For the first time, master students from VU University Amsterdam participated in the ICC Moot Court Competition. The team was formed by: Sofia Cosssar and Karlijn Arts (both students of the Law & Politics of International Security master), Stephanie Schilder (Criminal Law master), Ana Martin (International Crimes & Crimiology master) and Eva de Jong (Private Law and Transnational Legal Studies master). The team was coached by CICJ’s Marjolein Cupido and Alexandra Popova. The VU team made an excellent performance at the Competition. Eva de Jong: “Even though it is a pity we did not make it to the quarter-finals, I think we can be very satisfied with our overall performance. I am really proud of our team, we worked really hard.”
The ICC Moot Court
The ICC Moot Court Competition is a six-day international competition that simulates the proceedings of the International Criminal Court in a mock situation. Participants have six months to work on a fictional legal case. They prepare three memoranda for the Prosecution, Government and Victims before coming to The Hague for the hearings. “Writing the memoranda took a lot of time. We had to study case law and come up with creative solutions for complex issues and had to argue from three different perspectives”, Stephanie Schilder says. Sofia Cossar: “We also spent a lot of time on structuring our memoranda and finding the right formulation that would present the arguments in the most advantageous and convincing way.”
When the memoranda were finished, the team started preparing for the pleadings. Karlijn Arts: “We practiced our pleadings every Wednesday. Staff from the ICC, professors and a public prosecutor volunteered to judge our pleadings during our practice sessions. The sessions were very helpful, it made us feel very prepared for the Moot Court.” Ana Martin adds: “It was a very complete exercise to learn and practice international criminal law. Throughout the way, we received priceless input from many professionals in the field.”
The team received the fictive case already in December 2015. It contained three submissions that the Prosecutor, Government and Victims Counsel had to plead before an Appeals Chamber. These were challenging topics of international justice nowadays, namely: 1) whether the recruitment and use of juvenile pirates can be considered a crime against humanity; 2) whether the cross-border contamination of a State’s major water supply can constitute an international war crime; and 3) whether a public opinion expressed prior to taking office can result in the disqualification of a judge. Following these submissions, factual information was provided on which every Counsel (Prosecutor, Victims and Defence) built their case. The authors of this fictive case were quite creative as they used the States and cities of the series ‘Game of Thrones’ and combined them with Somali piracy cases and the current devastating situation in Syria.
Hearings in The Hague
After the memoranda had been drafted and the hearings practiced, 60 teams travelled to The Hague between 22 and 27 May to plead their case. The Judges awarded points for the pleadings and only those teams with the highest points passed to the next round. Karlijn Arts: “Preparing the pleading session was very challenging because we did not have enough time to present the whole memorandum. We had to choose which points of the case we wanted to discuss. The choice of what to present was a difficult one because the case was very complex.”
The hard work of the team resulted in an excellent performance in The Hague. Stephanie Schilder: “The pleading sessions in The Hague were a memorable experience. The Moot Court gives you the opportunity to experience what it is like to plead before the Court. I really wish I will be pleading before the actual International Criminal Court one day, I want more of this!” Eva de Jong: “Besides the educational aspect of the Moot Court, I also really appreciated the social aspect of the Moot Court like the BBQ that was organized for all participants. We met with international students who share the same interest in international criminal law and we talked to many professionals that already work in the legal field. It was a fantastic event.” Ana Martin: “The competition week was fantastic: the pleadings were very challenging and you had a real opportunity to express yourself as a law student. The environment was great; people were super-friendly despite it being a competition! Leiden organized a memorable event.”