Law schools in Rwanda, in partnership with the Rwandan Red Cross Society and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), are organizing the country’s first ever national moot court competition on international humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the law of armed conflict.
A moot court is a role-playing competition where law students are expected to demonstrate their understanding of IHL before a simulated court.
The ICRC has been tasked with developing and promoting IHL since the international community signed the original Geneva Convention in 1864. The moot court competition is part of the implementation of this mandate where the organization works closely with academic institutions to support and further develop education on IHL around the globe, including in in Rwanda where it has been active since 1990.
For a number of years, ICRC has been organizing IHL moot court competitions around the world in countries where it operates, including a national competition in Zimbabwe, Kenya and a regional competition in Arusha, Tanzania. In Rwanda, this is the maiden such competition organized by the ICRC in partnership with the university Law Schools in Rwanda and the Rwanda Red Cross Society. It will be the first of its kind in Rwanda.
Scheduled to take place from October 5th to 6th at STIPP Hotel and the Supreme Court (preliminary rounds) and at the Supreme Court (final round) in Kigali, the competition will bring together 4 teams of 112 law students from different law schools across the country where each team will have to play the role of both prosecution and defense in a fictitious war crimes trial.
The universities taking part in the contest are the University of Rwanda, INES-Ruhengeri, the University Of Lay Adventists Of Kigali and Kigali Independent University. Parallel to the launch of the competition, a public lecture shall be delivered on the first day to discuss the contemporary challenges of IHL.
The winning team will be fully sponsored by the ICRC Delegation in Kigali to represent Rwanda and participate in the All-Africa IHL Moot Court Competition held in Arusha (Tanzania) which brings together the winning teams from across the continent.
Pascal Cuttat, ICRC head of delegation in Kigali talked to The New Times about this competition and the way forward in promoting IHL in Rwanda.
Given ICRC’s mandate, how does the organization of IHL Moot Court Competitions help you meet your objectives?
Part of ICRC’s mandate is promotion and development of IHL in time of peace, therefore a relation with academic circles is one approach towards building an environment conducive to respect of the law.
Since University lecturers and students are considered as potential actors of influence and future decision makers, our main goal is to ensure that the teaching of the law is centered on contemporary practices and challenges of modern warfare.
In the same framework of IHL promotion in Rwanda, are there any other activities in addition to those aimed at universities?
We have regular dialogue with relevant national authorities on the integration and domestication of the IHL into domestic law. We also provide legal advice and technical support in building national capacity in IHL implementation and facilitate the exchange of information. For instance, we anticipate to support an IHL harmonization project led by the Rwanda Law Reform Commission in the beginning of 2017.
Another aspect of our work is the collaboration with the Rwanda National Police and the Rwanda Defense Forces. In this regard, ICRC has been participating in pre-deployment courses for military contingents departing to international peace support operations. We have been facilitating the participation of military and police officers to international courses on IHL. Police and army forces are key stakeholders in any country and we appreciate the fact that in Rwanda they fully support the promotion and integration of IHL.
Briefly, we have established positive and close working relationships with authorities and we expect to find more opportunities to strengthen our cooperation.
What do you think is the role of other partners in the promotion of IHL?
Although the ICRC is the guardian of IHL, I believe that this should not be a one-organization role. Primary responsibility lies with states. -The government of Rwanda has responsibility to implement international obligations in promotion of IHL. For example, the recently amended Penal Code incorporates provisions on violations of IHL, notably war crimes.
Law schools/Universities should promote respect of this law through the incorporation of IHL into University curricula and mostly through focusing on addressing contemporary issues while teaching.
It’s always important to prevent the occurrence of conflicts. How does ICRC get involved in peace building and prevention of conflicts?
The ICRC is not involved in prevention of armed conflicts. Similarly, the application of IHL does not depend on whether or not a conflict is legal. Such decisions are governed by other international frameworks related to this aspect of conflict.
However, while IHL does not apply in times of peace, it can have an effect in peace time. Some provisions of this body of law continue to apply after a conflict has ended, such as protection for prisoners of war who have not yet been returned to their own countries.