Diaries of a humanitarian lawyer 1994-2020

Working on legal rights protection in conflict zones & developing countries

Patricia van Nispen tot Sevenaer

EN book

SP book

NL book

About a book

The setting of this book is my quarantine alone in Spain in the spring of 2020 when the people in Spain are not allowed to leave their homes. This provides the framework within which my journey through the globalising world over the past 30 years takes place. Through the (mis)management of the corona crisis, I suddenly see clearly what the problem is with current international and government policies that unleash top-down norms on reality instead of looking at reality and seeing what it takes for people to come into their own. In the introduction and conclusion, I explain this and indicate how legal rights’ protection can provide a solution for all. This vision is given body in the book, based on my experiences as a lawyer in international relations and development cooperation.

The book begins in the 1990s as a lawyer in UN missions in post-genocide Rwanda (Chapter 1) and post-war ex-Yugoslavia (Chatper 2). If you do not understand the failure of 20 years of international intervention in Afghanistan, then the 'look behind the scenes' via my diaries written during these UN missions will make that more understandable. These missions lacked any meaningful vision of what we had to do while it was abundantly clear that doing justice at the micro level and providing legal rights’ protection after war/genocide should be priority number one in the reconstruction.

With my diary of my trip through ex-Yugoslavia in 2005 (Chapter 3), ten years after the war, I show how things are then for the former Yugoslavs, how they experienced the war, and how they perceived the situation. This brings to life the people-centred rights-based approach. For years then, with the organisation I set up, Microjustice, we have been giving legal aid to the refugees in Serbia to arrange their legal documents and rights across the border in Croatia, where they come from, so that they can resume their lives. The last two sections of my book show what the situation is like in a number of conflict zones and how the Microjustice's legal rights’ protection-oriented approach can help displaced people there (chapter 4). Furthermore, in Chapter 5, I outline how Legal Rights’ Protection programmes have been set up by Microjustice in a number of developing countries.

About the author

Patricia always wanted to do what she is doing now. That is why, after her law studies, she did a postgraduate study in International Relations and became inspired to focus on the “human aspects” of international relations. According to her, a prerequisite for democracy and sustainable peace is that all people are legally protected and integrated into the system of their country; rather than talking about abstract concepts such as “states”, one must therefore look beyond the concept, to the people living within that state. In Microjustice foundation (founded 1996), as a financially sustainable mode of legal services in international development cooperation, starting in 2007 in Bolivia, in 2008 in Peru, in 2009 in Argentina, and from 2010 in East Africa, and now in Egypt, Jordan and Ukraine, Patricia has found the perfect way to deal with this in a structural way. Before she founded Microjustice, she worked at a commercial law firm in Amsterdam (Houthoff Buruma; 1990-94) and at the UN in Rwanda, Malawi and Croatia (1994-96).

Highly recommended

Few know more about legal rights' protection of oppressed groups than Patricia. This book features an expert by experience who writes engagingly about one of the great problems of post-conflict situations that is invisible to many.
Rob de Wijk, professor of international relations, Leiden University and founder of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies