Three Essex law students will go toe-to-toe with leading international human rights lawyers of the future after being selected to compete in a prestigious competition.

International Humanitarian Law students Casiana Lupu, Samruddhi Pai and Grace Harper have successfully applied to take part in the Jean-Pictet Competition in March, after undergoing a rigorous qualifying process.

They will compete against 47 other teams made up of university students around the world, with each team judged on their response to a simulated and fictitious armed conflict.

A winner is chosen at the end of the week-long competition, with the teams asked to play the role of actors in an armed conflict, such as police, military, political officials and lawyers. The students will now undergo extensive training and will be leaning on the expertise of academics from Essex’s world-leading Human Rights Centre.

Essex has had numerous teams take part in the Jean-Pictet competition.

They were crowned winners in the fifth edition in 1993 and have finished runners up in several others since.

Casiana and Samruddhi have been discussing their experience of qualifying for this year’s competition, and what they are hoping to learn during the event, which takes place in Bredene, Belgium, between February 25 and March 3.

Tell us about the application process and what it involved?

Casiana: “Given our novice status in International Humanitarian Law, we engaged in extensive individual research beforehand. Personally, I found that I learned a great deal in those two weeks before the application deadline. Numerous drafts were sent to multiple teachers before arriving at the final answer that ultimately secured our qualification. Even prior to discovering the competition, I was already familiar with my teammates.

"Our connection was instantaneous during the first tutorial, where we assisted and practically completed each other's sentences. Consequently, we jointly decided to apply for the competition. In the subsequent two weeks following our acceptance from the university, the intensive work began.”

Samruddhi: “To get into the competition, it is important to have a good team. We were given two different situation-based questions that focused on the application of the laws relating to armed conflict. So, we three were sitting in the SU Bar and discussing the cases and the possible loopholes and arguments that can be made regarding the same. We had just started the class on the Law of Armed Conflict.

“And it was the second lecture when Professor Van Ho told us about the competition. We were very much excited about it. For the Competition, we did a lot of reading on the various conventions and basics of the International Humanitarian Law, drafted and made corrections to our drafts before securing a place.”

How did you react when you found out you had qualified for the competition?

Samruddhi: “We were over the moon when we found out that we qualified for the competition. Grace has already bought a Polaroid specially for capturing the Jean-Pictet moments. I was especially very thrilled as this is my first experience participating in a moot.

“And I am thankful to the University of Essex and the academics for providing us with such great platforms and opportunities.”

Casiana: “Qualifying in a competition like Jean-Pictet with such a high calibre and resonance in the International Humanitarian Law world is beyond imagination. The waiting period leading up to the outcome was incredibly stressful - I found myself incessantly checking my emails and spam folder, eagerly anticipating any news. When we finally found out about the outcome, I felt extremely proud of our team.

"I feel extremely lucky to have the chance to participate in the competition and to be trained by our lecturers and former Essex participants. I felt like all the stress, all the research, all the corrections were worth it. It was a feeling that I want to re-live again and again.

“Considering the Essex's incredible track record in the competition over the years, I am looking forward to making sure that our team continues the tradition of thriving, just like the other accomplished Essex teams before us. I hold the belief that the training leading up to the competition will be a substantial asset, contributing significantly to both our academic and professional growth."

What are you most looking forward to about taking part in the competition?

Casiana: One of the most exciting aspects is the opportunity to connect with participants coming from various corners of the globe. While we are fully aware that this is a competition, we're also looking forward to fostering meaningful connections, both with our peers and the event organizers.

“And, of course, indulging in some delicious Belgian chocolates along the way.”

Samruddhi: “We are zealously looking forward to meeting bright minds from around the world, learn teamwork and gain an insight on how the law actually works.”

Are there any experts who deserve a special mention for helping you with the qualification process?

Casiana: “We want to express my gratitude to our mentor, Giulia Gentile, whose unwavering dedication was evident in her responsiveness to our late-night emails, ensuring our success. Her instrumental role in connecting us with Tara Van Ho, Gus Waschefort, Antonio Coco, and Franziska Fluhr played a crucial part in our positive outcome.”

Samruddhi: “We also extend our sincere thanks to Isabella Pîrlogea and James Henderson, former Essex Pictetists, for their immediate response and invaluable assistance in guiding us to success. Their insights helped us navigate and understand the intricacies of each stage of the competition in great detail.”