Thursday, December 18, 2014

Every once in a while, something happens that makes you recognize and respect your own mortality. As you have probably noticed, the top international story this weekend was the murder of ‪#‎LukeSomers‬, a photojournalist kidnapped in Sana'a, #Yemen in September 2013. Where was I in September 2013? That's right -- in Sana'a, Yemen, giving lectures to their commercial law judges about how to apply international law in their courts. Before leaving the US, I had a meeting with my staff to give them instructions about how to handle cases and administrative issues in the office while I was gone. We had to plan for all contingencies and called it the "Vacation, Kidnap, Death" memo and meeting. Now I feel sick in the pit of my stomach, knowing that there but for the grace of God go I.

For those who are unaware, for two weeks in September and October 2013, I was the special guest of the Yemen Ministry of Justice at the High Judicial Institute in Sanaa, Yemen. I was appointed by the International Development Law Organisation (Rome, Italy) to teach 60 commercial law judges presiding in the Yemeni trial and Appellate courts how to apply international laws in their courts. I taught the judges about cross border contract enforcement, global Anti-Bribery laws (such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act 2010), protection of intellectual property rights, and international arbitration.

The people I met in Yemen were wonderful. I would do this type of guest speaking engagement again in a heartbeat (who knows, maybe something in Havana now that Cuba's restrictions on professional visits are relaxing #TravelToCuba). The people I met (mostly judges and those who worked to bring me to Yemen) were the most hospitable, friendly and lovely people. However, I was definitely insulated from the factors that resulted in Somers' kidnapping. I had 24 hour security. I could not go anywhere without my personal security team. Also, I was the guest of the Minister of Justice and so the people who I met were not likely to be anywhere around AQAP people. The only time I was in public was when I went to the market just before I left, to shop for items to bring home. I had my security team with me that entire time. But still it is crazy to think how close I was to having to invoke our "Kidnap" portion of the VKD memo.

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