The Egyptian students at this year's All-Africa Human Rights Moot Court Competition seemed to have borrowed their argument from an unlikely source: the Bush administration. They said that the bombing of a remote - and fictional - highland area was part of a larger global war.
"This was actually a war against terror," the neatly dressed young lady argued, staring down a panel of several law-school "judges" from sub-Saharan Africa. "It was against the terrorist act of taking hostages."
The case, pertaining to the imaginary Central African state of Kanu, had been dreamt up for this year's Moot Court, which was held in Cairo and financed largely by donations from South Africa and the United States.
The court is inspired by the African Charter of 1986 which provides Africa with a human rights commission that advises on crucial cases across the continent, but lacks the legal teeth to make its recommendations binding.
Organizers of the Moot Court were elated earlier this year, however, when the newly formed African Union in Durban outlined the need for an Africa-wide human rights court. Five of the needed 15 states have already backed the establishment of a permanent human rights court for the continent.
Such a court would be modeled in large part on the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, say legal experts. Meanwhile, say organizers, the Moot Court is addressing similar issues.
Frans Viljoen, a professor at the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, who wrote this year's imaginary case, says that he was, "in a sense, inspired by the Afghan scenario."
"It also examines the definition of a terror," he says.
But more important, the case is about Africa, a continent where fledgling democracies often ignore human rights for the interests of leaders or their states.
In the imaginary state of Kanu, the Koo people feel they are not being properly consulted by a multinational mining company extracting mineral resources in the highlands. The "Koo Liberation Movement," (KLM) seizes foreign hostages and when it does not surrender them in time, the government decides to attack. But it first conscripts young children and drops some 1,000 leaflets warning residents a day in advance of a bombing which accidentally kills 40 civilians. …