Oxford Lawyers without Borders, the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and the Oxford Mooting Programme joined forces once again this year to organise the Blackstone Human Rights Moot on 6 March 2021. This year’s edition, generously supported by Blackstone Chambers, saw five teams of Oxford students argue a hypothetical case concerning the right to take part in public affairs, the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly. The case raised interesting questions about the impact of Twitter bans on free speech rights, the human rights implications of parliamentary recalls, and the validity of various COVID-19 lockdown measures under international human rights law. 

In the preliminary rounds, teams had to argue once as Applicant and once as Respondent before a ‘bench’ of two judges each. Participants included both undergraduate and BCL students. The judges, drawn from a pool of Oxford’s Master’s and DPhil programs, included: Andreas Giannakopoulos, Ashleigh Barnes, Ayushi Agarwal, Gayathree Devi KT, Mikayla Brier-Mills, William Wong, Sameer Bhat and Samuel Bailey.

After the preliminary rounds, the two teams that proceeded to the finals of the competition were Alexander Yean (Exeter) and Firdaus Mohandas (St John’s) for the Applicant, and Alvin Cheung (University) and Ernest Leung (St Catherine’s) for the Respondent. The finalists made their submissions before a panel of esteemed judges consisting of: Professor Kate O’Regan, Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and former judge of the South African Constitutional Court; Ivan Hare QC and Tom Lowenthal, members of Blackstone Chambers; Sanya Samtani, DPhil (Law) student and Research Assistant at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights; and Ayushi Agarwal, DPhil (Law) student and former winner of the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot. 

Finals of the Blackstone Moot, feat. Alvin Cheung, Ernest Leung & Ivan Hare (left to right, top row); Firdaus Mohandas, Alexander Yean & Sanya Samtani (left to right, middle row); Tom Lowenthal, Ayushi Agarwal & Kate O'Regan (left to right, bottom row)

Top row, left to right: Alvin Cheung, Ernest Leung, Ivan Hare QC. Middle row, left to right: Firdaus Mohandas, Alexander Yean, Sanya Samtani. Bottom row, left to right: Tom Lowenthal, Ayushi Agarwal, Prof Kate O'Regan.

 

The bench praised all finalists for their high-quality submissions, exceptional advocacy skills and nuanced analysis of the cited international authorities. The winners were the agents for the Respondent, Alvin Cheung and Ernest Leung. Alvin Cheung and Alexander Yean walked away with the ‘Best Speaker, Final Round’ and ‘Best Speaker, Preliminary Rounds’ awards respectively. Alvin and Ernest will go on to represent the University of Oxford at the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot 2021 this summer. Ayushi Agarwal will coach the team. We wish them the best of luck in the moot!

We would also like to congratulate all participants on their performance, and extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Finals Judges and the Preliminary Rounds Judges for making time for this moot. Our gratitude also goes to the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, the Oxford Law Faculty, the team at Oxford Lawyers without Borders, and the Organising Committee members, for their valuable support. Last but not least, we are immensely grateful to Blackstone Chambers, for making this moot possible year after year, and giving Oxford students an opportunity to engage in human rights research and improve their advocacy skills.