Washington and Lee University School of Law

Washington and Lee University School of Law

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Junior Pirate Fighter

Sarah Mielke, a rising 3L from Bismarck, ND, is interning with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria and Nairobi, Kenya.

Since my last posting, I’ve left Vienna and joined the UN Counter-Piracy Program in Nairobi, Kenya. (Pirates of the high seas, not rip-off movies.)
 
When I arrived in the office my first day, my boss said, “ Welcome to Kenya, and congratulations, you’re now the world’s #2 expert on the UN response to piracy.”
 
The program coordinator (my boss) arrived in Nairobi the middle of May with no other staff in place. Lucky for me it’s far easier to pick up some free intern labor than to get personnel through the UN HR bureaucracy. By default, I’m the #2 in command.
 
The program I’m working on is designed to aid Kenya in prosecuting Somali pirates. Normally suspected pirates are taken to their home country for prosecution, but Somalia has been in near anarchy for over a decade and isn’t in a position to patrol their waters, much less prosecute offenders. In response, several countries have made agreements with Kenya under which foreign navies can transfer apprehended suspects to Kenya. The legal foundation is still a bit murky, but the idea is that suspects are arrested and detained at sea based on universal jurisdiction, transferred based on bilateral agreements, and prosecuted under Kenyan domestic law.
 
In support of Kenya’s undertaking, the UN has started a program to aid Kenya in areas strained by the additional burden of piracy prosecutions: police, judiciary, prosecutors, prisons and so on. 
 
The highlights of my first week centered around pirate transfers. For starters, I spent an afternoon sitting in a circle with Kenyan prosecutors and the legal counsel for the EU Navies, collectively drafting transfer guidelines for countries intending to transfer piracy suspects to Kenya. The document has since been accepted by the EU and EC and disseminated to naval ships around the world. I also had the opportunity to be present at an actual handover aboard an Italian warship.
 
I’m learning lots and couldn’t be happier about the experience. More next time on pirate trials and prison visits.
 
W&L’s Junior Pirate Fighter, over and out.
 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Drug cartels, human traffickers, and pirates -- BEWARE!

Sarah Mielke, a rising 3L from Bismarck, ND, is interning with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria and Nairobi, Kenya.

I’ve spent the first 6 weeks of my summer working for the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. I work at UN City, which is a huge complex comprised of 6 office buildings, 4-5,000 people, and several UN office headquarters. I’ve been working in the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the Integrated Programming Unit (IPU).

UNODC is more or less in charge of coordinating the global effort to fight transnational organized crime – drug cartels, human traffickers, and pirates – beware! IPU is a small sub-office of 7 staff members that writes plans for how UNODC should respond to specific issues or regions.

Being in such a small office has allowed me to do lots of substantial work. Some of the topics on which I’ve worked include:
•    What the UN should do about Somali pirates,
•    How to fortify Central Africa against drug traffickers,
•    A guidance note to coordinate the global response to counterfeit medicine, and
•    The Pakistan saga.

Though my job here often does not focus on traditional law, legal style thinking has been invaluable. As things happen in the world, IPU must formulate an instantaneous response to the particular situation, while still maintaining cohesion with UNODC’s long-term vision and mandate. It’s definitely exciting to read something in the news, and the next day draft a document that says what the international community should do to help the situation.

The job here has been incredible, I must say that living in Vienna has lots of other perks. My first night in town, I saw a performance by one of the most famous opera singers in the world; the hotdogs on the street are even better than New York; and on weekends I’ve been able to visit Prague, Budapest, Paris, and Spain (and for less than the cost of a weekend trip from Lex to DC).

This will be my first and only posting from Vienna, as my time here is ending rather abruptly. The UNODC Counter Piracy Programme is getting underway and I’m moving to Nairobi, Kenya for the rest of the summer to help things get off the ground. More on that later, but for now, over and out from Vienna.