The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights was delighted to host the Blackstone Chambers Human Rights Moot Court Competition 2019 over the course of the weekend of February 16 - 17.

A total of eight teams gathered to argue a hypothetical case which dealt with issues of international human rights law, including freedom of expression and the presumption of innocence. Across the course of the preliminary rounds, each team had to argue the two sides of the hypothetical case, representing, alternatively, both the Applicant and the Respondent before a ‘bench’ of three judges.

Participants included both undergraduate and BCL students, with judges drawn from the University of Oxford’s population of Master’s and DPhil students. The standard was incredibly high.

On completion of the preliminary rounds, the four teams with the highest scores went head-to-head in a semi-final knock-out round. The final saw the appearance of Gayathree Kalliyat Thazhathuveetil (Somerville) and Ayushi Agarwal (Exeter) for the Applicant and Timothy Foot (Harris Manchester) and Oliver Pateman (Harris Manchester) for the Respondent.

We were honoured to host the following individuals as members of the Finals bench: Professor Kate O’Regan, Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and former judge of the South African Constitutional Court; Michael Beloff QC and Sarah Wilkinson, members of Blackstone Chambers; and Raghavi Viswanath and Jason Brickhill, the current and former coaches for the University of Oxford’s Nelson Mandela Human Rights Moot team.

Both teams competing in the Final received praise from the bench for their deft handling of a fact-heavy and conceptually challenging case. The winners were the representatives for the Applicant, Gayathree Kalliyat Thazhathuveetil and Ayushi Agarwal. Gayathree and Ayushi also walked away from the competition with ‘Best Speaker, Preliminary Rounds’ and ‘Best Speaker, Final Round’ prizes respectively.

Gayathree and Ayushi will go on to represent the University of Oxford in the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot and, should they be selected, appear in Geneva for the pre-final, quarter-final, semi-final and final rounds of the Competition. Historically, the University of Oxford has performed very well at the Mandela Moot, with teams from 2017 and 2018 narrowly missing out on the finals but securing outstanding speaker prizes. We wish Gayathree and Ayushi every luck in this endeavour.

We are enormously grateful to all those who took part in the moot, and the judges both in the preliminary and final rounds. In addition, we would like to thank the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, the Oxford Law Faculty, and the staff of Mansfield College.

Finally, we are hugely grateful to Blackstone Chambers, without whom the moot would not have been possible. This moot court competition is one of the few that engages with international human rights law at Oxford, and as such was an excellent opportunity for students interested in this area to improve and showcase their advocacy skills, and engage in research in international and comparative human rights law. As the leading civil liberties and human rights set, we could not have asked for a more appropriate partner in making this competition possible.

Organising Committee, Oxford Lawyers Without Borders