A mock trial is an imitation of a trial – they are commonly used at Universities for law students to practice their advocacy skills, and by practicing lawyers preparing for trial to simulate actual trial proceedings in order to test their legal strategy, arguments, identify possible questions that could unexpectedly be asked by opposing counsel, etc.
Civitas Maxima has used mock trials as a tool to involve and engage people who are not trained legally to familiarise themselves with legal roles and processes, and to disseminate information regarding trials of alleged war criminals.
Civitas Maxima always uses a fictional case located within a fictional country. It is a group dynamics exercise where students are confronted with the complexities of a war crimes trial through simulation.
The project seeks to show the intricacies of a fair trial, as well as show the value of considering all stories. Such a practice reduces the polarized and sometimes violent debates about war-time accountability that are commonplace in Liberia, while also showing that for justice to be done, all voices need to be heard and a fair mechanism needs to be guaranteed.
In 2018, part of our efforts within the Liberian Quest for Justice, Civitas Maxima collaborated with Flomo Inc. Arguments were presented to the judge and jury, witnesses took the stand, and jurors were expected to vote. Once the verdict was revealed, the group engaged in a discussion of whether or not this model of justice is satisfactory, and whose voices it includes.
In 2020, in collaboration with Philanthropic Adventures, we started working with the students of the International School of Geneva, Ecolint. The students followed the same model of mock-trial practiced in Monrovia, Liberia.
The aim of this project was for the children to better understand the work of Civitas Maxima, the war crimes trial structure and, at the same time, to become ambassadors of the justice for the victims of war crimes.
The final mock trial performance took place on March 17, 2021 on zoom, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.