College of Law (CoL) being one of only three universities from Africa, and the only one from Ethiopia, has advanced to the Final Global Rounds of the 9th Annual Foreign Direct Investment International Moot Court Competition (FDI Moot) held from 02 November – 05 November 2017 at Suffolk University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The team is comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students; LL.B students: Asegidew Tsega and Barkiligne Berhanu, and LL.M students: Amenti Abera and Menen Bezabeh. The team is coached by Mr. Daniel Esubalew, an instructor in the College. In September, the team placed 4th in the Africa Regional Round held in Nairobi, Kenya; in addition to being in the top ten oral advocates throughout Africa. Following that, they were invited to participate in the final global rounds held in the United States. The
global rounds are hosting more than 50 law schools from all regions of the world once they progress through the continent-wide competitions.
While other moot court contests explore scenarios concerning international law, the FDI Moot is the only one to tackle legal questions surrounding international investment treaties—agreements between two or more countries with provisions that protect investors doing business in other signatory countries, while balancing the State’s right to regulate in the public interest.
Students wrestled with the workload of an actual case through the circumstances of a mock scenario: a terrible, non-curable disease known as Greyscale turns its victims’ skin from smooth to scaly, threatening the well-being of thousands of working-age individuals in the fictitious country of Mercuria. In the moot court scenario, a public health crisis emerges as Greyscale infections grow to epidemic proportions. A foreign company (Atton Boro) has the exclusive patent to produce a pharmaceutical drug (Valtervite) that reverses the disease’s effects. After the National Health Authority of Mercuria enters into a long -term
agreement to buy the drug from Atton Boro, the government changes its position and terminates the agreement, while exercising a compulsory license over the investor’s patent rights in order to create generic drugs at a cheaper price to get them in the hands of more citizens. Key legal frameworks for the competition are the thousands of international investment treaties, which offer protection to investors against government action that might result in a wrongful damage to, or the unlawful use of, an investor’s investment in a given country, or violations of other protections. In most agreements, investors are granted certain rights to sue governments using international arbitration to protect their rights. The earliest modern international investment treaty was signed between Germany and Pakistan in 1959. The practice would later come into widespread use in the 1980s, and accelerate through the 90s and 2000s. Today, there are over 3,000 such bilateral and multilateral investment and trade agreements around the world, each with their own complicated and varying provisions. While increasingly widespread, their adoptions often aren’t without controversy. These trade deals materially affect entire nations, influence public policy, and raise important questions about the role and scope of international law in our increasingly global society — reasons, too, that students should have the opportunity to examine them in the FDI Moot competition. More than 60 volunteer arbitrators from around the world are in the US to judge the students and pick a winning team. Students argue both sides of the case
– for the investor as well as for the government. The co-founders of the FDI Moot are the Centre for International Legal Studies (CILS), Kings’ College London (KCL), Pepperdine University School of Law (PUSL), Suffolk University Law School (SULS),
and the German Institution for Arbitration (DIS). Participants received their moot court scenario in February 2017 and worked through the summer on two 35-page briefs, and prepared their oral arguments for the final phase. According to the organizers, “that hands-on experience is the beauty and challenge of a moot competition. We want to prepare students to be better and more thoughtful lawyers.” They added: “It’s very much like a real case — a big case, where you have to do a lot of work and important preparation, for months, be prepared to submit your legal papers, and actually argue your case before a tribunal. Many students will say a moot court is the most demanding, yet rewarding, activity they do while in law school.”The CoL team volunteered to spend their entire summer break on campus in order to be prepared to compete in both the regional competition held in Kenya and in the final global rounds held in the United States. Their hard work has paid off tremendously as they now embark on the final leg of their year-long journey in order to represent Ethiopia, and Africa. The team is especially appreciative of the Haramaya University administration, including the Office of the President, the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and the Central Finance Administration Directorate, for their continuing support both administratively and financially. They have expressed their gratitude as the competition would not have been possible without their unwavering dedication. The College of Law is a national leader and innovator in student moot court competitions and competes annually in both national and international student competitions, which are often a hallmark of a student’s academic career. Over the past ten years, due to the commitment of both staff and students, the College has been invited to more than twenty countries to compete in such prestigious events, in nearly all continents of the world.