San Francisco: Final Days

We put on our active-wear and hoped the clear skies would hold out for our day bike-riding across the Golden Gate Bridge. After saddling up on our bikes, we took off to experience the amazing sites and loaded up our snap-stories with photos of the Golden Gate using the geo-filter. Our more active delegates took on the steeper hills in search for the stunning views on top, while others opted for the lesser energy exhaustive routes but nonetheless amazing scenery. One subgroup believed themselves to have made it to Sausalito, only to discover they were still several kilometres away from the true Sausalito, where the rest of the delegation were enjoying delicious burgers for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Sausalito’s waterfront before getting on the returning ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf. After a tiring day, some of the delegation decided to cook dinner in the hostel while some of us went out to a delicious Mexican restaurant.

A shot of the bridge worth every bit of the exhausting hill climb

The following day began with a much-needed sleep-in for the delegation and an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the flight the next day to Washington D.C. Many of us travelled to the nearest Walgreens to stock up on snacks for the flight before struggling to pack our bags in such a way that kept them under the 23kg weight limit. That morning, a group of the delegation went off to see the Museum of Modern Art, being particularly perplexed by the collages of cityscape photos by Sohei Nishino, and the prints of Andy Warhol. Meanwhile our co-director went out to the Castro District to freshen up his haircut to look slick for the meetings ahead.

In the afternoon we assembled for our meeting at the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), where legal fellow Mira Chernick described to us the work the CJA does to represent those who have endured the horrors of torture, crimes against humanity and other severe human rights abuses in civil litigation cases before the courts. The law students among us were particularly interested to learn about how the CJA navigates a complicated mix of international, federal and state law using the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act, to bring justice in the US courts. We were then joined by the senior staff attorney, Daniel McLaughlin, who gave us an insight in to his past work at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), where he worked alongside former New Zealand Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, who was appointed as an International Judge on the Tribunal. The delegation was amazed by the insights Daniel gave us regarding his experience of Cambodian culture, specifically how the spiritual links to the Buddhist oath is used to ensure witnesses do not perjure themselves in the Tribunal. Given the very interesting talk, it was no surprise that the questioning time saw the meeting run forty-five minutes overtime, but not before Mira was able to bestow some great advice for potential careers in international law.

The delegation at Center for Justice and Accountability with Mira and Daniel

Following the meeting we rushed for some last minute shopping, packed our bags, and got an early night before our morning flight to Washington D.C.

– James Finlay

The US Leadership Tour is a month long study tour across the United States. The 14 delegates and two co-directors will be meeting with NZ and US diplomats, NGOs, think tanks, companies and academic institutions, and representing NZ at the 63rd Annual Session of the Harvard National Model United Nations. Read more…