AUC Law Students and Faculty Attend African Human RightsMoot Court Competition
The American University inCairo Department of Law participated in the annual African Human Rights Moot Courtcompetition in South Africa from September 2 to 7 at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town.
The event was established in 1992. Over the last 21 years, the competition has brought together over 1.000 teams from various universities around Africa. This year, 48countries took part in the competition.
The annual event started inSouth Africa’s capital, Pretoria, where it was designed to train a group oflawyers to be able to dispute cases related to human rights violations in frontof a hypothetical court, the recently established African Court on Human andPeople’s Rights. A human rights moot competition in the heart of a country witha long history of fighting apartheid and years of social and political struggleseemed fitting to participants. South Africa is a nation that is an example forthose who strive for patience, respect and pride, according to many of thecontestants from various African countries.
The AUC team consisted of two students from the International Human Rights Law program, Farah Najjar and Rosalie Capps. Professor Jason Beckett and DianaVan Bogaert, director of the Legal English Training Unit, trained the studentsfor the competition. The preparation process consisted of months of work put into the case. The team submitted legal memoranda to the organizers before aweeklong intensive oral training session.
Van Bogaert emphasized thatparticipating in the event carries vast rewards, saying that professional andpersonal horizons are expanded. On one hand, skills such as critical thinking,writing legal arguments and presenting oral arguments are all developed. Onthe other, friends are made, new places are discovered and self-knowledge is gained,allowing for personal growth. “It is an impressiveundertaking on a continent-wide level and a life-changing opportunity forparticipants,” Van Bogaert said.
Capps attested to this fact, saying, “It was a great experience. I learned a lot and sawsome amazingly talented people. There were some true artists there, and it was apleasure to watch them.”
The competition is organizedyearly by the Center for Human Rights, which collaborated with the Faculty of Law in the University of the Western Cape. Organizers in the university hosted thestudents and faculty members.The opening ceremony was heldin the City Hall building, a historical monument that showcases Europeanarchitecture. It included a live performance by the talented university musicalband and a welcome ceremony led by the mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille.She welcomed the guests in an encouraging speech to all the competitors. Shealso stressed the importance of being critical toward any kind of human rightsviolation. The participants proudly wore their diverse national outfits as theymingled.
Kuda Chitanga, a participantfrom Zambia who won Best Oral Presenter, affirmed the importance of recognizing the true value of the knowledge each individual holds andthe true power behind the minds of African law students. Chitanga came to CapeTown oblivious of this thinking, but in the end he realized and accepted thattrue strength lies within the young adults who carry within them the brillianceof a generation. “No one should ever be deprived of the experience that theAfrican Moot Court offers,” Chitanga said.
The level of the moot court impressedNajjar, and so did the dedication of some African teams. “I saw pure talent, whichis something to look up to and aspire to become. Watching some of the teamsresembled watching an episode of Suits, the television drama about lawyers!”
Najjar said the people of CapeTown were “very diverse, yet warm and welcoming. It’s a complex kind ofbeauty to be walking in European-style streets, while seeing the Africanculture instilled in some areas and in the people."
The guests visited RobbenIsland, where Nelson Mandela,former president, politician and anti-apartheid revolutionary, was imprisonedfor 18 years, on a trip sponsored by the university. The island is located in Table Bay, with a breathtaking view ofthe ocean. It was first used by the Dutch as a political prison and has beenhistorically known as such. Other influential figures also served time on theisland, including current South African President Jacob Zuma.
Inside the island, tour guidesled and identified significant areas of the small island to the groups ofvisitors. Prisoners were forced to perform hard labor,such as building their own security fences, which made it impossible for themto escape. Other physical work included removing seaweed from the ocean’sshore, which left many prisoners injured. Toward the end of the tour, a formerprisoner, who spoke of his own experience, showed the groups the inside ofprison cells. He said, “In Robben Island, you didn’t have a name. Your name wasa series of numbers written on your prison card.”
Along the streets, there werelive performances of small groups who danced and sang to the beats ofpercussion, horns and other African instruments. The AUC delegation noted that it was refreshing to see thestreets alive with shop vendors who invited visitors into their stores packedwith colorful items on display.
“It is a rewarding experiencethat I will always remember,” said Najjar.