Law students Tessa Whale, Joshua de Vries and Julie Cleaver recently represented AUT at the eighth annual New Zealand International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Moot Court Competition in Wellington. The team performed very well at the completion, impressing judges, and ended up a couple of points away from making the finals.
Umar Kuddus, Solicitor at Patel Nand Legal, AUT Law School alumnus and team coach, praised the team saying, “I was thoroughly impressed with their passion, drive, and commitment to their work, ensuring that they made the University, friends and family proud of their efforts.”
New Zealand Red Cross hosts the New Zealand International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Moot Court Competition in Wellington each year. The competition is open to teams from each of the six New Zealand law schools.
The competition seeks to raise awareness of the laws of war. It also provides an opportunity for law students to make their case and apply the law in a practical setting of a war crimes tribunal. The moot problems are fictional, but deal with real issues. The case for 2019 was about alleged war crimes committed by a military leader of a country trying to quash a rebellion.
“For the most part the preparation was limited to researching various statutes, treaties and international conventions. The team spent about three weeks doing research, and one week drafting their written submissions, just as they would if this was a real court case”, said Umar.
The night the written submissions were due, the team and Umar went into a ‘lock-in’ from 6.00pm until the deadline at 11.59pm. After the written submissions were filed, the team then had a week to fine-tune their oral submissions.
For Julie, collaborating with the team was a great experience, “In law school, I often find myself reading cases alone in the library, so being able to discuss and work with others on legal stuff was awesome.”
Said Josh “Preparation for the moot was demanding, but I enjoyed the challenge. I relished the opportunity to further my research skills and knowledge in a complex and relatively unknown, but important, area of law.”
Umar worked towards ensuring the team was well prepared – providing suggestions on what areas of the law to research, identifying weaknesses in the case and workarounds for any sticky areas.
“The most fun part of being team coach was playing judge and questioning the team when they prepped for oral submissions. I’d participated in the competition two years ago and had the advantage of knowing the standard required by the judges.”
There are two preliminary rounds where the teams present a side of the case in each round. In the first round, AUT presented the prosecution’s case and in round two they presented the defence’s case. All teams were then assessed, and the top two teams with the highest marks went through to the finals.
While our team did not make it to finals, missing out by a few points, the experience was invaluable.
“The IHL Moot was an eye-opening experience that I highly recommend to anyone interested in international affairs. Our team appeared before experienced judges in a fictional international trial involving war crimes, which was a fascinating change from the domestic level in terms of the scenario, procedure and law itself”, said Tessa.
Julie agreed, adding, “It was also a lot of fun to travel with the team, our coach Umar and advisor Cassandra Mudgway, as well as meet students from other universities, and even go to the home of a former Judge of the International Court of Justice! This was a great experience and I would definitely do it again next year and try for other competitions."
“The public speaking experience and the networking opportunities were invaluable. I am incredibly grateful to AUT for the opportunity, and my co-agents and coaches for their effort and support, and would encourage all students to get involved with law competitions as soon as they can”, said Josh.
Glowing feedback also came from the team coach, “I was thoroughly impressed with the way the team worked together and performed. I have coached this competition previously and must say that this year’s team was by far the best team I have ever worked with.”