Utrecht students win Frits Kalshoven International Humanitarian Law Competition

Giacomo Romis, Khanyi Mabeni and Anandi Sweere

Last week, Khanyi Mabeni, Giacomo Romis and Anandi Sweere all three master students at Utrecht University’s Public International Law (Conflict and Security) LLM programme – took part in the Frits Kalshoven competition for International Humanitarian Law (IHL). IHL is the body of law that regulates what can be targeted, when, and who must be protected in times of armed conflict. The Frits Kalshoven competition is an annual event, jointly organized by The Netherlands Red Cross and Belgian Red Cross-Flanders.

The three-day long competition aims to provide students with an opportunity to practically engage with IHL and deepen their knowledge thereof, by attending expert lectures, engaging in real-life armed conflict simulations or roleplays, expanding their professional network and  ultimately by competing against other teams during the Moot Court, in which they plead a fictional case related to IHL. 

This year, eight teams from universities in The Netherlands and Belgium took part. The team from Utrecht University won both parts of the competition: the role play competition and the moot court competition. The Utrecht team competed against Groningen University in the finals of the moot court competition, which were held in the Peace Palace in The Hague and were judged by a jury that included Liesbeth Lijnzaad, Alphons Orie, Christan de Cock. The jury underlined that the strength of Utrecht's team was the structure of the pleading and the coherence among the speakers.

The team was coached in preparation for the competition by Lucas Roorda and Katharine Fortin, both based in the International and European law department of the Law School. 

The battle over "Tessalon Valley"

"There were three different roleplays: a mediation, a press conference and a targeting exercise. In the first one, we had the role of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that had to deal with military commanders, in order to avoid a humanitarian disaster and to ensure the respect of IHL rules. In the second one, we had the role of ICRC's representatives that were invited on a TV show to discuss an ongoing conflict within a state. In the last one, we were legal advisors for the military, assessing the legality of certain targeting operations."

"The moot court case involved a dispute between two states (Kingdom of Corolia and the Democratic Republic of Ellisonia). The two states were involved in an international armed conflict for the control over the so called "Tessalon valley". The alleged violations of IHL were multiple ones, such as: indiscriminate attacks, use of antipersonnel landmines, starvation of civilian population, illegal arms transfer, and denial of access to humanitarian convoys."

(The competition in the words of Giacomo, Khanyi and Anandi)

The laureates, with on the left: Heleen Kersten and Laurette Steenssens, presidents of the Red Cross in the Netherlands and Flanders