Law students win thorny debate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 March, 2009, 12:00am

Do countries have the right to intervene in genocide when the UN Security Council fails to take action to stop the humanitarian catastrophe?

This controversial topic provided grist for a heated debate among five Chinese University law students.

They beat students from City University and University of Hong Kong in the regional round of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition last month. They will now represent Hong Kong in the world championship in Washington next month, competing against crack teams from about 80 countries.

Charmine Cheung Cham-man, 23, said the contest enabled her to put what she had learnt into practice.

'Being able to go to Washington is an honour,' she said.

'There's not much chance for us to get in touch with international law. Having to prepare persuasive arguments to convince the judge, we learned a lot during the process.'

Chester Hui Tien-yi, 25, who snatched up the best debater prize in the regional round, said the experience would boost students' chances of finding internships in law firms.

'Joining the moot competition is the closest we get to tasting what barristers do in a court room,' he said.

'The issue about humanitarian intervention is controversial and there's no right or wrong. We have to argue both for and against the case, which is just what practising solicitors do in real life.'

Law faculty assistant professor Michael Ramsden, who has coached the team since last September, was proud of his charges' achievements.

'It's a good chance for them to develop legal skills,' he said.

The moot law contest attracts more than 500 teams from law schools in 80 countries each year. The competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations.