Temple Law ICC Moot Court Team Advances to The Hague

Danielle DerOhannesian ‘18, Hwui Lee ‘18, and Alison Smeallie ‘19


This year for the first time the Temple University International Criminal Court (ICC) Moot Court team made it to the international round held in The Hague, Netherlands. To proceed to The Hague, we had to qualify in the Regional Round for the Americas and Caribbean as one of two teams that represent the United States. Our team was composed of three oralists –– Danielle DerOhannesian ’18, Hwui Lee ’18, and Alison Smeallie ’19.

The path to qualifying for The Hague was long and challenging. It was comprised of research, writing, and mooting practice. The competition opens in the fall when the problem is released. Similar to other moot court programs, students write memorials that are submitted before the competition. For ICC Moot Court, students are normally presented with novel questions of international criminal law. One of the greatest challenges is that there is little to no case law on these issues. This year’s problem posed three novel issues: whether human trafficking constitutes a crime against humanity; whether a corporate officer can be tried for failing to exercise proper control over a subsidiary that was implicated in acts of human trafficking committed by its suppliers; and whether the defense of ne bis in idem (or, double jeopardy) applies where there has been a domestic court acquittal based on an erroneous interpretation of the ICC Statute’s definition of crimes against humanity.

ICC Moot Court teams are assisted by researchers. This year’s researchers were Marielle MacMinn and Megan Marriner. Over winter break and during January, we worked with the researchers to write the memorials. The research included not only ICC case law, but also case law from other international courts, domestic law, and sources of customary international law. We are very proud of our teammate Hwui Lee who tied for third place for the best prosecutor’s memorial.

Once the memorials were submitted at the beginning of February, we shifted our focus towards practicing mooting. Our team practiced mooting in front of various “judges,” such as our coaches Professor Margaret M. deGuzman and Professor Richard Greenstein, other temple professors such as Professor Jeffrey Dunoff, and Temple alum such as Justin Capek and Catriona Davenport. Each of the judges we mooted with contributed their unique perspectives, which allowed our team to iron out the structure and substance of our positions while accumulating the confidence we would need to succeed at our competition. We were particularly fortunate to have been exposed to various styles of judges because that range was reflected in the panels of judges we faced at the competition.

The competition occurs over the course of a weekend at PACE Elizabeth Haub School of Law, located in White Plains, New York. Each teammate argues either as the prosecution, defense counsel, or victim’s counsel before a panel of judges in the preliminary round.  If a team moves on to the semi-final round, one teammate is selected to argue on behalf of the team at that level. At the end of the competition, the top two teams from each country automatically move on to The Hague. The final round is done only to determine the winner of the Regional Round. This year, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies achieved first place, competing against the University of Windsor (first runner up) and Universidad Francisco Marroquin.

ICC Moot Court is a great opportunity for students to gain exposure to ICC case law and the functioning of the International Criminal Court. Only eleven U.S. universities competed this year in the competition and we are lucky that Temple Law provides its students this opportunity. We greatly look forward to representing Temple Law and the United States in The Hague, and to meeting teams from around the world!

The ICC Moot Court Competition welcomes universities from all over the world for a large scale moot court simulating the proceedings of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Competition consists of an extensive six-day educational and social program, which brings together students of diverse backgrounds and cultures to The Hague to challenge their skills as future international lawyers. The final round is expected to take place in an actual ICC courtroom with ICC judges adjudicating.

The establishment of the world’s first International Criminal Court provided a fantastic opportunity to further support the rule of international law and the fight against impunity by garnering a youth-led interest. The Competition involves collaboration with judges from international courts and tribunals, professors of international (criminal) law, and other legal professionals. This network makes the ICC Moot Court Competition a realistic simulation of ICC proceedings. The Competition’s case addresses fundamental issues of substantive and procedural international criminal law.