A Ghent University team composed of Delphine Camerier, Thibaut Lesseliers (oralists), Sharon Braekman, Sofie De Mulder and Sehrish Raja, under the supervision of Prof Yves Haeck and coaches Hanne Ollevier, Aurélie Van Baelen and Martijn Vermeersch, and following a master class of Prof Clara Burbano Herrera, is participating for the tenth year in the prestigious Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition against teams representing universities worldwide. This year, the Competition, which due to the current circumstances is taking place virtually, addresses the highly topical issue of ‘Human Rights and States of Emergency: Unexpected Crisis and New Challenges’.
“The two-semester preparation process that builds up to the actual Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition was by far the best practice and skills training that Ghent Law School has offered me. Being confronted weekly for a year with both the written and oral challenge of presenting a technically correct and stylistically persuasive legal argument has taught me more than all the skills courses and practice competitions of other course units combined" (Thibaut Lesseliers)
The Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition
The Inter-American Moot Court Competition is a unique trilingual (English, Portuguese, and Spanish) international pleading competition organised by the Washington College of Law (Washington D.C.) to train law students how to use the Inter-American human rights legal system as a legitimate forum for redressing human rights violations. Since its inception in 1995, it has trained over 4800 students and faculty participants from over 360 universities from the Americas and beyond. Written on a cutting-edge topic currently debated within the Inter-American system, the hypothetical case operates as the basis of the competition, and students argue the admissibility and merits of the case by writing legal memoranda and preparing oral arguments for presentation in front of human rights experts acting as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
“The Moot Court was a very instructive experience that makes you see your own abilities and limits, including through the weekly feedback from the supervisor and coaches. Furthermore, it was also refreshing to get to know a new human rights system and thus convert your accumulated knowledge into pleadings and building arguments. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in human rights!” (Sofie De Mulder)
Competition 2021: State of Emergency in Vadaluz
Dealing with Human Rights and States of Emergency, this year’s hypothetical case situates itself in the State of Vadaluz, a fictional Federal Republic in South America. The death of Maria Rodriguez, a woman who died of an appendicitis infection after waiting in the hospital’s emergency room for several hours, sparks a deep sense of outrage in Vadaluz. Nationwide protests to demand universal health coverage erupt. In the midst of Vadaluz’s political crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) announces that the world is experiencing a pandemic, coming from pigs, which causes very dangerous acute respiratory infections. While the mortality rate is unknown, the virus is highly contagious and the WHO urges states to take social distance measures. As a response, Vadaluz publishes an Executive Order by which it limits various fundamental rights of the people from Vadaluz.
A few weeks after the publication of the Decree, student associations initiate a peaceful protest for the right to health. As the Decree prohibits meetings and demonstrations of more than three people, a group of police officers intervene with the protest, asking the students to go home. When the students ignore them, and keep walking, the police officers arrest one of them, Pedro Chavero.
Without being informed about the reasons for his arrest, Pedro is held in police custody without any contact with his family, or his lawyer. He is only allowed a 15-minute consultation with the latter, after 24 hours, and shortly before appearing before the Chief of Police who penalizes Pedro with a four days’ detention for violating the Decree.
Convinced of the violation of several of Pedro Chavero’s fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), an individual petition is filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which following issuing its report, refers the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The team members, representing either Pedro Chavero or the State of Vadaluz, will argue the merits of the hypothetical case for a panel of five to seven international judges. The teams are evaluated on both their pleading style as well as the content of their arguments and their knowledge of both the Inter-American legal system and International Human Rights law as a whole.
“Participating in the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition constitutes for me the best and most instructive capstone of my education at Ghent University.There is no other course where I have learned so much, both on a legal and personal level. I also really enjoyed getting weekly feedback so that I could start working on it constructively. That is very rare and, above all, enormously instructive.
One is occasionally forced to step out of one’s comfort zone and that only makes one grow. In addition, I was also allowed to be part of a very nice group of students, supervisor and coaches. Despite this year’s largely online format, we always made the most of it with our group. I am very grateful to have been able to get to know these fine people. I will no doubt take a lot away from this experience and want to thank our supervisor, coaches and teammates greatly and sincerely! (Delphine Camerier)
Meanwhile, the team, supervisor and coaches wish to thank former Inter-American Moot Court coaches Andy Van Pachtenbeke (Deputy Permanent Belgian Delegate to UNESCO, Paris) and Genaro Manrique Giacoman (Human Rights Centre, Ghent University), as well as former participant Sarah Schoentjes (Human Rights Centre, Ghent University), for their valuable feedback during the oral practice sessions and/or the dress rehearsal.
“The Moot Court was an experience that taught me skills which were not covered in the rest of the university’s law program. Since you are pleading on a weekly basis, and doing so in English, you push your limits every time and actually see yourself grow. I always thought it was important to be able to speak in front of an audience and the Moot Court really helped me with that. Finally I found the team spirit really great. You are a team and you go for it together.” (Sehrish Raja)
“The Moot Court is an experience I would not wish to trade for anything. The confluence of a unique practical experience, a blissful group of students, learning about a different human rights system and super supervisor and coaches has made the last year of my law school
in Ghent a lot more interesting” (Sharon Braekman)