On 11-16 December 2017, the 5th edition of the Great Lakes Regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights took place in Kigali. This time, 72 students and lecturers from 24 universities were empowered with knowledge and skills in relation with rules applicable in armed conflicts, and human rights. Among the participating universities, 10 were from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is the first time since 2013 that English speaking countries have been accepted to join this regional Programme which started focusing on Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda.
Students’ research culminated with the production of two memorials, per team, containing arguments supported by relevant provisions of international instruments and case-law. Memorials addressed alternatively and separately the position of the prosecutor indicting the army general, operations commander, and that of the defense lawyer in accordance with the laws and procedures governing the International Criminal Court.The activities of this edition were organized around the theme “Maintaining the Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Period: What protection for Children in the Great Lakes Region?”.
As usual, before coming for a one-week intensive training programme in Kigali, participants spent 3 months researching on the legal qualification of facts involved in a fictitious case depicting various violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. This year’s case was built on a scenario of post-electoral crisis that degenerated to a rebellion led by an opposition leader, who not only lost the elections but also refused to recognize the polls’ results. This rebellion was bloodily repressed by the governmental army with disastrous humanitarian consequences on civilians, including women and children.
In Kigali, participants enriched their knowledge by attending workshops facilitated by renowned experts in the fields of international humanitarian law and human rights. Among these workshops, it is worth mentioning two because of both their technicity and their topicality. The first, facilitated by Dr. Raphael van Steenberghe, professor of international law at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, aimed at helping participants know and understand recent developments regarding the complementarity between international humanitarian law and human rights. The second related to the identification of lex specialis and how it is articulated with other rules governing armed conflicts was facilitated by Dr. Aurélie Tardieu, lecturer at Université de Caen in France. Moreover, participants attended a conference on how international humanitarian law and human rights law complement each other in protecting children in armed conflict period.
To connect theory to practice, students participated in a moot court competition organized in two tracks. The Francophone track, competed by Congolese and Burundian universities, was won by Université de Kinshasa (from DR Congo) after facing in final another Congolese university, Universté de Goma. On the side of the English track, universities from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda faced each other. Moi University won the competition after a fierce pleading against Kampala International University from Uganda in the final.
The bench of Judges in preliminary rounds and in the grand final was composed of people with sound expertise in international law from iPeace partner universities and organizations based in Belgium, Cameroon, DR Congo, France, Netherlands, Rwanda, Switzerland, and Tchad.
Both finals took place in the main courtroom of the Supreme Court of Rwanda in the presence of the Chief Justice, prof. Sam Rugege, who also delivered closing remarks after he handed awards to best female pleaders on both sides. It was the first time that special prizes such as best overall pleader and best female pleader were introduced in the Great Lakes regional moot court competition. In his speech, Chief Justice acknowledged the pertinence of this programme not only in shaping the knowledge and skills or the region’s future lawyers and judges in international humanitarian law and human rights but also in promoting peaceful coexistence.
This edition was supported by the Swiss federal department of foreign affairs, German Cooperation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Commune Plan-les Ouates, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Association québécoise de droit international. Since 2013, 251 the people have benefited from this programme and are now members of the active Great Lakes Network, which regroups academics and practitioners interested in international humanitarian law and human rights in the Great Lakes region. The next edition will take place in Kigali on 3-8 December 2018.
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