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Interviews

Iva Vukusic: War Crimes Researcher & Analyst Interviews

Iva Vukusic: War Crimes Researcher & Analyst
“I don’t have nightmares anymore.”

Iva Vukusic works as a researcher, archivist and analyst for the Sense News Agency in The Hague. An expert on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, she has used her specialist knowledge to help indict war criminals in Bosnia and has spoken at conferences all over the world, from Rwanda to San Francisco. We chatted to Iva about her career so far, her plans for the future, and what it takes to develop a career on the analytical side of international criminal law… 


Tell us a bit about your current job

I’ve been working at the Sense News Agency in The Hague since the end of 2009. Basically, I work on ICTY-related archives; ICTY meaning the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I’m an archivist, a researcher and an analyst all at the same time, working on materials, such as videos, documents, reports and witness testimonies.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy my job in different ways. First of all, I enjoy the environment in which I work. The legal environment, for me, is intellectually stimulating and really exciting. The law being used, both substantive and procedural, is very interesting and has an important impact on policy and politics worldwide.

Certain aspects of my work are related to history, law, military strategy and even economics, so it can be really fascinating. What’s more, watching two very good barristers trying to outsmart one another in a courtroom can be very exciting.

Have you ever been tempted to pursue a career in law?

Personally, I’ve never wanted to work as a practising attorney in a courtroom. I would study law, but I would only want to study international criminal law or humanitarian law. I have no intention of going to law school and studying family law, tax law, or anything like that.

What I do now feels right for me and I don’t have a particular desire to practise law. I do, however, have a lot of respect for barristers, especially the ones here who are skilful, sharp and incredibly knowledgeable.

Most of the people that work in this environment are lawyers, but there is also space for people who do not have a legal background. For instance, other people work in administration, logistics, public relations or analysis.

It’s important to remember, however, that even if you’re not a lawyer, it helps if you can develop an understanding of certain aspects of the law. Being in and around this environment, you pick up a lot of legal stuff, but it also helps if you can get as much legal education as possible.

Before you joined Sense, you worked for the Office of the Prosecutor in the Special War Crimes Department in Sarajevo, Bosnia. How did you secure that position?

I used to work as a journalist whilst I was studying, and I started covering war crimes trials in Croatia. I’m Croatian and I was born in 1981. The Yugoslav War started when I was ten years old. I was sleeping in a basement and I didn’t go to school.

The war didn’t affect me in a horrible way - the way it affected people in Sarajevo and other cities that were badly hit - but I remember certain aspects of the war and I did have personal experience of it.

When I was 20 years old, I had a sensation that the war was still very important. It was still influencing political events, and I felt like I’d missed half of it. So I started reading up on it and began covering more war crimes trials as a journalist.

I ended up in Bosnia when I was doing my master’s degree in human rights. I wrote my thesis on the impact of The Hague Tribunal in certain municipalities and places around Bosnia. In that period, I started meeting people that were working at the Prosecutor’s Office and the ICTY office in Sarajevo.

My thesis ended up coming out pretty well; it got published and I graduated at the top of my class. I then got offered the analyst position at the Office of the Prosecutor in Sarajevo because I spoke the local language and I also speak English. Furthermore, I had the relevant academic experience from my master’s degree, I’d covered the war crimes trials as a journalist, and I was doing all sorts of freelance work on the side.

However, there are different ways you can get into this area of work. A lot of people end up getting jobs in this field after doing internships. It’s very, very difficult to get an entry-level job in the international criminal law arena

Most people go and work in other jobs in domestic legal systems or in law firms, and then try and apply for jobs in international criminal law after a couple of years. It’s very difficult. The competition is really hardcore.

Why is it so competitive?

The positions are becoming more visible. People hear about the International Criminal Court, documentaries are being made, and it looks all exciting. The people working in this field are depicted as crusaders for justice.

I give presentations at a lot of universities and many of the students I talk to want to work in this area because it’s prestigious, it’s interesting, it’s well-paid, you get to travel the world and you get the sensation that you’re doing something for justice. But that’s a very simplistic understanding; a lot of this work is also tedious, horribly frustrating and difficult.

What does your current job involve on a day-to-day basis?

Part of my job involves going through a lot of the evidence materials from the ICTY trials, including witness testimonies, courtroom confessions and lots of visual material, i.e. original footage from the time, which includes both amateur footage and journalistic reports. I’m also responsible for digitising some of the material in an attempt to organise some of the archival materials.

I also help with enquiries from journalists or filmmakers. A lot of them write to the Sense News Agency saying: “We’re looking for this type of stuff, we need it for this film,” so it’s my job to find the right kind of material. It’s much easier for me than it is for someone from the outside, simply because I’ve seen so much of it.

I also work on the side a little bit with the War Studies department at King’s College London. I was recently working with Professor James Gow on a project relating to visual material from war crimes trials, which involved finding and identifying photographs, video footage, maps, graphs, and all sorts of things.

I also write academic papers and attend conferences. I was in Rwanda recently for a conference in Kigali. I was there for a week and now I’m writing an article about Rwanda for a website back in Croatia. I regularly speak at events in London, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC, so there’s a lot of travelling involved.

I think the travelling helps because a lot of the archivist work is done in the basement behind tons of tapes and documents. Every once in a while it’s good to go and meet people from other tribunals and talk about things.

Did you have similar responsibilities when you were working in Sarajevo?

It was a little bit different because I was assisting prosecutors and investigators in building war crimes cases. I was going through tons of databases and documents, trying to find evidence for prosecutors to build a case, take someone to court and hopefully put them in prison.

I don’t work on particular cases and investigations anymore, because the investigations at the ICTY are winding down; a lot of the investigating stuff has already been done. I am using a similar set of skills, though.

What makes my job easier is the fact that I speak the language. If I look at footage and documents, if I see the name of a town or a picture, it’s easier for me to understand it or recognise it because I’m from that part of the world.

For this kind of analysis work, it helps that someone has a specific knowledge of the region. You cannot work as an analyst if you do not speak the language or if you’ve never spent any time in the country you’re investigating.

If I decided to study Arabic and spent some time in the Middle East, I could maybe get a job at the ICC working on that particular region in four or five years’ time. It takes preparation. You also need to understand how international criminal law works, how prosecutors work and what they want.

How many languages can you speak apart from BCS and English?

I’ve been taking French for the last five years, so I can speak it, but I’m not as comfortable with it as I am with English. I can understand some German and some Dutch, and I also speak some Italian.

What would be useful would be Arabic or any of the African languages. In general, if a person wants to go into this kind of work, any of the UN languages, e.g. English, French, Chinese, Russian or Spanish, are useful.

Today, if you don’t have a master’s degree, two foreign languages and two years’ experience, don’t even bother. It’s incredibly difficult to get in straight out of university.

Do you intend to learn Arabic and move on to different things?

Little by little, I am branching out. But I don’t completely want to leave the former Yugoslavia. It’s an expertise that I’ve built over the years and I feel attached to it. I’m from Croatia and I’ve spent time in Bosnia, so this is my job-related home.

I would love to learn other languages for work-related purposes, but also I’d love to learn Arabic for the personal satisfaction of being able to speak the language.

I’ve also considered doing a PhD at King’s College London in War Studies. However, I’m not completely sure. I’ve had academia as my mistress for a while, but I’m just not sure I want it as a wife.

Alternatively, I could work for a UN agency that provides aid or engages in international negotiations. A lot of the people I used to work with in Sarajevo have ended up in Kabul or Baghdad, working for organisations that work on identifying missing persons and excavating mass graves. I could even do policy work at the UN. The options are pretty broad.

You must be exposed to some pretty distressing footage and information. How do you cope with that?

I think I was much softer in the beginning. I was much more upset by gruesome images or really horrible testimonies. But after a while, you just toughen up a bit. I don’t have a particular strategy; although sometimes after I’ve been watching amateur footage which is pretty horrible for two or three hours, I look at puppies on the internet or do stupid stuff like that.

I don’t have nightmares anymore. Once in a while something still upsets me, but far less than it did in the beginning. You cannot do your job well if you’re destabilised every time something upsets you. Overall, you just need to decide if this is something you want to do.

If you’re going to fall apart every time something upsets you, you should just quit and stop torturing yourself. If it is something you want to do, then work on it and it will get better.

I understand that you did plenty of volunteering across Europe before you started working in this area. Do you think that was instrumental in getting you where you are today?

I started volunteering at a student radio station in Zagreb when I was 19, but I also used to lead youth groups of high school kids around Europe on a programme that was funded by the European Union. It was basically all about young kids meeting, sharing and establishing an identity as Europeans. I did that for three years and it was great fun.

Whatever you think you want to do, just go out and do it. Even if the only thing you accomplish is figuring out what you don’t want to do, that’s great! I was a journalist for five years and decided it wasn’t for me, so I went into something else.

Volunteering gives you confidence. It helps you function in a professional environment, you get the opportunity to meet people, and it helps you toughen up a bit. All of the things you accomplish and the skills you develop at a young age can be really valuable.

Just go out and do something. The skills I developed through volunteering aren’t directly related to what I do now, but they’ve still helped get me where I am today.

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HR Business Placement Experiences

HR Business Placement Experiences

Are you considering a placement year as part of your degree? Wondering what it might be like? Here’s a little insight! Molly is currently on her placement year as a HR Work Placement Student at PwC, a professional service organisation, working with the Student Recruitment team. She shared her experiences from her time with the team so far and told us what appeals to her about working in HR…

Interviews

Elisabeth Baltay, Partner, Finance @ Bingham

Elisabeth Baltay, Partner, Finance @ Bingham

Elisabeth Baltay is a partner in Bingham’s Finance group. She is also one of the firm’s graduate recruitment partners, which means she plays a vital role in the selection, supervision and development of trainees. We caught up with Elisabeth to find out more about the life of a trainee solicitor at Bingham…

Interviews

Changing Careers through a School Leaver Scheme

Changing Careers through a School Leaver Scheme

Many training schemes aren’t just for fresh graduates or school leavers, but career changers too. We interviewed David Mannion to find out why he chose to give up his previous career in sales and financial services for a place on the National Audit Office’s School Leavers’ Scheme. 

Interviews

Georgina Reid, Food Buying Intern at Tesco

Georgina Reid, Food Buying Intern at Tesco

Georgina is a 21-year-old undergraduate studying History at the University of Southampton. She recently completed an internship in buying with the UK’s biggest retailer Tesco. As a result, she has secured a sought-after graduate job with the company as a Trainee Graduate Buyer after she’s graduated and taken a year out to travel to South America and teach English. She told us all about her internship experiences… 

Interviews

Georgina Blackwell: From Beautician to Barrister

Georgina Blackwell: From Beautician to Barrister

In 2009, Georgina Blackwell, a beautician at the time, stepped into the High Court and won a courtroom battle against a property development giant without any legal training. Following her victory, she was offered a full scholarship by BPP to complete the LLB. Two years later, she graduated with a first class honours degree. We caught up with Georgina to chat about her unique experiences of the legal profession so far…

Interviews

 Using Your Internship to Get into Investment Banking

Using Your Internship to Get into Investment Banking

You’ve probably heard that work experience is the best way forward when it comes to securing that golden graduate job. But how do you go about making the most of your internships to get into the highly competitive investment banking industry? Raisah, who is now a credit trading analyst at international bank J.P. Morgan has is covered…

Interviews

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

After a two-year round-the-world trip, Gavin Thomas decided to move away from music journalism and started working as a travel editor with Rough Guides. After several years of editing, he was given the opportunity to author the first edition of the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka. Since becoming a freelance travel journalist in 2005, he has written a range of guidebooks about Dubai, Oman, Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. We chatted to Gavin about becoming a travel writer, avoiding cliché and the time he was shot in the stomach by armed bandits in Mexico…

Interviews

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance apprenticeships are increasingly on the up as an alternative to university for top school leavers. But what does an apprenticeship actually involve? Josh and Katie came from slightly different routes (A-levels and a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Business) and have now taken up tax and audit apprenticeships with financial services firm Smith & Williamson. They let us in on what their programmes involve…

Interviews

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

You’ll often here that nowadays banks implement diversity policies and programmes in all elements of their business. But what are they actually doing? Vinay Kapoor, UK Diversity & Inclusion Manager at BNP Paribas told us about how things are changing within the industry and what diversity and inclusion means at the Bank…

Interviews

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan was curious about what an actuarial career may hold as a mathematics student, but wasn’t 100% sure what the industry actually entailed. A couple of years later, he has completed a summer internship in actuarial consulting within pensions with top actuarial firm Aon, and has now moved into their graduate scheme. So what did he gain from his summer internship?

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Private and business clients is a highly desired career path focus in the banking and finance world. Roya is gaining experience in this area with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany – one of the world’s biggest financial hubs. She told us about the opportunities this is opening up.

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Leo is a Global Technology Strategy Analyst in Group Technology & Operations in London. His team pioneers technologies and re-engineers business processes to deliver innovation and world-class client service. From moving trillions of Euros through a business every day to integrating two organizations after a major acquisition, they face the technological challenges caused by growth, market change and constant competition…

Interviews

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

If you watched children’s television in the 90s, you will probably recognise the trademark smile of Dave Benson Phillips. Yep, that’s right! He’s the charming chap who presented Playdays, Get Your Own Back and Wake Up in the Wild Room. We caught up with Dave to chat about his life as a children’s television presenter, the 'World’s Largest Gunge Fight', and the internet death hoax that threatened to ruin his career…

Interviews

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Prepare to be shocked, appalled and amused! We interviewed a graduate recruitment consultant to find out what really happens to your CV when you apply for a job through a recruitment agency. If you want an honest insight into the recruitment process, you’re in the right place. The person we interviewed has asked to remain anonymous. Get ready to find out why!

Interviews

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo started writing her debut novel when she was just 17 years old. Having secured a two-book deal with Faber at the age of 20, whilst studying history at King’s College London, she went on to receive widespread critical acclaim for The Spider King’s Daughter, which was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize. We chatted to Chibundu about tackling the writing process, getting published, and balancing academic work with a literary career…

Interviews

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Mark Hughes has recently been appointed training principal at Browne Jacobson. Mark, a partner in Browne Jacobson’s corporate team specialises in all aspects of corporate advice, including acquisitions and disposals and has been with the firm since 1999. AllAboutCareers.com caught up with Mark, finding out about changes to Browne Jacobson’s trainee recruitment programme…

Interviews

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn

Fresh from his recent appearance on Dragons’ Den, Martin McLaughlin (a.k.a. Ben ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ McLaughlin) chatted to us about starting his own popcorn company, Love Da Popcorn, with two close friends. With a background in advertising and a tidy little bit of investment from Peter Jones, Love Da Popcorn’s products are likely to be making your tonsils tingle with happiness very, very soon…

Interviews

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Mike Day is the Head of the Accounting Academy Partnership, an apprenticeship scheme which helps young people to become qualified accounting technicians in just 14 months. We chatted to Mike about the increasing importance of apprenticeships in the accounting industry, especially now the government has announced its scheme to create 360,000 apprenticeships in the UK this financial year…

Interviews

An Interview with the Attorney General

An Interview with the Attorney General

Appointed as the Attorney General by Prime Minister David Cameron in May, 2010, Dominic Grieve QC MP is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown. A champion of student pro bono projects, he also chairs the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the Attorney General about the importance of student pro bono projects, his own personal experiences of pro bono work, and the possible impact that the proposed legal aid cuts will have on pro bono initiatives in the UK…

Interviews

An Interview with an Ambassador

An Interview with an Ambassador

His Excellency Ric Todd has recently been appointed Her Majesty’s Governor to Turks and Caicos Islands. Previously he was the 56th British Ambassador to Poland. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Ric about his career so far, his advice for people considering a career as a British Ambassador, the challenge of learning new languages and meeting Pope John Paul II...

Interviews

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

Employers Jessica Addis and James Vaughan-Smith needed to hire additional staff recently and took a chance on apprentice Chloe Hutchinson-Brown. Having had a positive experience of utilising an apprenticeship scheme, Jessica and James spoke to AllAboutCareers.com about how hiring an apprentice worked for their company and should be a serious consideration for all school leavers.

Interviews

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates gained a multitude of different experiences working with young people through her studies before she took on the challenge of the Teach First Leadership Development Programme as a maths teacher in the Yorkshire and The Humber area. A couple of years later, she’s now a Lower School Assistant Head in Sheffield! She chatted to us about her experiences on the programme and what teaching means to her…

Interviews

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse

Having completed a DPhil in Physics at the University of Oxford, Adam Gamsa decided to move away from academia and join Field Fisher Waterhouse as a trainee solicitor. We caught up with Adam to chat about his first nine months as a trainee, his vacation scheme and his enthusiasm for intellectual property law…

Interviews

A Life in Social Care

A Life in Social Care

Many of the people who pursue a career in social care are initially drawn by the simple motivation of ‘helping people’ or ‘giving something back’. Behind such simplicity is a complicated range of values. For example, a recognition of the inherent value of every person and their right to be considered equal with every other citizen.

Interviews

A Different Kind of Accountant

A Different Kind of Accountant

When you hear the word Mazuma, you might think of those irritating adverts which invite you to exchange your mobile phone for cash. But wait! There is another company with the same name. Started by two friends, Mazuma provides expert accountancy services to small businesses and independent contractors. We had a chat with Sophie Hughes about starting up her own business and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry…

Interviews

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

After graduating from the University of Warwick with a degree in Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (MORSE), Tom Williams joined Aon as a trainee actuarial consultant. We caught up with him to find out more about the professional life of an actuary… 

Interviews

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Sponsored Degree Programmes can be ideal for those looking for a career change too. Lee Dennis was initially an engineer with the Royal Navy, and took his career in a new direction into the power system industry through the National Grid Engineer Training Programme…

Interviews