Malaysia: Hemingway inspires first-time IHL mooter

Teams from nine public and private institutions battled it out over two days at the 11th International Humanitarian Law Moot Court Competition, hosted by the University of Malaya's Faculty of Law and co-organized by the ICRC.

The teams' challenge was to moot the case of fictional character Admiral Tony Gusman, who stood accused of three charges of war crimes under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, including attacking and starving civilians and damaging the environment.

The competition brought together students of public international law, international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights, amongst them first-time participants Izham Ismail, a second-year law student at University Teknologi MARA (UiTM), and Elisia Engku Kangon from University Malaya.

Izham's inspiration

Izham cited American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway's quote "Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor justified, is not a crime" as his inspiration for entering the competition. He explained: "Through the voyage of this competition, I was selected from a pool of talents and exposed to the principles of international humanitarian law and international criminal law, which I find profoundly magical beyond my reading of Ernest Hemingway's narration in his wartime adventures."

He added: "To attach all of these to the present day, and to Tony Gusman's side of the story, it was more than just black and white pages of law, more a deep feeling of sorrow and concern at the conflicts around the globe."

Eighteen teams took part in the Moot, with teams from University Malaya, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Advance Tertiary College, Multimedia University, Kolej Damansara Utama University College, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin and Universiti Utara Malaysia.

The team from Advance Tertiary College emerged as winners, beating the team from UiTM in the final. This is the second time that this private law college has won the competition and they will now represent Malaysia at the Regional IHL Moot Court Competition to be held in Hong Kong in March.

"One of the best experiences"

Another debutant, Elisia, who is reading Law at the University of Malaya, found the competition a very tiring but valuable experience. When she was first chosen as the oralist to represent her university, Elisia was in daze, having no clue as to what IHL really entailed. This soon changed when her team began its earnest preparations to draft their memorial and oral submissions.

She reflected: "Taking part was a hugely valuable experience for me because it introduced me to a different field of law, so different from my usual lectures. I learnt new things about war crimes and international law, such that I now see news reports in a new light, especially those relating to armed conflict. The Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court are now no longer strangers to me."

For Elisia, this was "one of the best experiences of law school", the most important facet of the competition being her exposure to a new dimension of the law – where law was not only used as a punitive measure but also to protect civilians.

Izham summed it up nicely when he said: "If there were five adjectives to define the competition wholly, my choices would be highly competitive, tenacious, exciting, thrilling and fun. It demanded the best of our performance in every round. The judges threw queries apparently of limitless range. The twenty minutes of submission was a roller coaster ride, excruciating but we managed to enjoy it. The compliments and criticisms taught me treasured lessons. It was an unforgettable experience."