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The Commonwealth announces new prize at Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition

1 July 2021

Today, Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC announced the ‘Christof Heyns Memorial Commonwealth Prize’ during the 13th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition.

The competition is the largest gathering of students, academics, and judges around the theme of human rights in Africa.

New partnership

"We are proud to announce this award and mark the Secretariat's new partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. We strongly believe that young peoples' increased understanding of contemporary human rights issues and challenges will contribute to effective public policymaking, strengthening national institutions and capacity development of civil society and human rights defenders. Moot court competitions like this can play an essential role in that regard", said Secretary-General Scotland.

Through this partnership, the Commonwealth Secretariat aims to increase the number of universities from the Commonwealth that participate in the competition. This year, 10 out of the 23 countries participating are from the Commonwealth, representing 19 universities and other institutions.

Established in 2009 and named after former President Nelson Mandela, the moot court is open to university students worldwide. During the competition, participants submit written legal arguments for the two opposing sides in a fictional dispute involving a contemporary human rights issue.

Promoting human rights

The award is named after the late Professor Christof Heyns, a former Director of the Centre for Human Rights, in recognition of his service to the cause of human rights. During his career, he served as Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, a Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, and a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.

The Secretariat is currently finalising a Memorandum of Understanding with the Centre. Once established, the Prize will be given to the Commonwealth team who ranks highest in the competition. The Prize includes Five Thousand British Pounds, awarded annually over three years.

In her opening address, Secretary-General Scotland emphasised that becoming a partner to this initiative highlights the Commonwealth's commitment to promoting human rights, the rule of law, democracy and good governance as set out in the Commonwealth Charter.