An international lawyer with a flamboyant hobby


By Elise Honningdalsnes

He is the first Mongolian ever to work for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. N.Orchlon is an important man with a special and pricey interest: he collects perfumes.

How did you end up working in The Hague?

I’ve been living here for just over 10 years. I came here in March 2006. First, I did my bachelor’s degree in Mongolia, and later I went to the United States to do my master’s degree. After finishing I wanted to practice international law and I was lucky enough to get through the International Criminal Court’s selection process. I then started working at the office which represents the interests of victims, where I have been working ever since.

Please tell us more about your work.

I am an international lawyer working for the ICC and I am the first Mongolian to ever work here. The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court, and it is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals worldwide for international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. I work as a victims’ lawyer here, as part of a greater team that represents the victims’ voices. In my opinion, the court is a big advancement for humanity, as we are living in a quite lawless world where many war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed on a regular basis. My daily work consists of representing victims exposed to such horrific crimes. I am fully dedicated as a lawyer and my plan is to work for another five to 10 years.

What are some of the major cases you’ve worked on so far?

Right now I am working on a case against a Ugandan military group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). They have been combatting against the Ugandan government and we represent the innocent victims affected by the confrontations. The group has been active for nearly 30 years and its current leader is Joseph Kony. The group is accused of widespread human rights violations, including abduction, mutilation, child sex slavery, murder, and also forcing children to participate in hostilities.

Before this case I worked on a case against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto and his associate. The case was unfortunately terminated due to lack of evidence supporting his in-
volvement in deadly violence after the country’s 2007 presidential elections. More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were forced out of their homes in Kenya. This was the second time the ICC has admitted defeat in its attempt to prosecute alleged ringleaders.

Do you think there is a lack of Asian representation in international law?

Globally, there is a lack of Mongolian, and Asian lawyers in general, working internationally. There is a huge racial imbalance when it comes to people working in The Hague, Geneva, New York and so on. I am not blaming anyone, I’m just saying that we have to work hard and prepare ourselves, as we are part of humanity.

Besides my work and perfumery, I also try to inspire young lawyers in Mongolia to work and study abroad. If I can do it, so can they. I have a Facebook-group called “Orchlon Club for New Lawyers”. In the group I share international opportunities, I share tips on how to study and go to law school in the west, on how to pursue an international career, etc. I want Mongolians to not just picture themselves in Mongolia, but to realize that they can go abroad, just as I’ve done.

Currently, in the group, there are about 2,800 members who are considering an international career.

“For me, there is no sex to perfumes, it’s something very subjective. In terms of smell there is no such thing as women’s and men’s perfume, smell is a very personal and individual thing. I see a perfume as a form of art”

How did you become interested in perfumes?

Honestly, it’s just one of my passions which has really evolved. I have seriously been collecting and sharing my experiences with others for the past seven years. It all started when I was a teenager, when I was about 14 or 15 years old I think. It was around the time when Mongolia was opening up and people were bringing in stuff from China and Russia. That’s when I first smelled the Axe deodorant, with the exotic name “Africa” and became interested in fragrances.

How many perfumes do you have in your collection?

I have a relatively small collection, with only about 150 to 170 bottles, which is not that big for a collector. I mean, some collectors have more than 800 to 1,000 bottles, so my collection is relatively small, but in terms of quality it is very good. I like the more expensive,  precious ones, the ones considered works of art. I don’t collect the ones you can get in the stores. The most precious one I have is Clive Christian No. 1 – pure perfume. I recently bought this one, and in Europe, it is now retails for about 4,000 EUR. I got a good deal, so mine was not this expensive. It’s a crystal bottle, the neck is plated with 24-karat gold and a small diamond is encrusted on the bottle. Only a very few people in the world have it, so I’m very lucky.

Do you also have women’s perfumes in your collection?

This is one of the questions that always recur in the perfume world. For me, there is no sex to perfumes, it’s something very subjective. In terms of smell there is no such thing as women’s and men’s perfume, smell is a very personal and individual thing. I see a perfume as a form of art, and there is no art only for men or only for women. There is no ballet only for women and there is no painting for men only – and the same thing goes for perfumes. We only see them like this because they are commercialized and marketed this way. It’s all about personal taste.

You are an important member of the fragrance community here in Mongolia; can you tell us more about this?

I did start a Facebook-group to share my knowledge with other Mongolians interested in fragrance. Our group is now the biggest [fragrance Facebook] group in the world with 78,000 members. My goal is to reach 100,000 members over the next three years. The second biggest one, an international group, has only about 7,000 members, so I am very proud of my group. In the group I write a lot about perfumes, I give basic information on what perfume is, how you can differentiate between perfumes and so on. I also introduce new brands and write about what I personally like. Members also post about their experiences. I have also participated in big fragrance events internationally, in for instance Italy, and I have met many important people within the business.

Are you planning to make your own perfume?

That is one of my dreams. I would love to do that in the future, but right now I’m a quite serious lawyer, a professional, a father and I have a lot of responsibilities. I would love to do it later on, and I would name it after me and I would like to make the fragrance about Mongolia, as fragrance and smell is very important in our culture. If I do this, I would dedicate myself 100 percent. I don’t think I can make a business out of it, but I would hire a professional and I would remain the creative director. Everything in the production would be important for me; the smell, the package, the bottle, and so on.

Have you considered moving back to Mongolia and would you practice law here?

I would love to in the future, but right now I don’t feel ready. There is a lot of stuff I still need to learn, I want to progress professionally, and I also wish to do my PhD in international law before I leave Europe. I go back to Mongolia once or twice a year, and I would love to move back one day. I cannot see myself living in Europe all my life, I am only here because of my job. Right now, The Hague is my city; it is very quiet and much more comfortable than many other places around the world.

I wouldn’t want to practice law as I do now if I move back to Mongolia because I’ve done that before. I worked as a criminal investigator for the police and the prosecution after finishing my undergrad. After my masters, I worked as a defense counselor, and I believe the impact of my work would be minimal. I would like to work in a job where I can advance the rule of law, work on human rights and make an impact. I would really appreciate that kind of opportunity and I would be willing to leave my comfortable life here for this. However, the time is not here yet, that’s how I see it.