March Break 2011: Part 2

Read about my March Break trip to London to attend the 2nd Biennial War Crimes Conference in Part 1.

The first evening, I got a lot of sleep, a full 9 hours compared to the usual 7 😀 When I woke up, albeit quite late by my usual standards (9am) I felt fresh but insanely hungry. I caught a bus to Russell Square and grabbed breakfast at Subway – a lovely toasted BLT. The ride did highlight one thing for me which was how London managed to combine old and new architecture. Often, you don’t notice those subtle differences and your eye can transit from ancient constructions to new buildings without really realizing. There was this really cool circular iMax theatre outside Waterloo train station, but given that it was in-between a round-about, I’m not sure how you get there. Also, as much as I like to trump the brilliance of Hong Kong’s public transport system, London isn’t that bad. At a minimum, it’s safe to cycle (even if it’s freezing) which you just can’t really do I Hong Kong.

Arriving at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies where the conference was being held, I successfully registered and got my little conference pack all in a bright yellow folder. I was, to be honest, quite freaked out when I walked into the Council Chamber. I couldn’t see anything except suits, people will little lawyer suitcases and well — for me at least — adults who were taller and scary. I couldn’t find anything to do so I just read the program, the abstracts and considered what I could attend. It turned out that the conference contained a nice mix of academia and reality. There were academics doing their PhDs or masters from various universities as well as practitioners from UN prosecutors to charity workers. It made for some very interesting discussions and was useful because it meant I could see theories applied in real life and at the same time, I could conceptualize and theorize many of the courts and events I had no idea about.

As the day progressed, for me at least, the conference became a lot more accessible. It turned out that many of the things discussed and being considered weren’t as far flung from the sort of things I did in Peace and Conflict studies or Theory of Knowledge. Indeed, the last plenary session of the day was titled ‘Truth. Whose truth?’ which addressed the question of the difference between truth determined by history and the truth that one can prove legally and how you deal with these competing truths. The amazing thing for me was that this wasn’t dissimilar to discussions I might have myself with AC students in say TOK or just day life.

With day one of the conference over and my brain working in overdrive and having been deployed for much longer than it usually has to work while at AC, I returned to the house for a ‘Debate Dinner’ organized by Joseph in order to work my brian a little more than it already was. It was on the topic of ‘Protests’ but from that simple word, we went to all topics imaginable. We discussed the obvious of Millbank, the student protests and what a violent protests constitutes. But strangely enough, we ended up discussing what conditions were necessary to push people to go to violent protests as well as the fundamental, age old debate over capitalism and communism. It was almost exactly as if it were AC, and quite understandable given the bias towards AC alumni/students. All that over dinner and a desert, all brilliantly prepared by Chef Gridley.

Although it was well past 1am by the time we all wrapped up and I have to say my brain was quite tired, it was a wonderful experience in all respects.