Heading to Strasbourg – Participating in the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition
From 22-25 February 2015, four master students of the program on human rights at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights (NCHR), took part in the third round of the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition. Under the guidance of their coach, Gentian Zyberi, they qualified for the final round as one of the 16 teams selected from universities from all over Europe, and the team was ranked 6th in the overall ranking.
From left to right: Alfonso Calcáneo Sánchez, Emiliya Ramazanova, Daniela Kistler, Dorina Damsa, Gentian Zyberi (Picture: private)
The European Human Rights Moot Court Competition is a simulation of a court trial under the European Convention on Human Rights. The competition is organized by the European Law Students Association (ELSA), with the support of the Council of Europe and takes place at the premises of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The moot court exercise is a unique contribution to university curricula, providing students with an opportunity to gain practical experience in the field of human rights.The team was represented by Dorina Damsa, Daniela Kistler, Emilia Ramazanova and Alfonso Calcaneo Sanchez.
Taking part in the moot
The Human Rights Moot Court simulates the procedure of individual complaints to the European Court of Human Rights. The competition is divided into two phases: The written and the oral phase. In order to qualify for the final round in Strasbourg, a team has to examine a fictive case and to draft written submissions on behalf of both the applicant and the respondent. “Working on the moot has helped me to understand the fundamental principles of interpretation, procedural issues and landmark cases of the European Court of Human Rights”, says Dorina Damsa, coordinator of the NCHR-team.
The anonymous submissions are then evaluated, and the best 16 teams have the opportunity to compete in the final round in Strasbourg. In the oral pleadings, the students simulate court hearings by presenting their arguments on behalf of the applicant and the respondent before benches of three judges, composed of human rights experts of the Court. “The oral pleadings provide a great opportunity to improve one’s presentation skills”, stresses Emilia Ramazanova. “This is something that will be very useful for human rights students, no matter what career they choose after their master’s”, adds Alfonso Calcaneo Sanchez.
Close to reality
Taking part in the moot does require significant time and dedication, but it is surely worth it. “The case might be fictional, but the issues it raises are very real and currently debated in actual cases at the Court”, says Daniela Kistler. This makes the moot an experience that comes very close to pleading a real case in the European Court itself. The team highly recommends the NCHR to support this competition on a yearly basis. Not only does the winner team receive a traineeship at the European Court of Human Rights, but the knowledge and practical experience gained from the participation is worth every effort.