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Report from the 2023 Peter Duffy Scholar, Joanna Veimou

Joanna Veimou, recipient of the 2023 Peter Duffy scholarship, discusses the time she spent at the UK Division of the European Court of Human Rights.

6 people standing in front of a banner and smiling. The banner says 'European Court of Human Rights'
Kyran Kanda (left), Joanna Veimou (second in from left) and fellow trainees at the European Court of Human Rights
A woman with brown hair wearing a black suit and looking at the camera. Behind her are the words

Life at the Court

The Peter Duffy Scholarship meant that I worked at the UK Division of the Court as a trainee case processing lawyer. My supervisor was an extremely accomplished lawyer who was working on the inter-state case of Ukraine and the Netherlands v Russia, a case concerning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the downing of flight MH17. Working under her supervision was very valuable for my career. Further, working at the UK team was an amazing experience because it meant I was responsible for the same job as the assistant UK lawyers, albeit with more supervision and final approval of my work. On a daily basis, I processed applications against the UK, first procedurally and then substantially. My first week consisted of me becoming acquainted with the Court’s rule 47, and processing applications on an administrative basis. I then quickly moved on to assessing applications substantively. I basically had to assess whether the applications fit the Court’s admissibility criteria and draft a concise case review to the Duty Judge along with a suggestion in regards to admissibility. I read multiple applications spanning from criminal appeals to employment, to simple domestic disputes and divorce. I was able to observe the process following the receipt of a ‘rule 39’ request, which is the Court’s process of administering requests for urgent measures, such as in cases of withdrawal of life support or the flights to Rwanda. I was also assigned tasks from the President’s Office. These included various research tasks such as drafting the Court’s Annual Yearbook (an overview of the most important cases of the court for the current year), as well as speeches for the President and the Deputy Registrars of the Court. On one occasion, I drafted a welcome speech for a delegation of Brazilian Supreme Court Judges that came to visit the court.

The friendliness and approachability of all members of staff was beyond anything I expected. The UK team welcomed me with open arms and treated me as one of their own from the first day I walked in. I had an office which I shared with another colleague with both of our names outside the door. I was invited to have coffee with the UK Judge on more than one occasion and was able to chat to him about his current workload, his career before becoming a Judge as well as his views on current human rights matters. I was also able to meet and chat with the Judges of Cyprus, Greece and Azerbaijan. I had the unique opportunity to observe the Judges’ deliberations on a judgment which came out while I was at the Court. As a Lincoln’s Inn Scholar, you are part of the official  trainees of the Court, so I was able to attend the Court’s intensive training program on the different Articles of the Convention. This also included a round table discussion with two Judges, where we got to ask any questions that we wanted. During the time of my traineeship, I was able to observe two hearings taking place at the Court. Both of them were extremely interesting, as one was about to right to die with dignity, and the other concerned Russia’s actions in Ukraine, in which Russia did not appear. I was also able to participate in the Court’s ‘Language’ clubs where I could practice my French. As a Greek national, I made sure to speak to the Greek delegation of the Court, so if you hold dual-nationality or are a national of another member of the Convention, then you are definitely able to network with the lawyers of your country. Everyone is very welcoming and happy to have a chat or a coffee with you.

Living in Strasbourg

Aside from the work side of the experience, I had a great social life in Strasbourg. There are a lot of trainees from different Convention countries and we organised socials very frequently. For  example, there was a trainee quiz which me and my team won! At the end of October, we held a trainee potluck at the cafeteria of the Court with different cultural foods, which was a great success. Finally, we had a trainee Secret Santa when Christmas was approaching. We also organised a Halloween party and a Thanksgiving dinner among the friend group that I was able to be a part of. Every day we would have lunch together at the cafeteria of the Court. Every Thursday, it was pizza day at the Council of Europe where we went and had freshly made Italian pizza. The highlight of the social aspect I would say was, however, the end of year party which was held inside the Court! Every delegation brought in foods from their culture which resulted in a huge spread of food and alcohol. There were also dance performances and music from different countries. It was an excellent opportunity to bond with lawyers but also Judges, which eagerly participated in the celebration, and were definitely up for a chat and a drink or two.

Finally, Strasbourg is a beautiful city which is worth visiting even as a tourist, so living there was a privilege. The distances are extremely short, and you are able to go from one place to another in maximum 20 minutes. Whether you decide to live in the centre or closer to the Court, everything you need as well as all bars and restaurants are a short tram or bus ride away. Having arrived at the end of September, I got to see both the sunny and wintery side of Strasbourg, and they were both beautiful. The highlight is of course at the end of November until the end of December, when the whole city gets decorated and becomes ‘the Capital of Christmas’. There are multiple Christmas markets all over the centre, where you can find the most unique Christmas ornaments which are hand-made, as well as traditional treats. Strasbourg is part of the ‘Alsace’ area of France, which means they got their own specific cuisine and a great selection of local wines (if you are a fan). You can find beautiful, quaint French restaurants, as well as more international cuisine such as Chinese, Lebanese or Italian restaurants, as well as a lot of sushi places. Of course there are plenty of French bakeries where you can get your daily coffee and fresh croissant, or a freshly made baguette. The most well-known sight is the Strasbourg Cathedral, which is magnificent and definitely worth a visit. You will most likely pass the Cathedral on a regular basis as it is located right at the centre of the city. The cost of living is also way lower for those of us who live in London.

I was able to visit the neighbour city of Colmar, which also had a beautiful Christmas market and a very picturesque scenery. Even though I found staying in the city so enjoyable that I did not visit any of the other nearby villages, there are definitely multiple cities where you can easily go on the weekend, such as Geneva, Kehl, Basel and Eguisheim. Lastly, Paris is only a train away, which made it a great weekend destination.


Overall, I would say my experience exceeded all expectations, I made some great friends which I am sure I will keep for life and I was able to undertake work which will be extremely valuable for me as a future barrister hoping to specialise in human rights. I made some very good connections and met some of the brightest human rights lawyers in Europe, as well as highly accomplished Judges from many different countries.

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Applications to this year’s European Scholarships are open until 18 March 2024 at 12:00. Find out more.