On April 8, lawyers from USAID’s Office of General Counsel led a roundtable dialogue with two Iraqi and two Palestinian teams that participated in the annual Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, which took place in Washington, DC, from March 31 to April 6. The competition was an opportunity for the four teams to highlight their litigation skills that are being developed through programs supported by USAID.
The Jessup competition brings together students from 550 law schools that represent more than 80 countries and simulates a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. This year’s participants addressed the factual and legal consequences of climate change on statehood, migration and sovereign lending. Teaching methodology has historically been lecture based in both Iraqi and Palestinian universities so the practical experience that students gain from the Jessup competition process, including competing against other teams and receiving feedback from distinguished judges, is extremely valuable.
The two Iraqi teams from Baghdad and Anbar Universities earned the right to represent Iraq after competing against over 100 law students and professors from 17 Iraqi universities. All of the teams were trained on courtroom etiquette and advocacy skills by USAID’s Access to Justice program in Iraq prior to their participation. The program promotes a practical approach to improving both legal services for vulnerable groups and the knowledge and skills of those who assist them.
The two Palestinian teams, from Bir Zeit and An Najah Universities, came in first and second in the Palestinian Jessup qualifying round. Palestinian partner universities received training as part of USAID’s Palestinian Justice Enhancement Project, which is designed to strengthen public confidence and respect for justice sector institutions and the rule of law in the West Bank.
The teams received guidance from competition judges, established new friendships with law students from around the world, and learned more about the United States while gaining important courtroom experience. The Bir Zeit team had the honor of being elected by fellow competitors to receive the Spirit of Jessup Award for the team that “best exemplifies the Jessup spirit of comradeship, academic excellence, competitiveness, and appreciation of fellow competitors.”
Both the Iraqi and Palestinian students told the USAID lawyers that when they get home, they plan to gain practical experience in providing legal assistance through legal clinics supported by USAID in their law schools.
Palestinian competitor Obaida observed, “Jessup taught me to see international law from other perspectives. I now can argue and fully express myself before expert judges and I will bring back with me knowledge, success and memories.”
The students also toured the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and met with one of the court’s legal advisers.
“Competing in Jessup has helped to increase our experience and build our confidence as young lawyers,” remarked Baghdad competitor Ahmad. “We are so excited to represent our country and learn about the legal system in America.”