International Moot Court Gdynia, Poland


Moot courts have been around since the late 1700s. They’re a law school activity and competition during which students participate in preparing and arguing cases in front of judges. The case and sides are selected beforehand, and students are given a set amount of time to prepare for the eventual trial.

This particular exercise is intended to introduce you to the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The judges, the defence lawyers and the prosecution lawyers will each need to choose one of themselves as their leader.

The leader of the judges is the Presiding Judge. He has control of the court, and takes the main speaking role for the judges.

The leader of the prosecution lawyers is the Prosecutor. The leader of the defence lawyers is Lead Counsel for the Defence. These two leaders must be in charge of their teams, must answer questions from the judges when they are asked and must decide which lawyers on their teams will present each argument or question each witness.

The prosecution and defence teams each work together to prepare the arguments for the hearing. It is best to have only one member of each team speaking at each stage; whether it is questioning of the witness or presenting an argument. The other members of the team help prepare the arguments before the hearing, as well as following the argument and making suggestions to answer questions in the hearing.

The ICC is a criminal court which tries people from countries all over the world who are accused of committing very serious crimes.

An international criminal court was first suggested at the end of the 19th century, but it was not possible for the countries of the world to reach agreement about what its powers would be. During the last decade of the 20th century pressure for such a court grew. This led to a conference in Rome in July 1998, at which all the countries of the world were represented.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established by a treaty called the Rome Statute. This was signed by 120 countries in July 1998.

Under the provisions of the Rome Statute, in order for it to come into force, at least 60 countries had to ratify (confirm their signatures) to join the treaty. This is a process that can take some time as different countries have different rules as to what is required for a new treaty to be ratified. By early 2002 the necessary 60 countries had joined, and the Rome Statute therefore came into force on 1 July 2002.

It was agreed in the Rome Statute that the ICC would be based in The Hague, where many other international courts are based.

The ICC differs from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in that it tries people, not states. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) only deals with crimes committed in the countries which used to make up Yugoslavia; Bosnia Herzagovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia.

The ICC tries people accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Crimes against humanity and war crimes include a large number of different crimes such as extermination, murder, rape, deportation.

Usually, no. The ICC can usually only try people who are nationals of states which have joined, or who have committed crimes on the territory of states which have joined. The only other situation when people can be tried by the ICC is following the intervention of the United Nations Security Council, where there is a threat to international peace and security.

Yes. Only people who are charged with committing crimes after 1 July 2002 when the Statute came into force (or later, if a country joined later) can be tried by the ICC. And such people can only be tried by the ICC if for some reason it is not possible for them to be tried in their home courts, or the courts of the country where the crime was committed. This might be because the country in question did not have the resources to have a big trial of this kind. Or it might be because their home country refuses to try them because it is trying to shield them from prosecution for their crimes.

No. The ICC can only try people over the age of 18.

Milosevic was not tried by the ICC as his alleged crimes were committed before 1 July 2002, when the ICC Statute came into force. The same applied to Saddam Hussein, and in addition Iraq has not joined the ICC.

There are currently 18 judges from different countries. These judges are elected by the representatives of the countries which have joined. They will decide whether a person being tried before the court is guilty or not guilty of the crimes with which they are charged. Unlike in many countries, juries are not used to make this decision.

The judges are divided into Trial Chambers. Each Trial Chamber has three judges. These three judges decide whether a person is guilty or innocent.

If the judges can’t agree, the decision of the majority prevails.

There is a Prosecutor, who is elected by the representatives of the countries which have joined. He is the head of the Office of the Prosecutor, which decides who will be charged with crimes under the Rome Statute.

People who are charged with crimes (defendants) have lawyers to help them and to defend them in their trials. They are able to choose these lawyers from a list of lawyers from all over the world who have experience in defending serious criminal cases.

The judges listen to the evidence. The evidence is presented by the prosecution. They bring witnesses to the court to tell the judges what happened. These witnesses are often the victims of crimes. They also show the court any documents or other evidence which they think will help the court to decide whether the defendant has committed a crime.

Yes. After the prosecution has presented all its evidence (which can take many months in serious cases) the defence gets a chance to bring its own witnesses to give evidence.

If the Trial Chamber finds the defendant is proved to be guilty it will convict him (declare him to be guilty). If not, it will acquit him (declare him to be innocent). A defendant is often charged with a number of crimes, and the Trial Chamber can convict him of some crimes and acquit him of others.

If a defendant is acquitted of all charges he will be free to go, and may be entitled to compensation if he has served time in prison waiting for his trial. If a defendant is convicted of any charges he will be sentenced by the Trial Chamber.

The Trial Chamber has the power to sentence defendants to up to 30 years imprisonment, or in particularly serious cases to life imprisonment. It can also fine defendants or require them to pay compensation to their victims.

No. There is no death penalty at the ICC.

The defendant or the prosecutor has a chance to appeal to the Appeals Chamber if they think that the Trial Chamber was wrong in its decision.

The Appeals Chamber is a court of five judges which has the power to decide whether a Trial Chamber came to the correct decision. It has the power to change any decision made by a Trial Chamber. Like the Trial Chamber, if the Appeals Chamber can’t agree, the majority prevails.

There is no higher court than the Appeals Chamber. If the defendant loses his appeal, he must serve his sentence. But he can come back to the Appeals Chamber at any time if he has new evidence which he could not reasonably have brought to the court before – for example if new witnesses have come forward.

Several of the countries which have joined the ICC have agreed to allow their prisons to be used for prisoners who have been convicted by the court.