MINSK 2014. 19 teams from all over the world descend on Minsk to compete in an intensive week of practical application of international humanitarian law.
Marita Kutchava, Chris Dominey and Josje de Bruijn
The International Law Competition ‘Youth For Peace’, organised by the International University MITSO in Ratomka, Minsk takes place once a year. Founded nine years ago, the competition aims to unite IHL enthusiasts from law schools globally to test their knowledge and practical skills in unforeseen situations involving armed conflict. The theme of this year’s competition, Game of Thrones, provided the narrative for the practically-based rounds of the competition. Teams were asked to, inter alia, act as legal advisors to a hostile King Joffrey, Stannis Baratheon and Robb Stark, negotiate detention conditions and visiting rights to prisoners of war held in King’s Landing and on the final day, when the situation had reached a level threatening international peace and security necessitating UN Security Council involvement, teams representing each party were required to participate in peace talks.
Arriving in Minsk, we didn’t know what to expect from the competition. Unlike traditional Moot Courts, we hadn’t received a case file on which to base our preparation and so our aim was to put into practice the theoretical knowledge we had gained throughout the first year of the Masters in Lund. Everyday before breakfast, the nerves would kick-in as we received our schedule for the day’s tasks. Each day we had a few hours to prepare an unforeseen task, usually in the form of role-play, responding to various aspects of International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Public International Law. At a given time during the day, we were summoned to present our response in front of judges composed of global legal experts and practitioners in the field of International Humanitarian Law. The judges played active parts in all tasks, either taking on Game of Thrones-esque roles, or as moderators during negotiations between two or more teams. Overall, the judges embraced the characters they were playing with huge enthusiasm, challenging each team’s capacity to adapt theoretical knowledge to the given situation, often with unforeseen interventions in the form of communications received during the tasks, or from questions taking the application of IHL norms to their extremes. On the first task for instance, the judges, in the role of hostile King Joffreys pushed for clarifications on the legality of often extreme and ridiculous measures taken in response to civil uprisings and attacks from other Kingdoms.
A week of legal tasks was combined with a dense activity schedule including sightseeing visits, attending lectures given by the competition judges, taking part in an IHL quiz and a surprise 6:30am wake-up call to respond to an ‘urgent’ announcement regarding the taking of a hostage.
The announcement of the finalists was made on Friday morning. All teams had proved to be laudable opponents and provided for a stimulating and academically challenging week. Considering the quality of the competition we were delighted, yet surprised, to have made it to the final.
Unlike any other moot court competition, the final task tested not only our legal knowledge of International Criminal Law, on which it was based, but our ability to appeal to a public audience through the means of an appearance on the most popular TV show in the Kingdom. The final hinged on a heated political and legal debate between the parties to the armed conflict and required detailed responses, accessible to people without legal knowledge, on the intricacies of a potential referral of the alleged violations of IHL to the International Criminal Court. During the show, we were delighted to learn through a ‘live’ video link from New York, that the Security Council qualified the gravity of the atrocities committed by the party represented by our opponents and decided to refer the case to the International Criminal Court. Despite this, the University of Leiden proved formidable opponents and went on to be declared winners of the competition.
Overall, the week provided us with the perfect opportunity to enhance and develop our legal knowledge and professional contacts. However, we return to Lund, not only as runner-ups in an international legal competition, but having united with inspiring individuals from all over the world.
Highly recommended for Lund 2015!