Frequently Asked Questions
What makes this Competition unique?
- The Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition (hereinafter “Competition”) is the only trilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) moot court competition based on the Inter-American legal system. The Competition offers students the opportunity to learn about the regional human rights system by analyzing a hypothetical case and the opportunity to interact directly with main figures of the legal system. In addition to participating in the Competition itself, students take advantage of the Competition’s location (Washington, DC) by interacting with representatives from major non-governmental organizations such as the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among other institutions based in Washington, DC.
Who runs the Competition?
- The American University Washington College of Law Academy of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (hereinafter “Academy”) administers and runs the Competition, which was founded in 1995 by Washington College of Law (hereinafter “WCL”) Dean Claudio Grossman.
What are the rules of the Competition?
- The 2016 Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition Official Rules (hereinafter “Official Rules”) explain the structure of the Competition and provide other important information. The Official Rules are located in the Competition’s website and are modified every year. Therefore, we encourage everyone (participants, instructors, observers, and judges) to carefully read them. For any further questions or clarifications, please feel free to contact the Competition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I find out more information about the Competition?
- If you need more information after visiting the Competition’s website http://www.wcl.american.edu/hracademy/mcourt/, you may contact the Competition Coordinator, Amanda Caldeira, via e-mail at email@example.com or call +1-202-274-4215.
How can I participate in the Competition?
You can participate in one of five ways:
- Competitor: Current law students studying toward a Juris Doctor (JD) degree or its international equivalent are eligible to participate in a two-person team representing their school. Teammates work together to research and write a legal brief (memorial) and argue orally, at least twice, during the Preliminary Oral Round held in Washington, D.C. Each team should possess Institutional support to participate.
- Coach: Each team has one or two coaches (usually an international law professor or a local attorney with experience in the International Law field) to assist teams with registering, fundraising, and obtaining official approval for the team’s participation. They also assist and help students to develop research strategies and offer general guidance about the overall structure of their arguments. Coaches typically accompany their teams to Washington, D.C. for the oral rounds.
- Observer: Attending as an observer is an excellent opportunity for non-competitors or non-coaches to experience the Competition. Observers are invited to attend all events open to competitors and coaches, and may participate as judges. Observers attend oral round sessions, receptions, ceremonies, and many other events throughout the Competition week. Observers do not submit written memorials or present oral arguments.
- Judge: Judges are attorneys who possess some experience in International Law and volunteer themselves to score the memorials and the oral rounds. Judges receive a Bench Memorandum with specific arguments they should expect to see as they grade the memorials and the oral rounds. Judges may score memorials and/or oral rounds. In addition, a Judge can commit to scoring only the memorials if he/she is unable to attend the Competition.
- Bailiff: Any person with an interest in Moot Court or the Inter-American System may apply to be a bailiff, including students high school age or older, educators, and legal professionals. Interested parties should apply online by the date indicated in the Competition calendar. Bailiffs supervise the oral rounds and keep time and order during the rounds.
- Alumni: All former participants, coaches, observers, and judges are invited to join the Competition Alumni Association (hereinafter “CAA”). As a member, you are invited to communicate with fellow alumni and to offer the Competition organizers suggestions as to how to improve the Competition, help coordinate local events at your former school and, in general, to promote the Competition to a new generation of law students. For more information about the CAA please visit our website at www.wcl.american.edu/hracademy/mcourt/participants.cfm.
What languages are required for the Competition?
- The Competition is conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. While knowledge of two or more of these languages is helpful, competitors, coaches, and judges need not be bilingual. When necessary, interpreters will provide simultaneous interpretation during the oral rounds and other events of the Competition. However, your opponents’ memorials will only be available in the original language in which they are submitted.
How much does it cost to attend the Competition?
- Team registration fee: The fee per team is $850 for one coach and two students, or $1150 for two coaches and two students.
- Observers registration fee: Observers pay $350 to attend and participate in all Competition events. The Observer registration fee is non-refundable.
- Judge registration fee: Judges are not charged with a fee.
- Bailiff: Bailiffs are not charged with a fee.
- Housing at American University: In order to access information about housing costs, please visit http://www.wcl.american.edu/hracademy/mcourt/accomodations.cfm.
- Miscellaneous expenses: Each Competition participant should budget at least $50 per day to cover food, travel within Washington, D.C., and sight-seeing. The cost for each team member to attend the Competition for seven days and seven nights is approximately $750 (not including team registration fee and airfare to and from Washington, D.C. for each person).
When and how does a team register for the Competition?
- Registration dates are announced as soon as possible and registration is conducted entirely online. Visit the Competition website at www.wcl.american.edu/humright/mcourt and enter the information directly onto our registration form. Registration for the 2016 Competition closes on March 18, 2016 but teams are encouraged to complete registration and start the United States visa application process as early as possible.
Is there a registration fee to attend the Competition?
- Please note: The prices for the 2016 Competition have changed effective November 1, 2015. Prices for the Competition were not changed for many years, but were recently adjusted to cover the increasing cost of the Competition. If you have any questions, please contact the Competition Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The prices are:
- Team with 1 coach: $850
- Team with 2 coaches: $1150
- Observer: $350
What else is required for a team to register?
- Team registration must include the name of the law school, dean, coach, and if available at the time of Registration, the name of the two student competitors. After the online registration is complete, we require the signature of your law school or university faculty dean, and the registration payment. Upon receiving a complete registration form, dean authorization letter, and full payment the registration will be completed.
How does a Judge register?
- The judge registration form will be available online at the Competition website (from November 1, 2015 through May 1, 2016). Once the judge registration form is completed, you will receive an e-mail notification letting you know that we have received your registration form. Judges that are selected by the Technical Committee to participate will be notified and should register their availability with the Competition Organizers. There is no registration fee for judges to participate. Judges that speak any of the three official languages are welcome to participate and those judges unable to join us in Washington, D.C. for the oral rounds can still participate by grading the written memorials.
How does a Bailiff register?
- The bailiff registration form will be available online at the Competition website (from November 1, 2015 through April 18, 2016). The Technical Committee will review applications as received and will choose individuals to serve as bailiffs on an as-needed basis. There are twenty (20) positions available, and once all the positions have been filled, registration will close.
Who and how can an observer register?
- Teams can only register a maximum of two observers. If a team wishes to register more than two observers, there should be a written request sent to the Technical Committee justifying the need for more that two observers to be registered. It will be at the Technical Committee’s discretion to authorize the registration. Furthermore, if you are not part of a participating team but would like to participate as an observer, you have to submit a written letter to the Technical Committee justifying the need to attend the Competition.
Where does the Competition take place?
- The Competition will be held on the WCL campus (4300 Nebraska Ave., NW), located minutes away from downtown Washington, D.C., home to the United States Congress, the White House, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, internationally renowned museums, and a variety of ethnic restaurants.
Where do participants traditionally stay during the Competition?
- For convenience, participants usually stay at the American University main campus dormitories located at the 4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW (1/4 mile south of the law school building). All Competition events will be held at the law school building. There is a shuttle bus that runs from main campus to the WCL at least twice an hour.
When should I arrive at the Competition?
- All competitors, coaches, and observers should arrive at the Competition on the Sunday morning before the Competition begins. Check-in will be held from 12:00 pm to 4:30 pm. At that time you will receive your Welcome Packets, Preliminary Oral Round assignments, and opponent’s Memorials. That evening, we will have an opening ceremony at the law school building.
- Judges should check-in with the organizers at the Competition headquarters at the WCL campus (4300 Nebraska Ave.,NW) at least 20 minutes prior to judging their scheduled oral round.
- Bailiffs must attend a training session as indicated on the Competition calendar. Bailiffs must report to headquarters thirty (30) minutes prior to their scheduled rounds.
When and how do I pay?
- For registration: Participants are strongly encouraged to pay with a credit card through online registration. We accept Visa, Master Car and American Express. We also accept bank transfers, money orders, and checks.
- For housing: Housing at the American University dormitories is a separate office and, therefore, all housing payments must be directed to the Housing Officer. Housing forms require that you use a credit card.
How do I get a visa to attend the Competition?
- Changing United States government regulations are making travel visas harder to get. It is extremely important that all participants start the application process as far in advance as possible. Backlogs at United States consulates are causing delays of weeks and months to schedule interviews.
- Contact the local United States embassy and apply for a tourist visa as soon as possible. Competition staff will provide you with a letter (as soon as you are FULLY REGISTERED) to take to the interview to aid you in describing your objectives when in the United States. However, each visa applicant is personally responsible for providing all other pertinent information to the consulate in accordance with United States regulations. Contact the consular officer at the American Embassy in your country for more information.
- To obtain a visa, you must present documentation with your full name (include all of your last names) and an explanation of how your trip will be funded (travel, food, accommodations, etc). If your school is paying for all or part of your trip, you should obtain an official letter from the school stating their financial contribution.
- Please allow plenty of time for processing United States visa applications.
What dates should I know?
Hypothetical case availability: The hypothetical case will be available on December 9, 2015. Please check the Competition website for any last minute change to this date.
Registration opens: For the 2016 Competition, registration will open on November 1st, 2015. Once you have sent your registration form with the Dean's authorization signature on it and you have paid the registration fee, we will assign you a role and a team number. Please check the Competition website for any last minute change to this date.
Clarification questions about the hypothetical case: Each team may submit up to three (3) clarification questions about the hypothetical case to the author, no later than the deadline set in the Competition’s calendar. The author will answer all eligible questions within two (2) weeks of receiving all the questions and the answers will be posted on the Competition's website.
In order to submit clarification questions, teams must have fully completed the registration process, including payment of the registration fee, submission of the Dean's Authorization Form, and registration of the two student competitors.
Team and observer registration deadline: Team registration must include the names of the coach and the two student participants, the signature of the law school Dean, and registration fee payment. All registration forms will be made available on the Competition website.
- Memorial deadline: Substantial penalties are deducted for late Memorials filing, see Official Rule 7.8.1. Please check the Competition calendar for this year’s deadlines.
- Check-in: The Competition Organizers will greet you at the dormitories where most of you will stay. Check-in will be held from 12:00 pm to 4:30 pm, at this time you will receive your Welcome Packet and Preliminary Oral Round assignments.
- Oral Rounds: The Preliminary Oral Round begins on Monday morning and continues through Wednesday evening. Since you will receive your oral round assignments on Sunday, please be prepared to argue Monday morning. The Semi-Final Round is on Thursday and the Final Round of the Competition is on Friday morning. Please see the Official Rules and calendar for this year’s dates.
Where can I stay during the Competition?
- Students, coaches, observers, and judges may stay at the American University dormitories during the Competition for a daily cost substantially less than that of local hotels. American University dorms accommodations are modest but comfortable.
- If you request a double room but do not have a roommate, you will be assigned a roommate. American University housing rules require that both roommates be of the same gender and, also, no smoking is allowed in the dormitories. In adition, all payment arrangements will be made to the American University Housing Office, which the Competition organizers can assist with.
How do I get to the Competition from the airport?
- From Reagan National Airport (DCA), take the blue or yellow train to Metro Center, and then, in Metro Center, take the red train to the Tenleytown/AU station. From there, an American University shuttle bus will bring you to the main campus. From the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) in Baltimore, Maryland, or Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Reston, Virginia, you will have to pay approximately $50 for a shuttle bus or taxi to the American University. Click here for more information.
What is the best way to get around town?
- The Tenleytown/AU metro station is one (1) mile from the American University dormitories. An American University shuttle runs every half hour and takes you directly from your dormitory to the metro station free of charge. Metro charges vary depending on your destination, but are approximately $2.00 one way. A taxi-cab to downtown Washington, D.C. costs approximately $10 one way. Renting a car is not recommended, as parking is very difficult at the American University and downtown Washington, D.C.
How is the Competition scored?
- Memorials: Memorials are scored on a scale of 1-100 points and each memorial is evaluated by at least three (3) judges. The judges’ scores are averaged to determine the final score of the memorial. Administrative penalties accrue if the memorial arrives late and/or is formatted incorrectly, whereby points shall be deducted after the average memorial score is determined.
- Oral Rounds: Each Oral Round is scored by a panel of three or more judges. Each individual team member is graded on a scale of 1-100 points. The judges’ scores for each individual are averaged, and the teammates’ individual final scores are then added together to determine the team’s overall score for that session.
- For more information regarding the exact weight given to the memorials and the oral round scores in determining who advances to the Semi-Final and Final Rounds, please see the Official Rules.
Who are the judges on the Final Round Honor Panel?
- Judges on the Final Round Honor Panel include key figures in the Inter-American legal system, representatives of State’s governments, and civil society activists.
- Past judges have included former Heads of State, a United States Supreme Court Justice, the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Can judges from my own university or country judge my team?
- The Competition tries to avoid conflicts of interests whenever possible. Judges are not allowed to judge teams from the universities they attended. However, judges are allowed to grade teams from their home country. While the Competition Organizers make every attempt to avoid scheduling judges to grade a team more than once during the entire Competition, it is not a violation of the Rules for a judge to grade a team more than once during the Oral Rounds.
- Judges are trained on the Official Rules of the Competition beforehand and score competitors without bias. In addition, teams remain anonymous to the judges during the entire Competition, including the Final Round. Team names are not allowed on the written memorials, and students are not allowed to mention their team name during their oral argument presentations.
INFORMATION FOR STUDENT TEAMS
How can I fund or pay for my participation in the Competition?
- We recommend that you start to look for funds early. Unfortunately, the Academy cannot provide funding for travel or housing expenses.
- In the past, teams from some countries have received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (hereinafter “USAID”). Contact the American Embassy in your country to find out about various funding opportunities.
- Also, many students have received funding from a variety of sources, including: local businesses, foundations, bar associations and the Inter-American Development Bank, among others. Please contact the Academy if you would like documentation and/or promotional materials describing the Competition that may assist you in obtaining funding.
- Many universities support their students’ participation in this Competition and pay for their travel and accommodations.
- Contact former team participants from your country or institution to find out more information about funding. For names and email addresses of former competitors, contact the Competition Organizers.
How long are the oral arguments?
- Each team is allocated a total of 45 minutes (including rebuttal time) for their oral argument. This time should be divided among the two competitors as evenly as possible (for example: 23 and 22 minutes, but not 35 and 10). Typically, each competitor will argue for 20 minutes and then one team member will rebut for 5 minutes. Interpreted rounds are allowed an additional 5 minutes per team. See the Official Rules for more information.
How long should the Memorial be?
- The Memorial has six (6) sections, as listed in the Official Rules. The total number of pages for the memorial cannot exceed 40 pages. Further format requirements are available in the Official Rules.
What happens if one teammate cannot participate in the Competition?
- Generally, no alternates are allowed to participate in the Competition. The students who wrote the Memorial must be the same two students who argue in the oral rounds. In case of an emergency, however, substitutes may be allowed. If an emergency arises, contact the Competition Organizers as soon as possible and they will determine the situation on a case by case basis.
When will teams find out who they are arguing against?
- You will be notified who will be the opponent or challenger during the Preliminary Oral Round when you arrive at the Competition. Final schedules are not posted until Sunday (check-in day) which is the day before the Competition begins. We will not disclose the name of the university you are competing against.
When will teams be able to see their competitor’s Memorial?
The Memorials of opposing Teams may be exchanged prior to each Oral Round. The Technical Committee will make all efforts to maximize the time each side will have to review the opposing Team’s Memorial. The Technical Committee will make copies of the Memorials available online one (1) week prior to the Competition. Opponents’ Memorials will be provided in the language in which they were submitted. Memorials will not be translated. The Competition Organizer’s will make an effort to give out printed copies of opponents’ Memorials during check-in. However, this is not guaranteed. Failure to receive an opponent’s Memorial is not grounds for postponing an Oral Argument Session.
SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES
What events should I plan to attend during the Competition?
- Check-in and Opening Ceremony, Sunday: Team attendance is mandatory. Please note that this is a change from previous years' Competitions. Competition Organizers will greet you at the American University Washington College of Law. This is when you will receive your Welcome Packet and your opponents’ Memorials. The Opening Ceremony is a good time to meet Academy Co-Directors Claudia Martin and Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón, as well as the other participants in the Competition. After the Opening Ceremony, a group picture of all the participants will be taken.
- Preliminary Oral Rounds, Monday through Wednesday: During the first three days of the Competition, all teams argue at least twice during the Preliminary Round. The best individual oral presentation in each language is determined by the Preliminary Oral Round scores.
- Visits to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “Commission”), Tuesday through Thursday: The Competition organizes visits to the Commission in each of the three official languages (English, Spanish, and Portuguese). During the visit, participants will speak to Commission attorneys, who will discuss the daily operations of the Commission, and will tour the Commission Building.
- Semi-Final Round, Thursday: The top twelve teams (six for the COMMISSION and six for the STATE) advance to the Semi-Final Round. The semi-final teams are announced Wednesday evening, at which time teams may receive their opponent’s Memorial for review. After the Semi-Final Round, the top COMMISSION team and the top STATE team advance to the Final Round.
- Coaches’ Training Workshop: This discussion is for Competition coaches only. The coaches will discuss important issues specific to preparing future students to participate in the Competition. In addition, the discussion will address issues that educators face today as they try to broaden their human rights curriculum.
- Special Panel Discussion for Competition Participants: Join us for a discussion about different ways that educators and practitioners use international law to address important issues such as development, human rights, humanitarian law and the environment.
- Dean’s Reception, Thursday: The Dean's Reception is an opportunity for all Competition participants to meet Dean Claudio Grossman, as well as other Competition participants, and invited embassy’s officials. We will also announce the two teams that have advanced to the Final Round. All participants are invited. Business attire is required.
- Fiesta, Thursday (optional): Each year the Competition Organizers arrange an informal “fiesta” for the participants. This party is usually held at a local nightclub in the heart of Washington, D.C.
- Final Round, Friday: The top COMMISSION team and the top STATE team in the Semi-Final Round advance to the Final Round. The Final Round Honor Panel of Judges is a group of distinguished attorneys from both the diplomatic and civil society spheres of human rights practitioners. Finalists are given more time to argue their case during the Final Round than during the Preliminary and Semi-Final Rounds. See Official Rules.
- Awards Luncheon, Friday. During the luncheon, the overall winners are announced and each participant receives a certificate of participation. This is a catered lunch, and all participants are invited to attend.
What else can I do during my stay in Washington, DC?
- Participants are invited to visit the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. All team participants, observers, and judges are also invited to attend the various events of the Competition, including the Dean’s Reception, the Fiesta Party and the Awards Luncheon.
- The Competition Organizers will provide you with some basic information about museums, various sites, and transportation.
It is encouraged that you always travel in a group, as safety is always a concern no matter where you travel around the World, and the D.C. area is no exception.