Trio Makes Semifinals in Clara Barton Competition

Manal Cheema ’20 Wins Award for Best Advocacy
Irina Danescu, Clay Davis and Manal Cheema

Irina Danescu ’20, Manal Cheema ’20 and Clay Davis ’19 were semifinalists in the Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition. Photo by Julia Davis

March 25, 2019

A team of University of Virginia School of Law students were semifinalists in the Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition, held March 8-10 in Washington, D.C.

Third-year student Clay Davis and second-year students Manal Cheema and Irina Danescu comprised the team. Cheema won the competition’s award for best advocate.

The simulation-based legal competition is designed to expose rising professionals to international human rights law and to challenges that might face practitioners during armed conflict.

Davis said the team’s performance was significant in light of the strong competition from other top schools, many of which regularly compete.

“It was the first time in five years that UVA fielded a team and was one of only two all-female teams at the competition,” Davis said. “In each round, the judges actively asked questions of law and fact, pushing back on our arguments to challenge our preparation and our ability to analyze complex problems from a variety of viewpoints.”

The Center for National Security Law, which is located at UVA Law, sponsored the students. Associate Director for Programs David Graham coordinated the effort.

The students received additional help from Professor Molly Bishop Shadel, who met with the students to work on presentation skills and negotiation tactics, and Maj. Richard Sleesman, a professor in the operations law department at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, who mooted the students.

Some of the students’ past experiences may have also helped them:

Cheema interned as a congressional support fellow in the Department of Defense, and spent her 1L summer in the Office of Military Commissions assisting in the prosecution of eight alleged members of al-Qaeda charged with war crimes.

Danescu spent three years with a team at the RAND Corporation developing national security and cyber policy for the Department of Defense.

Davis has been a research assistant for the Center for National Security Law throughout her time at law school.

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