Mandela Moot Court: Students Discuss Human Rights in the Context of COVID-19

Anh-Thu Vo and Bettina Roska, enrolled in our Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ), represent this year the Geneva Academy at the Nelson Mandela Moot Court.

To pass the first round of this moot competition, they discussed in a detailed written memorandum human rights in the context of the COVID-19, notably in relation to lockdown measures, compulsory vaccination, electoral rights and online hate speech.

This exercise entailed substantive research and analysis of international human rights law and jurisprudence, weekly meetings with their coaches – Ana Srovin Coralli and Agustina Becerra Vazquez, Teaching Assistants at the Geneva Academy and PhD candidates at the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies –, individual writing as well as exchanges with experts and former Geneva Academy participants.

A Qualification for the Oral Rounds

Anh-Thu and Bettina qualified, along with 49 other teams, for the oral rounds – with preliminary, quarterfinals, semi-finals, and final rounds. These will take place online from 3 to 16 July 2021.

In these rounds, Anh-Thu and Bettina will have to argue a hypothetical human rights case before judges from leading international tribunals and human rights experts. They are now preparing for this exercise via weekly practices with their coaches and expert.

‘The fact that the oral rounds will take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic adds a layer of complexity to this exercise. This is something we also consider in our weekly practices’ underlines Ana Srovin Coralli.

An Invaluable Learning Experience

Participation in the Nelson Mandela Moot Court allows our students to put in practice what they learned in class to very concrete and contemporary human rights cases and challenges. For those wishing to work in transitional contexts, it is also an opportunity to explore issues of redress and accountability that form part of transitions following an armed conflict or massive human rights abuses.

‘This reality check is essential to fully grasp the notions and legal tools that our students acquire during their time at the Geneva Academy. This is precisely why we integrate this type of exercise, as well as internships, in our programmes’ say Thomas Unger and Frank Haldemann, Co-Directors of the MTJ.

‘Over the past few months, I have learned a lot about international human rights law. At first, it was very daunting to research case law; however, as time went by, finding and understanding case law became much easier.

As someone who is interested in social media’s impact on human rights, it was very fascinating to learn the international human rights frameworks regarding the freedom of expression and the requirements for restrictions. Additionally, I have enjoyed learning how to apply international law to COVID-19 restrictions, as this is very applicable as we live through the pandemic ’ explains Anh-Thu.

‘Participating in the Nelson Mandela Moot Court was an incredible learning experience. Because we had to simultaneously argue both sides to various human rights issues, I was forced through flexible argumentation to face the complex nature of human rights and see the diversity in it. It was interesting to learn how international law may be stretched and interpreted to the benefit of certain interest groups. I learned how to most convincingly develop and frame arguments in human rights-related matters and how to use international law to respond to current political and social challenges, especially where there is a lack of regulation or where it is vague’ underlines Bettina.


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