Posts Tagged ‘Academic freedom’

Call for Nominations for Courage to Think award 2021

June 23, 2021

Scholars at Risk is seeking nominations for the 2021 Courage to Think Award, which will be presented during an award ceremony at its annual Free to Think event in November 2021. Please submit a nomination by July 31, 2021, here.

The Courage to Think Award recognizes individuals, groups, or institutions that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom, whether through their professional work, private or community service, or by facing personal risk. For more of this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/165B4CC5-0BC2-4A77-B3B4-E26937BA553C

Virtual Side Event on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Academic Freedom today 9:00-10:00 EST in New York

October 21, 2020

Co-organizers:

●UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

●Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN

●Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN

●Open Society Foundations’ Education Program

●Scholars at Risk

Context: On Friday 23 October 2020 the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly will consider the report on academic freedom presented by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The report focuses on the ways in which the freedom of opinion and expression protect and promote academic freedom, and the special role played by academics and academic institutions in democratic society when assured of institutional autonomy and self-governance. Without academic freedom, societies lose their capacity for self-reflection, for knowledge generation and for a constant search for improvements of people’s lives and social conditions. Drawing on examples from all regions of the world, the report highlights the repression and harassment of scholars and students, unlawful restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression that interfere with research, teaching, debate and discussion by the academic community in their institutions or in other fora, and various measures, from funding of research to hiring of professors and administrators, that are used to erode and attack the autonomy of academic institutions.The report provides clear guidance on the scope of academic freedom, recognizing that it is protected by a wide range of human rights norms and principles, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It encourages individuals and organizations to articulate their claims as violations of academic freedom, and concludes with a set of recommendations to States, academic institutions and civil society. The side event is aimed at discussing how the report’s findings and recommendations can be used to ensure the realization of the freedom of opinion and expression to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers as an integral aspect of academic freedom and enhance the ability of academics and institutions to contribute to democracy and development around the world.Objectives

This side event will provide a forum to discuss the challenges to academic freedom, including social harassment and political repression of scholars, students, and institutions around the globe, as well as legal protections offered by international human rights law, including in particular the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and how the report’s analysis and recommendations can be used to protect the freedom of opinion and expression aspects of academic freedom worldwide.Modalities.

The one-hour moderated discussion will have the following format:

Opening remarks: H.E. Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-ThaniPermanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations and H.E. Juan Ramon de la Fuente Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations

Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Presentation of the main findings and recommendations of the report Prof. David Kaye, former Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Panel discussion:

●Ms. Camilla Croso, Director of the Education Program of the Open Society Foundations, will highlight the role of academic freedom and its importance in advancing open and democratic societies

●Dr. Maleiha Malik, Executive Director, Protection of Education in Insecurity and Conflict, Education Above All Foundation, will discuss the particular challenges to academic freedom in countries affected by conflict

●Mr. Robert Quinn, founding Executive Director of the Scholars at Risk Network, will describe some current legal challenges and responses to pressures on academic freedom around the world

Concluding remarks: Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur.

Turkish human rights defenders shocked by honorary doctorate for ECtHR president Spano

September 5, 2020

This post has been written by Harry Hummel, the Senior Policy Advisor of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, with many thanks:

This week, European Court of Human Rights president Robert Spano visited Turkey. A high profile event in the country. In the face of government denial of the massive human rights violations it is committing, the voice of the European Court has an extraordinary importance. Human rights defenders therefore expressed unease about the programme of the visit, which included talks with authorities, an address to the Justice Academy and the acceptance of an honorary doctorate at Istanbul university, but no encounters with civil society human rights workers. One of the oldest human rights organisations in Turkey, the IHD, wrote: <https://ihd.org.tr/en/ihd-open-letter-to-robert-spano-president-of-the-european-court-of-human-rights/>

Universities in Turkey are controlled by the Board of Higher Education that was established in the aftermath of the 12 September 1980 coup d’état. Universities in Turkey do not have scientific or administrative autonomy whatsoever. In the past university rectors were elected by academics serving that university but now they are being appointed by the president himself, the head of the executive branch, following changes introduced during the latest state of emergency period. Furthermore, İstanbul University that we learnt was presenting you with an honorary doctorate dismissed hundreds of academics through the state of emergency decree laws and it is one of the institutions that has virtually become the symbol of the state of emergency.

Dear President, you will see young judges and public prosecutors before you at the Justice Academy of Turkey where you are going to teach. During the state of emergency between 2016 and 2018 more than 4,200 judges and prosecutors were dismissed from their posts while more than 8,000 judges and prosecutors were inaugurated. These figures indicate that 45% of all judges and prosecutors on active duty have three years of professional experience or less. Moreover, complaints lodged by thousands of judges and prosecutors are still pending before judicial authorities for the deliverance of a ruling.

Dear President, we do see the will to maintain communication with Turkish authorities in spite of all these negative developments. Turkey, however, is not merely composed of the political power itself. There stand before your court, on one side, the political power alleged to have violated rights and on the other side the victims of those rights violations.  Turkey has a quite developed and dynamic web of civil society organizations working in the field of human rights in spite of all these setbacks. In order for your visit to Turkey to genuinely be beneficial, your lending an ear to these civil society organizations that make the voices of rights victims be heard bears vital significance. We can list the following as examples: women’s organizations that have been defending the Council of Europe İstanbul Convention at a time when withdrawal from the Convention was on the agenda, Saturday Mothers who have long been searching for their children lost under custody and whose right to assembly has been prohibited, bar associations that objected to Law No. 7249 introducing multiple bar associations and regulations that went against the right to defense, and associations of lawyers who advocate for justice and rights, who are imprisoned to this end, who go on hunger strikes. We believe that it is not late to organize a public meeting with the press during which you can answer questions by civil society organizations.

Mixed feelings were expressed in particular about  the honorary doctorate. Former Istanbul University professor Mehmet Altan wrote an open letter to Spano <https://www.expressioninterrupted.com/open-letter-to-president-of-the-european-court-of-human-rights/> :

“The people who will be giving you an honorary doctorate are the very people who dismissed me and many other academics. Under normal circumstances, of course it would be pleasing to hear that you will be visiting Turkey. Unfortunately that’s not the case.”

The concerns about the doctorate were taken up by international human rights NGO Article 19 <https://www.article19.org/resources/open-letter-article-19-urges-president-spano-to-decline-honorary-degree/> :
ARTICLE 19 urges you to decline the offer of an honorary doctorate from Istanbul University due to the role of the University in the crackdown on the crackdown on civil society and purges of Turkish academia by the Turkish authorities.

More than 120,000 individuals <https://soe.tccb.gov.tr/> were dismissed through decree laws after the 2016 failed coup attempt, including more than 5,000 academics. While the process for these dismissals was not transparent, the Spokesman for the Council of Higher Education has previously confirmed in interviews that the management of the universities were responsible <https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-38906141?ocid=socialflow_twitter>  for preparing the lists of academics to be dismissed by decree. University rectors from other universities interviewed by the BBC in 2017 stated <https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-39055854>  that they prepared the dismissal lists in cooperation with the Intelligence services, using criteria defined by the government. 192 <http://bianet.org/english/print/183432-4-811-academics-from-112-universities-discharged-by-5-statutory-decress> academics <http://bianet.org/english/print/183432-4-811-academics-from-112-universities-discharged-by-5-statutory-decress>  were dismissed from Istanbul University by emergency decrees. Istanbul University itself dismissed at least 95 academics, <http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/176960-95-academic-suspended-in-istanbul-university-yok-suspends-4-rectors>  without due process or the opportunity for review. The consequences for those dismissed were devastating, as documented <https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/14/turkey-government-targeting-academics>  by Human Rights Watch.  Those dismissed from their academic positions were blacklisted, unable to find other work and had their passports cancelled. While the hundreds of academics who were dismissed for signing a peace petition had their criminal convictions overturned by the Constitutional Court, they still face unemployment as they were unable to return to their positions.

We also point out that the news about your acceptance of this honorary degree, as the Court’s most senior judge and particularly during an official visit, has raised huge concerns within Turkish civil society, undermining their trust and public confidence in the Court. We therefore respectfully urge you to decline the honorary degree you have been offered by Istanbul University.

In his speech accepting the honorary doctorate <https://echr.coe.int/Documents/Speech_20200904_Spano_Honorary_Doctorate_Istanbul_ENG.pdf> , Spano explained that accepting these kind of honors is part of the usual protocol for Court visits to Council of Europe member states:

It has long been a tradition as a matter of protocol that Presidents of the Court accept to be awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa during their official visits to Member States of the Council of Europe. Such offers have not been refused. In this regard the Court must always be seen to be independent and impartial and not making distinctions between Member States.

On this basis, I accept this award from this very prestigious institution which has been in existence for centuries as it will also give me, a former academic, an opportunity to stress the fundamental role of academic freedom and free speech in a democracy governed by the rule of law. These are core values which lie at the heart of the European Convention on Human Rights, a constellation of rights and fundamental freedoms which require that Government in all their actions be balanced and proportionate. In short, the Convention does not tolerate extremes.

The concerns of civil society are fueled by mixed feelings more generally <https://verfassungsblog.de/the-ecthr-and-post-coup-turkey-losing-ground-or-losing-credibility/>  about the approach of the Court in addressing the delaying and evading tactics of the Turkish authorities. In his open letter <https://www.expressioninterrupted.com/open-letter-to-president-of-the-european-court-of-human-rights/> , Mehmet Altan thanks the Court for a verdict against his own imprisonment. The verdict led to his release after a lot of legal wrangling by Turkish courts about its implementation. His dismissal has not been corrected however, a decision about this is lingering before inadequate Turkish appeal procedures (as are tens of thousands of other cases) which the Court however considers a ‘domestic remedy’ that needs to be exhausted before it can take up the issue. In the letter, he also mentions the case of his brother Ahmet Altan:

“The very section of the Court that you presided had given priority status to the application of Ahmet Altan, whose novels have been published in 23 countries, and who, even despite the Covid-19 pandemic has remained behind bars in Silivri Prison for the past four years. Even though the court is very much familiar with the file’s content, unfortunately we have been waiting for that priority to come into effect for the past four years.”

Whether the visit of Spano to Turkey has had a positive effect, will likely be also measured against progress in the case of Osman Kavala, a human rights defender who the Court has said should be released. His situation is under review by the Committee of Minissters, the Council of Europe’s supervisory body for execution of Court judgements. The Committee just this week repeated its call for his immediate release <https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/implementing-echr-judgments-council-of-europe-urges-turkey-to-release-osman-kavala> .

See also:

https://ahvalnews.com/robert-spano/echr-should-call-spanos-resignation-after-turkey-visit-human-rights-defender-fincanci?language_content_entity=en and

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/european-court-of-human-rights-president-degrades-court-with-turkish-award

European rights court president draws further ire by posing with members of Turkey’s ruling party

New tool in higher education: worldwide Academic Freedom Index (AFi)

April 17, 2020
On 26 March 2010 the Global Public Policy Institute and Scholars at Risk introduced the Academic Freedom Index (AFi), a new time series and near-global dataset on several dimensions of academic freedom. It calls on decision-makers in higher education and foreign policy, university administrations, research funding organizations, advocacy groups, and parliaments to use AFi data to better protect and promote academic freedom. It also includes recommendations for scholars and students.

The AFi aims to inform stakeholders, provide monitoring yardsticks, alter incentive structures, challenge university rankings, facilitate research, and ultimately promote academic freedom. It is the result of a collaborative effort between researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the V-Dem Institute, the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Global Public Policy Institute. AFi scores are based on expert assessments by 1,810 scholars around the world which are integrated in a Bayesian measurement model.

The data is publicly available on V‑Dem’s website. V-Dem also provides an online tool that can be used to analyze any of the indicators.

The full report as well as a working paper are available for download.

See also, from 2015: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/23/scholars-at-risk-publishes-first-academic-freedom-monitoring-report-free2think/

Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action

Scholars at Risk has a number of vacancies

October 6, 2019

Scholars at Risk is staffed by a team of professionals with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Take a look at the available positions listed below and apply as soon as possible, as positions are filled on a rolling basis. If you have an interest in volunteering or offering pro-bono services to SAR, please email them at scholarsatrisk@nyu.edu with a short proposal and a copy of your resume or CV.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is seeking a highly-organized and team-oriented individual to join the SAR team as a grants associate/officer. Position summary This is new position will support SAR’s program and fundraising efforts by providing primary drafting and reporting on

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Scholars at Risk (SAR) seeks a Department Administrator to manage a variety of administrative and business processes and operations in support of SAR’s efforts to protect scholars and promote academic freedoms worldwide and to ensure the effective delivery of services

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Scholars at Risk (SAR) is seeking a highly-motivated, detail-focused, flexible and team-oriented individual to manage planning, delivery and follow-up to the 2020 SAR Global Congress, a large-scale, multi-institution biennial event that brings together up to 300 representatives of SAR network

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Scholars at Risk (SAR) seeks a Deputy Director (DD) to have overall responsibility for SAR’s day-to-day programming, internal operations, and administration. POSITION SUMMARY Reporting to the Executive Director (ED), the DD supports the Executive Director and the SAR Board, promoting

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Scholars at Risk (SAR) seeks a dedicated, detail-oriented intern with excellent writing and research skills to join SAR’s Advocacy team for Spring 2020. This intern may be based in SAR’s New York City office or based remotely. This position reports

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InSPIREurope: new EU-Funded Initiative to Support Researchers at Risk to be launched in September

July 11, 2019

Ten European partner organizations announce an ambitious new initiative to be launched this September to support researchers at risk. The initiative – InSPIREurope – is a ten-partner project funded under the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and coordinated by Scholars at Risk Europe at Maynooth University, Ireland.

InSPIREurope will forge a coordinated, cross-sectoral, Europe-wide alliance for researchers at risk. InSPIREurope project partners include: Scholars at Risk Europe, hosted at Maynooth University, Ireland (Project Coordinator) • Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Germany • European University Association • Jagiellonian University, Poland • University of Oslo, Norway • University of Gothenburg, Sweden • PAUSE program, hosted by the Collège de France • Stichting voor Vluchteling-Studenten UAF, Netherlands • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece • Scholz CTC GmbH, Germany.

InSPIREurope begins from the view that excellence in research depends upon open scientific debate, and is driven by a multiplicity of ideas, cultures, people, and perspectives. When researchers are at risk and excluded from participating in the global research circuit, whether due to discrimination, persecution, suffering, or violence, not only are individual lives and careers at risk; the quality, the very future of research is also at stake. With record numbers of researchers at risk reaching out, there is no one country, government, NGO, or enterprise that can meet the scope of the challenge alone; an ambitious and concerted approach is required. Toward this goal, and in recognition of a shared commitment to excellence in research and to the principles of freedom of inquiry and academic freedom that are essential pre-conditions for world-class research, the InSPIREurope project will facilitate transnational cooperation between European and national initiatives and programs in support of researchers at risk. Further information, including project webpages, will be available when the project begins in September.

New free online course on how to use academic freedom

May 28, 2018

Scholars at Risk, the New-York based international network of institutions for protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom, and the University of Oslo, Norway, have jointly developed a free online course on how to use academic freedom to ask critical questions and contribute to a democratic society.

The course is aimed first at anyone in higher education – leadership, administrators, academic staff and students. Second, the course is aimed at anyone outside the sector who has an opinion about higher education, especially critical opinions.  You can register for the course through this link.

The course, ‘Dangerous questions: Why academic freedom matters’, will begin from 4 June and is available online on FutureLearn. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/23/scholars-at-risk-publishes-first-academic-freedom-monitoring-report-free2think/]

Quinn told University World News: “Higher education is undergoing historic transformation, and this adds confusion and puts pressure on academic freedom. The course aims to help members of the higher education sector better understand the values at the centre of higher education, and by doing so, offers a compass and a set of tools for navigating the current environment. “The course argues that higher education has an affirmative social responsibility – that is, the responsibility to use the freedom and autonomy afforded to it by the state and society for the widest public good….But meeting that responsibility can be dangerous or even very dangerous and that means the public also has an affirmative responsibility – to defend higher education leaders, scholars and students when they exercise freedom of inquiry and expression on the public’s behalf.”

Participants will learn how they can contribute to strengthening core higher education values at their home institution and in partnerships, and how to assess and react to incidents relating to the core higher education values.

The course will include videos, graphics, animations and interviews and enable participants from all over the world to talk to each other.

Beyond that, I think people will be surprised – academic freedom isn’t just for a few privileged intellectuals who want to be left alone. Academic freedom is an essential condition for free, open societies,” Quinn said. “If you value the freedom to have your own opinions, to ask questions, to discuss difficult topics honestly without fear, then academic freedom matters enormously to you too.”

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20180526061403734

Turkey’s Academics for Peace to Receive 2018 Courage to Think Defender Award

April 16, 2018

On 16 April 2018 the NGO-network Scholars at Risk (SAR) announced that Turkey’s Academics for Peace is the recipient of its 2018 Courage to Think Defender Award, for their extraordinary efforts in building academic solidarity and in promoting the principles of academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and the peaceful exchange of ideas. The award, which will be presented at the Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress, will be accepted on behalf of the group by Muzaffer Kaya, of Technische Universität Berlin, and Tebessüm Yılmaz, of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Rose Anderson, SAR’s Director of Protection Services stated: “By connecting their threatened colleagues both inside and outside of Turkey to resources, opportunities, and support, they are working to ensure that Turkey’s vibrant higher education community can continue to pursue scholarship, and be free to think, question and share ideas. The solidarity of the Academics for Peace community is an inspiration for all of us who work on behalf of threatened scholars and academic freedom worldwide.”

Fo more on the SAR’s Courage to Think and other awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/courage-to-think-award. For last year’s: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/09/scholars-at-risk-gives-its-courage-to-think-defender-award-to-egypts-detained-scholars-and-students/

For more information about the Courage to Think Award and the Global Congress, including registration information, the Congress program and speaker bios, visit https://www.con-gressa.de/gc2018.

https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/2018/04/2018-courage-to-think/

Relief for threatened scholars: the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

May 10, 2017
Some support structures suffer from a lack of general knowledge. Here is one that I came across recently.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), in conjunction with the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Germany Section, convened the 3rd Workshop on the Philipp Schwartz Initiative (PSI) in Berlin, bringing together SAR staff, Philipp Schwartz Fellows, representatives of universities and research institutions in Germany supporting threatened scholars, and representatives from partner organizations.

As a part of AvH and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and other private funders, the PSI provides universities and research institutions in Germany with the means to host at-risk foreign researchers with two-year, fully funded fellowships. Since the summer of 2016, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has invited applications to the PSI on behalf of scholars regardless of country of origin, current location, or academic field, as long as a demonstrable threat can be confirmed. The PSI is currently sponsoring more than 60 researchers, 34 of whom are SAR scholars. This number will undoubtedly grow, as the PSI has recently confirmed funding for an additional 30 grants.  Applications in the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative cannot be submitted at this time. Applicants in the 3rd round will be informed of the outcome by 30 June 2017.

For more information about the important work being done, visit the Philipp Schwartz Initiative’s homepage and consult the most recent issue of AvH’s magazine, Humboldt Kosmos.

Who can apply?  Please note that researchers cannot apply on an individual basis only through host institutions in Germany.

Research-performing institutions in Germany in the following categories may apply:

  • public and state-recognised universities, including universities of applied sciences (“Fachhochschulen”)
  • Max Planck Institutes, Helmholtz Institutes, Leibniz Institutes, Fraunhofer Institutes
  • Federal and State Research Institutes
  • other research-performing institutions that can convincingly demonstrate their research focus and infrastructures

Successful applicants will be able to grant a Philipp Schwartz Fellowship to a threatened researcher. In detail:

  • institutions that were successful in the 1st or 2nd call for applications (no submission of support concepts in 3rd call; only nomination of researcher)
  • institutions that applied but were not successful in the 1st or 2nd call for applications
  • institutions that have not applied for Philipp Schwartz funding before

Who is eligible for a Philipp Schwartz fellowship?

Threatened researchers from any academic field and any country of origin who

  • have completed their doctorate or a comparable academic degree (PhD, CSc or equivalent)
  • have not been resident outside their own country for more than three years; researchers who hold German university entrance qualifications (“Bildungsinländer”) are not eligible
  • possess the language skills required to successfully conduct their research projects
  • possess academic qualifications (e.g. publications)
  • possess potential to be integrated into the (research-related) job market
  • who have not yet been funded in the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative
  • persons that have access to residence in safe countries due to multiple citizenship and German citizens are not eligible for nomination
  • multiple nominations of one person by several institutions are not permitted

The Humboldt Foundation imposes no restrictions with regard to country of origin or current location if the threat can be confirmed in accordance with the programme guidelines.

What does the funding include?

  • fellowship funds including subsidies of 3,500 EUR/month for up to 24 months
  • a one-off lump sum of 12,000 EUR for the host institution

How can a threat to a researcher be confirmed in the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative?

In the context of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, a pertinent threat of researchers who are demonstrably threatened in their countries can be confirmed in two ways:

  • by way of a residence status in the context of an asylum-granting procedure that confirms a recognised threat
  • by way of a credible threat assessment from a third party, such as the Scholars at Risk Network, the Scholar Rescue Fund, or the Council for At-Risk Academics

 

Source: Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation – The Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation supported by the Federal Foreign Office

Europe also sees shrinking space for human rights defenders

April 4, 2017

On 4 April 2017 Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, wrote about “The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations“. The new EU ‘alert site I referred to yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/03/protectdefenders-eu-launches-new-alert-website-but-no-single-stop-yet/] showed in 2016 some 86 reported violations in the European (and Central Asian) region, mostly detention and judicial harassment. Also the recent CIVICUS findings of the narrowing space for civil society points in this direction. An example could be Hungary as illustrated by reports of Human Rights Watch (2016), Human Rights First (2017) and Amnesty International (2016/17); the issue of academic freedom is not directly related but part of the restrictive trend [see links below].

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