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Leiden University

In September 2009, four students from Leiden University were selected to become the next team to participate in the Telders International Law Moot Court Competition. As only one of us had experience with moot court competitions, it was the beginning of an exciting learning experience. The team noticed that in previous years, many teams had scored really well on either the Applicant side or on the Respondent side, but that only few teams excelled in both. For this reason we decided to really focus on both sides of the argument. This turned out to be a very fruitful tactic. The closer it got to the competition, the more exciting the preparation stage became. In the final weeks, the team met up several times per week in the living room of one of the teammsates, which for the occasion was built into a court room. We practised our speeches, while constantly thinking of new questions to ask each other, so that we would be ready for anything the judges at the competition could ask us.

On 22 April, it was finally time to put our months of training into practice. In general, we noticed that our preparation had been a thorough one. But no matter how good your research is, there is always that one challenging judge that will surprise you with a creative question. For example, in the Case of Pirates in the Treasured Sea, the Estados Federales de Margarida detains pirates as “unlawful enemy combatants”. One of our judges was intrigued by this fact and asked our team how such a term could be applicable in the case of piracy: “Well Your Excellency, pirates are ‘unlawful’, because piracy is against international law, as illustrated by the provisions in UNCLOS and the recently adopted Security Council resolution 2224. ‘Enemy’, because pirates are enemies of the international community, since piracy is a threat to international peace and security, as resolution 2224 was adopted under Chapter 7 of the Charter. Finally, they are ‘combatants’, because they carry arms.” It is always a bonus when your imagination does not fail you during the oral pleadings.

During the ceremony at Leiden City Hall, our team was very happy to hear the first results. The Netherlands had a spot in both the Applicant Top 5 as in the Respondent Top 5, which was exactly what we had aimed for. We also realised that this meant we had a good chance to win the Max Huber Award, as Sweden was the only other country to receive a Top 5 place in both rankings. The elation among the team was great when we heard the next day that we had actually won this prestigious award. Congratulations must also go out to Sweden and Austria who gave us strong competition, trailing us by a mere 1 and 1.5 points respectively in the overall scores.

All in all, our team has learned a lot from the Telders International Law Moot Court Competition. Not only do we feel we now have a better understanding of international law, but we have also gained valuable skills in team work and public speaking. Finally, it was amazing to be present at the competition itself and meet new friends from all over Europe. Many thanks to the Telders Organizing Office for making this experience possible for us!


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