A team of IE University students, from the Bachelor of Laws won the sixth edition of the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition! The participants were Aida Fernandez, Marie Trapet, Luis Moyano and Marit Thomasdotter, along with the professors Amaya Úbeda and Maria Diaz, which won the finals against the team from the King’s College London. As winners, were awarded with a traineeship at the European Court of Human Rights.
The winners and the professors present in the competition told us about this remarkable experience in an interview:
Please, tell us about your experience. What was your key takeaway?
This experience has been absolutely incredible! I cannot with words describe the happiness and excitement, not to mention the continuous effort in trying to realize what we have actually accomplished. Meeting all the teams that qualified for the final rounds in Strasbourg, seeing their differences in character, composition and educational background, was very rewarding. Our team, which not only represents IE University but Spain as a country, felt throughout the week that we stood out slightly from the crowd in relation to all three of the elements previously mentioned, which I think makes our victory even more remarkable. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought that we would be flying back from Strasbourg as winners, neither that we would be getting the opportunity to meet all those incredible people from the Council of Europe and from the European Court of Human Rights. I have learned to never underestimate myself and I will be keeping this experience in my heart forever. With human rights as my main passion, my biggest dream has truly come true!
The experience was amazing. When we arrived, we were late and not dressed up properly; we thought anything could happen except winning. However, during the first moot, Aida and Marit were amazing, which encouraged us to study the cases even further and prepare more. On Thursday, Marie and I pleaded against another university and it went really well, so it encouraged us even more. We never expected to go to the semifinals because only 4 teams out of 20 passed on. We were the last team announced that would pass, and we were really surprised! We were able to answer all the questions, and some done by the judges were really tricky but we could remain calm and answer them – the team from Kings College did really well, and we were not sure we were going to win.
In the end, it was just a matter of being organized, being able to make all of your submissions during the pleading and building a stronger case, even for the weaker party, what made us win. What I would say was the key takeaway is that you never know where the opportunities are so you should always try hard, and is something that you should apply to everything in life. When we started the moot, I was really stressed about so many things, I was thinking about them more. Despite this, we all tried to prepare the best way possible with the time we had, and the motivation we got during the first rounds made us go that extra mile that the final required.
The key takeaway for me was teamwork. The understanding that without everyone’s work and constant dedication we would have never gotten this far. It is truly important to trust your team and understand that they will all do their part of the job and work their best, as we all have the same common goal. I think having the other team members trust you and knowing that they count on you as well is important, and it certainly was a motivation throughout the competition for me.
This was, no doubt, one of the best experiences of my life. Being passionate about international and human rights law, having had the opportunity to plead in the European Court of Human Rights has been a dream.
What were the biggest challenges faced before and during the competition?
The biggest challenge before the competition was to coordinate the team and find time for all of us to practice together. Since we sent our submissions in November, a lot of months had passed before the actual competition, and consequently, preparations were key. Without Amaya and Maria this would have never been possible, and I would also like to take the opportunity to thank those law professors that came to ‘judge’ us in our practice moots and give us valuable feedback. While in Strasbourg, the biggest challenge during the competition were, undeniably, my nerves. Never having done a moot before, I didn’t really know what to expect and I must admit that my nerves let me down really bad a couple of times during the week. Another challenge that I think that we all experienced during the week was to really be there and now, in the moment, and to enjoy every second, notwithstanding the pressure and nerves.
The biggest challenge is that at IEU, you do so many things, you have to choose at some point. You can’t do everything at the same time, so it was challenging being involved in so many extracurricular activities during the course. If I were to advise someone that wants to prepare for moots, my advice would be to only focus on the moot; because you are definitely able to do very well, but if you try to do so much at the same time, it is very likely you will burnout. Be cautious with the amount of extracurricular activities you get involved in.
The biggest challenge in my opinion was the amount of work it actually requires to both, prepare a good written submission, and prepare the oral pleadings once you are selected to the final round in Strasbourg. I think the first semester we were all a little bit overwhelmed with the amount of work that we had. It requires constant effort and dedication, day after day; you have to do a lot of research, understand the issue at stake, and all its implications. It’s a process of constant learning not only about the subject at hand, but also in some way about your own limits, as you actually learn that you can always do more than you thought possible and still thrive.
The competition took place the past 4th of May in Strasbourg, France. Nineteen universities across Europe participated in the challenge of solving a case related to the freedom of religion. The jury was composed of judges from the Court and senior Council of Europe officials amongst other prominent figures. The competition is organized by ELSA, the European Law Students’ Association, which is a non-profit organization present in 300 universities and 44 countries in Europe.
Time constraints has been one of the biggest challenges both before and during the competition. This is because the preparation of the written submissions requires a lot of time and dedication; and such time has to be compensated with the dedication to other subjects and matters.
Moreover, time constraints regarding the oral pleadings was a challenge as well as, no matter how much one might have rehearsed, judges at the oral stage of the competition will always come up with more questions than expected, which leads to a necessary re-adjustment of one’s pleadings. However, one-hundred-percent of the dedicated time pays off when one has the opportunity of pleading in the competition.