Oxford team wins Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition

Ayushi, Raghavi and Gayathree
The Oxonian team comprising Ms Gayathree Devi Kalliyat Thazhathuveetil (BCL, Somerville) and Ms Ayushi Agarwal (BCL, Exeter) have won the 11th edition of the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition 2019.

The team was coached by Ms Raghavi Viswanath (BCL, St Anne's).

The Moot was organized by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, in partnership with the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law of the Washington College of Law, American University, Washington DC. Oral pleadings were held in the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 15-19 July, 2019.

The case record for the 2019 Competition concerned alleged violations of the right to fair trial, the right to an effective remedy, the prohibition against torture, the right to culture, and the right against discrimination. The problem dealt with novel and contemporary issues such as the use of autonomous weapons, the use of artificial intelligence in criminal trials, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and technological improvements to culture. As is the trend every year, teams were posed with the challenge of working with the Arab Charter on Human Rights, a rather unexplored human rights treaty. In addition, the Constitution of the Respondent State in the case record was an ad-mixture of provisions from diverse domestic constitutions.

This year’s edition had saw participation of 43 universities, hailing from over 30 countries, representing the five UN regions and covering three language groups – English, Spanish and French. It was the first year that the Competition included Spanish as one of the languages.

As is the practice every year, the competition runs in two phases – first a qualification round based on the written memorials, followed by the oral rounds in Geneva. In the oral rounds, each team argues the case four times – twice for the applicant and twice for the respondent. Based on the performance in the preliminary rounds, the top 8 teams advance to the quarterfinals.

The team from Oxford argued against teams from Germany, the US, Niger, and Kenya. The quarterfinal between Oxford and the team representing Université de Tahoua Niger was particularly noteworthy for having been one of three inter-language rounds in the competition.

Gayathree and Ayushi
Gayathree and Ayushi finished as the highest scoring team in the preliminary rounds, and went on to plead in the finals, against Macquarie University from Sydney. They faced an extremely illustrious panel of Judge Albie Sachs (retired judge of the South African Constitutional Court), Judge Iulia Motuc (sitting judge of the European Court of Human Rights), Judge Raul Pangalangan (sitting judge of the International Criminal Court), Manfred Nowak (former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture), Professor Claudio Grossman (Member, International Law Commission), Dr Nilüfer Oral (Member, International Law Commission), and Dr. Veronica Gomez (Chairperson, Global Campus of Human Rights). The team was adjudged as the winner of the final round and received the award for the 4th best English memorial.  They won fully-funded fellowships to attend the Summer School of the Lucerne Academy for Human Rights Implementation in Switzerland. In addition, Gayathree won the Best Oralist award, while Ayushi was the third best oralist.

The team's participation in the competition was made possible by the generous support of the Law Faculty and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights. The team would also like to especially thank the Bonavero Institute and Oxford Lawyers without Borders for having organised the Blackstone Human Rights Moot Court Competition and selected the team to represent the University.