GLOBAL: World's first Human Rights Moot Court

The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 is being celebrated by the staging of the first World Human Rights Moot Court at the University of Pretoria in South Africa in December. The competition is open to students from all of the world's institutions of higher learning but is aimed at undergraduate law students.

The Moot Court is being organised by the centre for human rights at the university, supported by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It will be held during the week leading up to the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration on 10 December and will involve young people who are already in a position of influence in simulating a real court case. The languages used in the competition will be English and French.

The theme is 'discrimination' which, said World Human Rights Moot Court coordinator Cherryl Botterill, "is a worldwide issue which raises questions of attitude. The Moot brings together young people who will be in a position to help change attitudes around the world".

Universities have been invited to enter teams of two students - preferably one woman and one man. While the competition is not restricted to law students, it is expected that most teams participating will be comprised of those studying law.

For the first written round, the students must submit heads of argument for a hypothetical problem focusing on the issue of discrimination as if it were to be adjudicated by a hypothetical International Human Rights Court "on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other applicable (such as regional) human rights instruments," according to a competition statement. The deadline for the first round is 30 October.

Based on an assessment of the heads of argument by a panel of experts, two teams from each of the five UN regions - Africa, Asia Pacific, Western Asia, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean - will be invited to participate in person in the final rounds in Pretoria.

The two teams from each region will compete against each other on 9 December to produce a winner from each UN region (with no overall winning team). Students will have to prepare both sides of the case, said Botterill. Participants unable to travel to South Africa will be able to participate via video-conferencing.

The final round will be judged by UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay, from South Africa, and judges from international tribunals and bodies such as the different regional human rights courts and UN human rights treaty bodies.

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