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Tag Archives: Jessup 2008

flag_hammerThis week we saw the first decision by the Military Tribunals set up in Guantanamo Bay with the long awaited conviction of Hamdan, for driving the wrong person.

As a result of a year of intense PIL, I find myself caring strongly about this. Having researched it for a year, I’ve gained an appreciation of how essential these instruments are to save people from the cruelty of war, and the malice of states.

I could outline what specific provisions are breached, and how they are breached. It wouldn’t help if I did. It wouldn’t bandage the feeling of  futility.

In the end, all I have is a prayer.

I pray that one day this madness will end. That we will look back, and see the torture of Guantanamo and the cynical mockery of justice come to an end. 

I pray that the ideal of law and the logic of rights are reclaimed from those who would manipulate both for their own gain  who  seek to use the nobility of civil society to imprison its members.

I pray that History will look back and mock Bush and his show trials, with the same mocking satire, that same derision with which Stalin and his show trials are condemned.

I pray that this is not too much to ask.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

The Litany Against Fear, in Dune by Frank Herbert

I’ve done a lot of public speaking this year.

You join a moot team, that’s part and parcel of the job.

You argue your case before judges. You make mistakes. You vow never to make them again. You argue your case before more judges. You get better. You do it again.

As a result I kicked the fear of public speaking. I still get butterflies in my stomach. There’s still that fear that gnaws away at the insides when I confront an audience for the first time.

It’s a moment I know will come. A moment I plan for. I script the opening. I ritualise the first few minutes, so that they go smoothly and my brain comes online.

My focus narrows and I start concentrating ferociously on the topic. Once that happens, I’m in the zone. In the zone, I’m doing everything the best I can.

And failure? I stop worrying about failure. That’s the power of the zone.

That’s given me 2 vital lesson about the way I experience fear. Not just the fear of public speaking, all fear.

I experience fear as the terror of beginnings. Its about stepping outside my comfort zone. About taking steps onto a surface where I’m not perfectly sure.

Secondly that reality is never as bad as you imagine it to be. I build great visions of failure in my mind. Colossal Failure. Failure so humiliating that you’d never recover.

And it never happens.

Not ever.

I’ve taken these two lessons and applied them to all my fears.

I confront that first moment of panic head on by planning around it.

I imagine what is actually going to happen. Not what I fear will happen if the sky should fall and asteroids rain from the sky, but what will happen.

This is something pedestrian, a normal banal social event, a reasonably difficult exam or a yes/no response from the person I’ve asked for help from.

I plan the first few moments. I anticipate the first few difficulties I’ll encounter.

Then I ignore all the fear and do what I’m scared of doing anyway.

Because the secret is that you don’t lose fear by thinking about it.

You have to do what you want to do without caring about it. Once fear is  revealed as a hollow spectre by experience, that’s when you can defeat it.

ICJ LogoI’m back from watching the finals of the Jessup 2008 International Round and want to jot down what I saw and articulate some of the frustration I felt with the finals.

This year, Case Western Reserve University took on the University of New South Wales.

Case Western started the case as Applicant’s, while UNSW were the Respondents. Now Respondents clearly have the harder case this year, but the problem is pretty balanced, and I’m now sure there are some excellent arguments for the Respondent who is properly prepared.

The first Agent of the Applicants was good. it was clear from the outset she was a good speaker, with a smooth, relaxed and composed style. She had some difficulties with questions but was smooth enough that it didn’t matter. She had a great ability to take a question and tie its answer back in to the structure of her submissions, so that she got all her points across without the slightest interruption.

Importantly, for the listener, she had the sound of conviction and force in her voice, which made everything that little bit better. Sadly for the listener, she was the first and last to possess this quality. She did rightly win best speaker, but it shouldn’t have been so clear cut.

The Second Agent of the Applicant was average. He had a weak case and there was more need for advocacy to carry his points. The questioning was probing as the judges warmed up, and he didn’t  rise to the challenge. He was unremarkable but high quality speaking without being convincing.

The first Respondent’s Agent for UNSW was disappointing. He was short, sharp and far too in love with his case to engage the panel. The  silky smooth presentation was there, but it lacked decorum. There was little deference to the bench, an unwillingness to address the judges questions and an inability to spot when the judges handed him opportunities.

By this point all four of us had given it to the Applicant. The Second Agent needed to be special to rescue her team. It had to be that the first agent was the junior of the pair, if UNSW were to win.

The Second Agent for the Respondent was a mixed bag. As Ernest pointed out, she was so smooth that she put you to sleep. It was just devoid of all emphasis, all clear signaling and all sense of importance. It just didn’t feel like the Agent cared about the case. That was fatal.

She was immensely well read, could answer questions on obscure points of the International Criminal Court Statute with ease, but none of these overcame the disadvantages.

Rebuttal and Sur-Rebuttal were unremarkable. Lots of faux agreement, because the teams agreed on issues that the judges had raised, and well might they agree. The issues were tangential taken at their best.

Overall, I was disappointed by the finals. Tim has often said that finals disappoint in any competition. These ones proved him right. The new judges, appointed for their prestige rather than their knowledge of the law or the problem proved unsuitable to the occasion. Teams, cast in the public glare, felt the pressure.

And this final suffered from all those flaws.

Partly the judges were to blame. Inspite of their eminence, their understanding of the field in which the problem was placed, and their years of professional experience, they hadn’t quite tweaked to what it means to be a Jessup judge. The sharp questioning, the insight into the facts and policy, and a real understanding of the issues thrown up by the problem would have made the final round much better. Instead they typified the Common Law passive judge. When one of the judges is the man who prosecuted the case of Nikolic before the ICTY, but still lets sloppy characterisations of it slide by, its uninspiring at its most fundamental level.

It was some beautiful advocacy, if you like slow paced, measured and dull advocacy. Its lack of passion turned it into a background noise, an international law lullaby.

It was absolutely insipid on the law, with points argued that made us laugh out loud that these teams still even barely considered them even mildly viable arguments. And the reasons they are not viable are easily expressed in a four word or five word question. Fundamental questions that would have destroyed these arguments.

I had hopes for so much more.

jefferson_basin We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.

We…solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states…

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Appears on the panel of the southwest interior wall. Excerpted from the Declaration of Independence, 1776.

Great words resonate in their proper place.  Great times, great events, demand great words.

Jefferson’s are those of an America at its birth, and their poignant nature is attested by their incorporation into the heart of a memorial to that moment, as much as to the man who made that moment possible.

Throughout the inscriptions inside the Jefferson Memorial the pen of Thomas Jefferson, its persuasive rhetorical power and its historical triumph echo that of the State newly born through that ink.

Words truly resonating through time. Words truly inspiring. Words that have, are, and will, change the world.

Game-Over What a roller coaster. What an upside down, topsy turvy tale.

What fun.

The bad news first. We’re out of the Jessup. Knocked out in the first elimination round, 5 – 4 by the University of Auckland.

We beat them in the advocacy, but they swept the memorial points and took a judge; and that’s enough to take victory. It was a close fought round, and not much could have stood between us and victory.

The good news. We swept it 4-0 in the preliminary round. Which is an achievement. What’s more, in the prelims we beat two  teams that made it to the knock out round, showing their high quality. One of those was last years’ reigning Champs, the University of Sydney. The other was the National University of Kiev.

We also discovered a new University, that none of us had heard of before. The University of Peace. UPeace is a United Nations mandated Charter Body established in December 1980 as a Treaty Organization by the UN General Assembly.

The bad news, again. They turned out to be very tight rounds, and we got our incredible 4 – 0 by the slightest margin. We won 3 of the prelims by a vote of 5 – 4. We suspect that if we’d lost any of the rounds, we wouldn’t have made the knock out rounds.

The good news. This has been an incredible adventure. Being in Washington, and being in a competition for the first time, this competition of all competitions, has been an incredible buzz.

I’m intoxicated and I’d love to be able to do it again. I understand how Tim is so addicted. How every past Jessuper is addicted. How the judges are addicted. How could you not be?

250px-US_Consulate_Hong_Kong I spent today morning at the US Embassy.

They got me my visa. With literally no time to spare.

The rest of the team left today.

I’m leaving tomorrow for Washington.

Its an incredible feeling of joy and anticipation.

Just incredible.

5819~American-Eagle-and-Flag-II-Posters It turns out that I have a name and a birthday that matches someone not allowed to set foot on American soil.

That means my nascent application for a US visa will not be considered by the HK Embassy. They will instead kick the relevant paperwork to Washington for them to decide

The downside? This process rarely takes less then six weeks and can take months. As the lady at the counter put it: don’t buy a ticket.

Unfortunately, the Sherman and Sterling Round of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Competition does not kick off that late in the year. I have barely three weeks, until the 6th of April, to find a way to Washington.

I could not be more shattered.

I’ve asked the University to do what they can, and I hope that they can make a difference, but at the moment, all I have is hope.

I can do nothing to do but wait.

capitolA thoroughly enjoyable Saturday morning, with two sharp combative moots.

I’m glad we emerged  safely on the other side with our dignity firmly interact.

I don’t recall feeling that we lost any points, or that the judges were against us overall, and we presented a well thought out and coherent case.

A coherent case was not as common as it should have been.

There were definitely moments where the high quality of the other side shone through and bought a small hint of fear; but it never lasted. That last inch of polish, which experience has let us have, always helped us bridge these ripostes

Overall though, we comfortably managed (so our invigilator tells me) to beat the other teams in the regional round and we’ve upheld the University’s long history of making it to the Washington round.

Which means that I get a free trip to Washington.

After the most intensive four days of my life, with about 8000 words  in writes and rewrites, almost all of it meticulously detailed and footnoted with (I hope) the appearance of due diligent research; its euphoric to wake up today morning and realise that there is nothing that I need to do. A few days off sounds a brilliant proposition now, and PCLL be damned, I plan to take them.

And then the oral round preparation begins.