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Great Lakes: Universities take part in moot court competition

04-07-2014 Feature

Since the 1990s, the Great Lakes region has been the scene of multiple violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, including the murder of civilians (and even genocide), recruiting children as combatants, rape, looting and indiscriminate attacks. Universities are not giving students enough opportunity to research this topic – too few case studies have been inspired by the local situation. A non-governmental organization – Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights – in the region has started organizing an annual competition on international humanitarian law and human rights for university students from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

In 2014, for the second year running, a regional, French-language "moot court" was held at the Kigali Independent University (Université Libre de Kigali) in partnership with other universities in the region, the ICRC, the City of Geneva and the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs.

During the competition, which ran from 26 to 30 May, 14 professors and 28 students debated "sexual violence in armed conflict – what response from international humanitarian law and human rights?".

This year, the team from Goma's Free University of the Great Lakes Countries won the contest, with the Light University of Bujumbura (Kinindo campus) taking second place. The two top students were awarded a trophy cup, a certificate and books to enable them to deepen their knowledge of international humanitarian law. "This is part of a much larger effort to improve respect for people's rights in the Great Lakes region", said champion Trésor Muhindo.

The opportunity to discuss sexual violence suffered by women in the region reflects the desire of the local people to come together and find answers to the ills that plague them.

The third competition will be held in Bujumbura next May.