From 18 to 22 January 2016, the city of The Hague hosted the International Moot Court competition for high schools. Students from all over the world, coming from countries such as Russia, South Africa and Argentina, travelled to The Hague to present a case covering multiple issues of international criminal law. The case involved a businessman from the fictional country of Cheketalo, who was accused of several crimes under international law and subsequently brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The businessman was charged by the ICC Prosecutor with aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during a protracted civil war within the fictional country. The accused, as the owner of a military supply company, provided the Cheketalan Army with artillery tanks and shells and it was alleged that, through this supply of weapons, the accused contributed to the crimes subsequently committed by the Cheketalan Army – which included the war crime of attacks of religious buildings and the crime against humanity of forcible transfer of the civilian population.
The country teams had to prepare both the prosecution and defence side of the case and had to be able to present both sides to a panel of three judges. These judges were legal professionals, coming from different fields of national and international law. Each participating team consisted of three speakers, who each had eight minutes to present different part of the case. After the prosecution and defence had presented their arguments, the teams would have the opportunity to deliberate and provide a rebuttal and surrebuttal. The teams were judged by the panel on presentation skills, argumentation skills, knowledge of the case and their ability to answer questions. The teams which participated in the competition, consisting of high school students between 15-17 years of age, were all exceptionally good and each team managed to impress the judges by their knowledge of facts and law, their clever argumentation and impeccable presentation skills. Each team was incredibly well-prepared and had fully grasped the basics of international criminal law. In the end, the prosecution team of South Africa and the Defence team from New York were selected for the final round.
The final round took place here in the Peace Palace, before a panel of professional judges: Judge Pangalangan from the ICC, Judge Orie from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Judge Morrison from the ICTY and Judge Hrdličková from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as President. Both teams were excellent, with clear arguments and in-depth knowledge of the case. Neither side was fazed by the questions put to them by the judges, which covered both the facts and law. It was the South African prosecution team that won the first place, with a speaker from the Netherlands as the best oralist for the prosecution side and a speaker from Venezuela as the best oralist for the defence side. It was a delight to watch these young and talented students present their legal skills and it is to be hoped that all of them will decide to pursue a career in law after graduation.
By Ms. Fé de Jonge