In Harare, RWI collaborated with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to host the National International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Moot Court Competition. This is a recurring competition which aims to give students the opportunity to not only study human rights and international humanitarian law but also to improve their legal drafting and advocacy skills.
For four days, future lawyers representing four partner universities in Zimbabwe – Midlands State University, the Great Zimbabwe University, the University of Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University – competed for a place in the finals.
The final round was held at the High Court of Zimbabwe, in Harare. High Court of Zimbabwe Judge President, Justice Mary Zimba-Dube, presided over the final round of the competition.
The proud winners were Midlands State University who represented Zimbabwe at the regional competitions in Arusha, Tanzania.
We talked to Eunah Patricia, 24, a student of the winning team from Midlands State University:
Ever since Eunah Patricia started studying she has wanted to participate in Moot Competitions:
– I have joined almost all of the Moot Competitions during the course of my studies, she says. When I took Environment Law last year, I took part in that Moot.
After that, she also participated in the Space Law Moot Competition:
– We won the regional trophy for African Space law which took us all the way to Paris, Eunah says. We came third in the world finals.
To Eunah, participating in Moot Competitions has been an effective way of developing her skills as a lawyer:
– The reason I have wanted to participate in as many competitions as possible, is that I knew that it would assist me in my professional development, she explains. As a child, I was shy and timid. The Moot Competitions felt like a perfect way for me to enhance my presentation and argumentative skills.
Preparing for a Moot Competition is almost as challenging as competing in one. For some competitions, one will get a month to prepare, and said preparation could include for example, analysing 20 pages documents in detail.
– In those situations, we, the team, often start by preparing individually. Then we get together to work out a plan.
Other times, an hour is all you get to study all the facts.
– In that case, there is no time for individual reflection, she says. We get together right away.
The teamwork is also key:
–We prepare together. I work hard, as I want us to win and because I know us working hard is what is best for the team, she says. It motivates me to do my very best for the team.
During the process, the students get close – professionally and emotionally. –We become friends.
No matter the length of the time to prepare, preparation is key and demanding:
– You have to know all the facts and let nothing surprise you, she says matter-of-factly. There are different processes. I have learned that I get better as I progress.
To be well prepared for a Moot Competition, you need to know all the facts: all you can find out about the case, the history, and other details:
– If you know your facts, the law, and how to present, you are well prepared, Eunah explains. It helps to know the law, it does. But, at the end of the day, what really matters is how you apply the law.
The argumentation and presentation are crucial:
– It is a lot about how you communicate with the judge, she says. People are human after all. It matters how you present the facts.
When entering the courtroom, you do not know whom you will get to represent, the respondent or the applicant. Therefore, you have to prepare arguments and reasoning for both sides:
–You can get either in the competition. So, you need to know both sides’ arguments and have to be prepared to counsel either side.
Eunah feels that she has developed her presentation skills immensely. She shares:
–I have learned so much. In the beginning, I used to be jumpy and overconfident. Now, I have realised that the best approach is to be composed, she says. One should not shout or behave in a cocky way. I often practice with friends and at home. My little sisters were so confused about what I was doing.
– Before, I struggled to make my thoughts catch up with my words, she says and giggles. I learned that to manage thinking and talking at the same time I could not talk too fast. As I progressed, I started to get control over my thoughts as well as my words!
As for her future career, Eunah has not yet decided in which direction she will go;
– I believe that I will enjoy being a lawyer. There are many things that interest me within the law, she says. I have decided to let myself try different things and not rush into any profession. I will give myself time to think.
The National International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition is part of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Capacity Development Programme supported by Sida.