The second post of the series Her Way, a monthly column on Womanscape spotlighting women who are changing the world.
Photo by Luke Michael on Unsplash
She sips her tea, hesitates at dessert, then indulges in one blissful bite. From underneath the white tablecloth a pair of charming red shoes peak out. They match the crimson bag and fine silk scarf tied around her neck, bringing color to her conservative grey suit; professional and feminine.
A first impression of Haydee Dijkstal: sunny eyes and hair, sunny smile. She does not look the intimidating part of the world renowned, high-powered lawyer she plays.
She practices international human rights and criminal law. She also loves and lives in London, and likes running marathons and playing the piano and violin. She has handled cases at the International Criminal Court, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the African Commission, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other international and domestic courts. And she is smart, witty, well traveled and read, and delightful company over tea.
Haydee works with teams representing victims of war and international crimes, whose human rights have been violated. She tells the world of the atrocities victims have witnessed committed in hate. By telling the victims’ stories she gives them a voice and recognition of their pain, and hope that those responsible will be held accountable and that it will not happen again.
But Haydee is also on legal teams representing the defendants of these war crimes and crimes against humanity; the governments, the groups, the individuals accused, because they are human too. And because she believes human rights are universal, and in the justice system she serves. And in restoration, not retribution; she knows two wrongs do not make a right.
She has worked on human rights cases in Namibia, Jamaica, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Libya, Egypt, the former Yugoslavia, Israel, the United States, Cambodia, the Comoros islands, and others. She has represented and defended victims, their families, governments, dictators, prisoners, and ideals.
It takes integrity to defend someone who has probably done great harm. To presume innocence until proof of guilt, to be humble enough not to judge. The world is full of stories of injustice and of lawyers telling them from either side, but Haydee stands apart in the way and the reason why she does.
Haydee is the founder and a trustee of ICL Media Review, a small charity that provides a daily survey of international criminal law news and developments. She also travels extensively to speak about corruption and human rights. And when she is not fighting for justice and truth, she enjoys good humored banter and debates. And tea, and fresh evening walks in the mountains, and the occasional dessert.
Read Haydee's story here on Womanscape, then explore other brilliant posts on this platform. I guarantee you will be inspired.