For the past week, I have been working on a project that involves a protected witness. As with almost everything else I have said regarding my ICTY work, I can't reveal very much about it. However, I feel like I need to try and explain the situation and the incredible bravery that ICTY witnesses exhibit and their impact on me.
With the majority of the Balkans conflict leaders either dead or already prosecuted (and especially with the big three - Milosevic, Mladic, and Karadic gone), one might think that the collection of beautiful countries that make up the former Yugoslavia would be a lovely place to live. For some, I'm sure it is. But for anyone still living with the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding their lives after they were ripped apart twenty years ago, who buried their children, siblings, parents, spouses, or perhaps even worse - weren't able to bury them, it is a daily struggle. Those survivors who decide to come to The Hague and testify in ICTY trials are incredible. Being a witness at the ICTY is one of the bravest things I have ever been exposed to. Despite those specific leaders responsible for the atrocities being out of the area, many of them still have HUGE support systems in those countries. That makes it incredibly dangerous for anyone who decides to testify against them. Though there have been no documented murders or assassinations, there have been retributive threats and attacks against witnesses and their families.
Here is where I have to be incredibly vague (more so than I have been). My project for the past week (and likely my final two as well) has been working to protect one such witness. This witness wanted to testify but the ICTY determined that the danger posed to the witness and the witness's family was significant enough to warrant protected witness measures (including closed sessions during the trial and confidential judgements). My task is to make sure there is nothing in the Appeal Judgement that could give any clue about the witness's identity - and to indicate the necessity of redaction/confidentiality for those things that must remain. It is incredibly stressful doing this, because if I make one little mistake - that could mean a threat to this witness who is more courageous than I have ever had to be in my life. This witness is not letting fear get in the way of justice. Though I am concerned for the witness, I am using his/her strength to help me focus on doing the absolutely best job I can. This witness is just one more source of inspiration I can carry with me from my summer working at the ICTY. Thinking of this witness, I will study and work as hard as possible in order to make the world safer and protect innocent casualties from the horrors of war.