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HSE Students Win International Humanitarian Law Competition

The winning team included students from the Jurisprudence programme in HSE's Faculty of Law: Yury Varlamov, Alina Gegamova, and Olga Kiseleva. The annual Martens International Humanitarian Law Competition is organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross with the support of the Russian Association of International Law.

The competition has been taking place since 1997 and is open to students from law faculties and universities in Russia, Belarus, and Moldova. Its aim is to make students more aware of international humanitarian law, which is why the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) named the competition after a prominent lawyer from the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, Fyodor Martens (also known as Friedrich Martens), who was a Diplomat, a Councillor of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and one of the organisers of the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907, which were convened on the initiative of Tsar Nicholas II.

The Martens International Humanitarian Law Competition consists of two stages. In the first correspondence round, teams have to answer several questions, after which initial selection takes place. The next stage is held in-person and lasts four days. Teams act out various situations, presenting the different sides of a conflict. A total of 12 teams were selected based on the correspondence rounds – 10 from Russia and 2 from Belarus.

The in-person segment of this year's competition was based on the popular film ‘Hunger Games.’ On the first day after lectures in international humanitarian law, which were given by the jury's law experts, participants were given a case description and set of books to prepare (a collection of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their protocols, a set of other documents concerning rules of engagement, works by prominent legal scholars, and the last issue of the Red Cross’ journal, which was dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the discipline of international humanitarian law).

A drawing then took place, and the teams turned into tributes from the 12 districts. Each team was given a task and a direct role, based on which participants had to develop and legally defend their position. After two days of competition, the ‘tributes’ from Ural State Law University and the Higher School of Economics made it to the finals.

As a final task, competitors were to speak in front of the victims of an armed conflict and human rights organisations. ‘Rolling with the punches in front of angry citizens and representatives from human rights and other non-governmental organisations was extremely difficult. There were times when both teams were simply unable to find answers to the provocative questions that were asked,’ Olga Kiseleva notes. The judges ultimately selected HSE ‘tributes’ as the competition’s winners.

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