Space Law Moot Court

Impressive performance by the Viennese Team in the European Final of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court competition

Differences of opinion onboard an international space station about a change of course lead to a serious collision with space debris. The spaceship is damaged and an astronaut dies. The participating States eventually bring their claims before the International Court of Justice.

This scenario provided the basis for lively debates between teams of students from numerous universities around the world at the annual international Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court.

The team of the University of Vienna: Katharina Harreiter, Rosanna Hoffmann und Hristina Talkova

Conflict between two states in space

The Space Law Moot Court is an international competition organised each year by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL). Regional rounds determine the winners from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and North America who will compete in the international final. The basis is a fictitious case in which a conflict between two States in outer space occurs, which is brought before the International Court of Justice. The students’ task is to find legal arguments for both parties to the dispute and to send them in for assessment in two written submissions. This is followed by the oral presentation of these arguments in the regional rounds before experts in international law who act as judges.

The European Regional Round was organised by the University of Vienna this year. Due to the restrictions in connection to the outbreak of the Corona virus they were conducted online in the beginning of June.

First place and Best Oralist Award for University of Vienna

The team of the University of Vienna, consisting of Katharina Harreiter, Rosanna Hoffmann and Hristina Talkova, was able to assert themselves against the team from Greece in the semi-finals, and thus reached the final against the University of Leiden (Netherlands). Although strong arguments were put forward by both sides, the judges declared the team from the University of Vienna the winner of the European Rounds. Hristina Talkova particularly convinced the judges with her rhetorical brilliance and her profound knowledge of international law and was consequently chosen to take home the Best Oralist Award.

The team of the University of Vienna and the judges Jenni Tapio, Armel Kerrest und Stephan Hobe

The team was supervised by Clara Baumgartner and Michael Friedl, who have been participants in the Space Law Moot Court a few years ago themselves. Since then, they have been supporting the subsequent teams, this year as university assistants within a joint course. The University of Vienna has been participating in this competition on the initiative of Professor Irmgard Marboe from the Department of International Law since 2012. After reaching the final last year, winning the European Regional Round this year is the most successful result so far.

Normally, winning the Regional Round would have resulted in a sponsored trip to the International Astronautical Congress for the worldwide semi-finals and finals. This year, however, it will not take place in Dubai as planned, but also online. The team is already looking forward to the new challenge and after a short but well-deserved break will start preparations to compete against the winners of the other Regional Rounds in autumn.

A media report can be found here.