one day joining. This internship also helped me make some wonderful friends from all around the world. Overall, it was an incredible experience.