Alumnus Harry Aitken swaps The Hague for Cambridge

Henry Aitken
Photo: MinterEllison

It’s something which ANU equipped me for very well.

Yuill Scholarship recipient Harry Aitken (LLB (Hons), BA ’14) has just completed a ten-month associateship with Judge James Crawford at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, and is set to undertake a Master of Laws at the University of Cambridge.

Harry has received the Cambridge Australia Allen Scholarship and said his experience at the ICJ has made him want to continue his studies in international law.

While there he worked on a number of significant cases including Ukraine v. Russian Federation, the case brought by Ukraine against Russia, over racial discrimination in Crimea and financing of terrorist acts, including the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, in eastern Ukraine.

He said that he was very fortunate to work with Judge Crawford, an Australian who is regarded globally as one of the leading practitioners of international law.

“He has a huge body of knowledge and insight and working for him was an incredible learning experience,” he said.

Harry found the interactions with Judge Crawford and the other judges of the court to be invaluable to learning about the public international law litigation process.

“You can learn a lot from reading the Court’s decisions, but so much extra can be gained from speaking with the judges of the court about their opinions on pending cases,” he said.

“One of the great things about the ICJ program is that you have the chance to sit down with a number of the judges, and senior registry staff, and talk to them about their careers and their views on legal issues and particular cases.

“There’s a significant amount of diversity between them, but there are some common factors about things like how a case is presented – how counsel pleads before the court or how evidence is submitted – which seem common to them. Practical insights, such as these, are very useful to anyone who seeks a career in international dispute settlement.”

Harry first gained exposure to the work of the ICJ while studying at ANU Law. In his final year at the law school he worked as a research assistant for Professor Hillary Charlesworth when she sat as judge ad hoc in the ICJ Whaling in the Antarctic case, and noted that his experience at The Hague exceeded his already high expectations.

He said the way ANU Law students are taught international law, and to research and write, helped him in his role in The Hague.

“It’s something which ANU equipped me for very well,” he said.

“Much of the role was legal research, so having that grounding in basic technical aspects of international law, and being able to use research tools and present research in a legal memorandum, was very useful.

“Taking a number of international law courses at ANU, as well as writing my honours thesis in the field, was good preparation for the associateship".

The experience has made him want to pursue further study in international law and he will begin the LLM at Cambridge in October.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team