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Lecturer receives doctoral grant for research into witness protection

Gregory Townsend has been awarded a Doctoral Grant for Teachers by the Dutch Research Council to research witness protection at the international courts. The funding allows teachers to gain experience and strengthen the ties between universities and schools.

Townsend has been teaching at The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS) since 2018, where he co-teaches two modules that he helped create: International Criminal Justice en International Criminal Practice. This is based on his 20 years of experience at international criminal tribunals. ‘I am honoured to receive this grant.’

Care of witnesses

As a PhD candidate at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, he plans to research witness protection at the international courts. ‘I want to reflect on what has worked and what has not worked in the past 30 years. International justice relies heavily on courageous witnesses, but there is scant literature about taking care of them. I am seeking to define and distil the “best practices” in this field to be able to build capacity in domestic witness protection units. Trying international crimes in domestic courts boosts accountability, and we need more of that in today’s world.’

Townsend eventually hopes to galvanise states’ support in this area, which from his experience overseeing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s witness protection section is still lacking. ‘The reality is that too few states are willing to receive witnesses that require relocation, and that hampers justice.’

Ties between the

Furthering cooperation between Leiden University and THUAS is another aim of Townsend’s project. ‘As both institutions are anchored in The Hague, the international city of peace and justice, and employ numerous experts in these fields, it make sense to cooperate regularly and strengthen their collaboration. I also hope my research eventually translates into the establishment of an NGO which will give the students a means by which to gain practical experience in these areas.’

Doctoral Grant for Teachers

A total of 23 lecturers have been awarded a Dutch Research Council (NWO) Doctoral Grant for Teachers. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science makes 9m euros available each year for PhD research. In this 21st round, 4.6m euros have been allocated. The funding will enable the applicants for the research projects awarded to conduct PhD research over the next five years.

Text: Dagmar Aarts
Photo: Unsplash

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