Students Staff

14 March 2014

Students in mock conflict competition reach international final

Students from the University of Essex have made it to the latter stages of an international humanitarian law competition for an historic fifth time in six years.

Claire Simmons, Marina Tondo and Rafat Sub Laban

Claire Simmons, Marina Tondo and Rafat Sub Laban

Organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Jean-Pictet Competition in International Humanitarian Law offers students a unique learning experience through armed conflict simulation. Essex’s team put theory into practice to become co-winners of the English-speaking round of the competition and make it to the international final.

Claire Simmons, Marina Tondo and Rafat Sub Laban, who are all studying Essex’s LLM International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, were one of 46 teams selected to compete in the highly-competitive finals held in Portugal. The competition sees students taking on the parts of military officers, representatives of the Red Cross, armed rebels, human rights organisations and government lawyers.

The multi-lingual international final was won by the University of Virginia.

Tara Van Ho, from the School of Law, headed-up the students’ coaching team. She said: “Essex has the strongest and most consistent recent record in the English language division having made it to the semi-finals for five of the last six years. It is truly a testament to the way our academic staff train our students to be steeped in academic knowledge, but also the real life implications of that knowledge.

“Essex students are encouraged to think strategically, to understand the uses and limits of the law, and to anticipate its application in a variety of contexts. When students receive such thorough training in the classroom, it is easy for them to transfer that to a variety of situations.”

Claire Simmons said: “We were extremely lucky to have professors and PhD candidates set aside hours to give us personal briefings on particularly tricky issues, and this gave us a great advantage in creatively using the law during our simulations. Essex alumni from all over the world who had participated in previous Pictet competitions also shared their experiences with us, and gave us personal as well as intellectual advice.

“The most memorable experience has been sharing a week with people from all over the world and very different backgrounds, all holding similar aspirations and commitments to humanitarian causes, and sharing our passion for the careers we are working towards.”

Rafat Sub Laban said: “Coming from Palestine and growing up in occupied territory and conflict made international humanitarian law very relevant to my daily life, and taking part in the competition was to help me understand it better. It has influenced my understanding of the law and introduced me to how different actors perceive it, apply it and even misuse it.”

Marina Tondo added: “Pictet gave me the opportunity of applying the law to different conflict scenarios. It was a way to learn how to give practical advice to various parties and I believe that will help preparing for a future job in this field. You learn how to argue about different, and often opposite points of view regarding one issue, which I believe is one of the most important things legal advisers need to be able to do.”

Professor Noam Lubell, Head of the School of Law, said: “This is a fantastic achievement by the students and we are incredibly proud of them. Essex has a formidable reputation in the world of human rights and humanitarian law, and the continued success at this international event is testament to our strength."

Professor Geoff Gilbert of the School of Law added: “The success of this year’s Pictet team owes a lot to the efforts of their coach, Tara Van Ho, their fellow LLM students who have run practice sessions in the previous months, alumni, and a team of academics who specialise in human rights and humanitarian law. Ultimately, though, it is the team that has performed so brilliantly out in Portugal. This will help them in obtaining internships with the ICRC and work in this field of law.”

In 2013 Laureen Van Assche, Selbi Durdiyeva and Johanna Piters also made it to the semi-finals.


More information
For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or email:

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