Virtual visit to Hong Kong

Virtual visit to Hong Kong

Student Taran Molloy was in the University’s winning team at the International Humanitarian Law Moot competition in Hong Kong in March. In this myView blog post, Taran explains some of the intricacies of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the challenge and excitement of competing internationally—albeit via Zoom.

Taran Molloy (bottom left) with lecturers Marnie Lloydd and Alberto Costi, and team mates Jono Sylvester and Lottie Thompson.

“I have a real issue with the argument you are making, and that is—”

I wait to hear what’s next, but the Judge has frozen. Half a minute later, he jumps back to life: “that is what you are saying, right?”

I ask the Judge to repeat his question, hoping he doesn’t cut out again. Sweat builds up on my forehead. By now, we’re all well-accustomed to choppy connections or the occasional missed sentence in a video call. But they’re certainly more stressful when countless people are watching, the judges are grilling you, and there are only a few minutes of your allotted time left.

I should probably back up and explain what’s going on!

Last November, I was on Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s winning team at the New Zealand International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition, organised by the New Zealand Red Cross. The win qualified us to represent New Zealand at the Red Cross IHL Moot Court Competition for the Asia-Pacific Region against 25 other national teams in ‘Hong Kong’. I’m using quotation marks because—although excellently organised by the Hong Kong Red Cross and International Committee of the Red Cross—the tournament had to take place virtually.

Participants in the Moot share a moment of virtual peace during the championship. Taran is in the bottom row, second in from the right.

So, what’s an IHL moot anyway? International Humanitarian Law (IHL), also known as the ‘Law of Armed Conflict’, is the body of rules that apply to participants in armed conflicts, both internal and international. It aims to limit the effects of armed conflicts by providing clear protections to civilians, aid workers, prisoners of war, the wounded, and other protected persons and sites. As a moot—basically a mock trial—the competition imagines an International Criminal Court proceeding against a person accused of war crimes. The drafters draw up detailed scenarios using fictional countries to provide the backdrop to the competition.

The experience itself is unique because you get to research fascinating and under-explored IHL issues. This year, the competition dealt with the little-discussed and very old-fashioned sounding crime of “treachery”, which relates to the unlawful use of disguises in war.

Even without the usual travel opportunities, it was incredibly rewarding to meet talented competitors and judges from across the Asia-Pacific—with a particular shout out to our tough opposition in the final from the University of Tokyo—as well as the great support given by my coaches and teammates.

The competition offers a great window into a vital area of law. IHL often doesn’t get the same level of attention at law schools compared to more traditional domestic legal topics. The organisers did fantastic work to show the varied career paths IHL can offer, especially in their keynote seminar from one of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s regional legal advisers.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how the law can offer protections in the most pressing humanitarian circumstances, and I would thoroughly recommend that anyone who’s interested keeps an eye out for this year’s national competition sign-ups!

Taran Molloy is studying for an LLB(Hons) and a BA majoring in International Relations and Political Science.

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