Posts Tagged ‘NJCM’

Dissertation on social rights and austerity wins Thoolen-NJCM award 2015

March 3, 2016

False modesty should not prevent one from announcing a truly excellent piece written by Janneke Allers. She is the winer of the bi-annual Thoolen NJCM Dissertation Prize 2015 (sixth edition) with her dissertation ‘Cuts in the light of fundamental social rights. To what extent do treaties constrain the space for regressive measures?
Three dissertations made the final cut and were assessed on the following criteria: the originality of the chosen human-rights based theme, the development thereof; the academic level; the degree of innovative insight; and accessibility.
The results were: Read the rest of this entry »

Prize for best Dissertation on Human Rights; deadline 1 November

September 8, 2015

False modesty could have prevented me from making this announcement, but I think that getting the highest number of quality submissions is more important.  So please pass this on:

The Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM) invites law graduates to participate in the sixth Thoolen NJCM Dissertation Prize (2015) for the best human-rights thesis on university and higher professional education level.

To be considered eligible, the dissertation must have been written in the last two academic years (2013-2014 or 2014-2015) and must have received at least a Dutch ‘8’ grade equivalency by an internationally recognized university. The submitted dissertation must be written in either Dutch or English, concern a human-rights based subject and be in a direct relation to internationally recognized human rights.

The winning dissertation will be published by the NJCM!

The dissertation must be handed in before the 1st of November 2015 at NJCM’s secretariat. Send four copies of your dissertation before this date to: NJCM P.O. box 778, 2300 AT  Leiden.

For more information and the full text of the Regulation for the Thoolen NJCM – Dissertation Prize go to: <>

The jury
* Mr. H. (Hans) Thoolen
Co-founder and first Chair of the NJCM; Secretary of the Board of the Martin Ennals Foundation
* Dr. (Michiel) van Emmerik
Associate Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at Leiden University
* Prof. C. (Kees) Flinterman
Honorary professor of human rights law at Utrecht University and Maastricht University
* Prof. J.E. (Jenny) Goldschmidt
Honorary professor of human rights law at Utrecht University; director Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) from 2007 to 2014
* Prof. N.M.C.P. (Nicola) Jägers
Professor of International Human Rights Law of Tilburg Law School, Tilburg University; Commissioner of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights
* Prof. R.A. (Rick) Lawson
Dean of the Leiden Law School; professor of European Law at Leiden University
* Prof. B.E.P. (Egbert) Myjer
Professor emeritus of human rights law at VU University Amsterdam; judge of the European Court of Human Rights from 2004 to 2012; Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists from 2013

Previous prize winners are:
2013: Suzanne Poppelaars
Het recht op bronbescherming: Hoe verder na Voskuil en Sanoma?
2011: Laura Henderson  []
Tortured reality. How media framing of waterboarding affects judicial independence
2009: Erik van de Sandt
A child’s story for global peace and justice. Best practices for a child-friendly environment during the statement- and testimony-period in respect of the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Code
2007: Shekufeh Jalali Manesh
Het recht van het kind op behoorlijke huisvesting en het BLOEM-model
2005: Janine de Vries
Sexual violence against women in Congo. Obstacles and remedies for judicial assistance

Copies of the winning dissertations can be purchased through NJCM’s secretariat:

Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, calls for submissions for best master thesis on human rights

August 30, 2013

For the fifth time the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (NJCM) will issue the Thoolen NJCM-Scriptieprijs for the best master thesis. Any student who has followed university level education – at least partly – in the Netherlands is allowed to participate as long as the paper was written between 2011 and 2013. The winning paper will be published by the Foundation NJCM-Boekerij. The deadline is 1 november 2013. Four copies of the paper – in English or Dutch – have to be sent to:  NJCM, Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden. Former winners of the award are:

– Laura Henderson, Tortured reality. How media framing of waterboarding affects judicial independence

– Erik van de Sandt, A child’s story for global peace and justice. Best practices for a child-friendly environment during the statement- and testimony-period in respect of the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Code

– Shekufeh Jalali Manesh, het recht van het kind op behoorlijke huisvesting en het BLOEM-model

– Janine de Vries, Sexual violence against women in Congo. Obstacles and remedies for judicial assistance .

via NJCM – Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten.


‘media framing’ and the independence of the judiciary: the case of water boarding

April 30, 2012

What follows are my  SPEAKING NOTES ON THE OCCASION OF THE NJCM-THOOLEN AWARD  on Thursday 26 April 2012, the Hague. At this gathering of the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (NJCM) I had the honor to hand over the award for the best master thesis on human rights. 

Dear friends,

When the Dutch Lawyers Committee, in 2005, decided to make an award in my name, I was most touched, especially as they had apparently dropped the requirement that I should die first.  Being alive has the additional advantage that on occasion I will be able to hand over the award myself, which I will do with the greatest pleasure in a few moments. This pleasure is the greater as the winning master paper touched on a topic very close to my heart: the role of the media or as it is sometimes referred to the “Fourth Estate”. There is some controversy about who exactly coined the term, but the most telling statement comes from Oscar Wilde who wrote: “Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. …”. That was said in 1981 and it is hard to imagine that that Oscar Wilde would come to a different conclusion more than a century later.

Spinning (an important element in the toolkit of media framing) has become a profession and the title ‘spin doctor’ is quite appropriate as the results are indeed often doctored. There are surely great historical cases that we cannot recognise because we ourselves have been successfully framed; who knows what positive image Attila the Hun could have enjoyed if only his PR people had done a more professional job. To take a more serious and recent case: let’s look at the so-called ‘failure’ of the UN in Somalia. This was a combined UN-US operation with a humanitarian mandate. When in October 1993, 18 U.S. Rangers were killed in a fierce battle with Aideed’s forces and television showed the body of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets, American public opinion overnight turned against further U.S. involvement in Somalia and Clinton pulled out all troops soon afterwards. Although the Rangers were part of Washington’s own separate Somalia operation, and the US did not want to function under UN command, the incident was played and replayed as a major “UN failure.” The UN was widely, and wrongly, blamed for the gruesome deaths of the U.S. Rangers, despite the fact that they were not part of the UN operation, something that President Clinton finally acknowledged in 1996. Yet most people around the worlds continue to hold the UN responsible. I am afraid that each of us can probably come up with a favorite case of the media having got the better of the truth but that should not be tonight’s debate.

Laura Henderson in her paper “Tortured reality” has gone one important step further. She has investigated how media framing of waterboarding affects judicial independence. She had to limit herself to the US judiciary and to the specific case of ‘waterboarding’ in order to create an environment stable enough to draw some statistical conclusions. Her research is done very neatly. She makes clear that the concept of independence of the judiciary has always been defined broadly and not just as a prohibition of interference by the state, although that remains the classical background.  Cases of media pressure are dealt with in jurisprudence but they have always been considered in the context of an independent judge who is well-trained and not easily swayed by what the flimsy press has to say. The little jurisprudence there is does not contemplate a case of wilful, orchestrated influencing of all the media with the purpose of changing the perception and language of an existing concept.

What makes the study of Henderson stand out that it exactly tries pin down to what extent this has happened with the question whether the technique of ‘waterboarding’ changed in the minds of the judges after the 11 September watershed (no pun intended). The torrent of rhetoric not only framed everything in a ‘war’ context but also specifically tried to downplay the labelling of waterboarding as torture. And she did find the evidence. I will not reveal it all – you have to read for yourself the whole article once the NJCM has rightly published it. Laura herself indicates that further work is needed on how the independence of the judiciary is undermined by media framing and I hope that will be the case. She also gives some very useful indications of how the media framing could be countered, e.g. by strengthening the pluriformity of the media and raising the awareness of the judiciary. She describes her recommendations as ‘simple, yet effective”.  Here I beg to differ. There is nothing simple about changing the media landscape, especially if one adds the television and social media, which her study understandably had to leave out. The magnitude and multitude of media is such that no-one can really do much about it. All recent studies on the effect of the internet on our information intake show that they tend to solidify the dominant opinions/news/books etc, while giving great potential to small niche items, including the nutty and the genial. What gets squeezed is the moderate, considered, well-argued, balanced stuff in the middle. My fear is that the voice of the NJCM may well have the qualities described above!

In the end there can be only one winner. A feature of almost any award and painfully brought home two days ago in Geneva where I was for the announcement of the 3 nominees for 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. All 3 nominees are extremely courageous Human Rights Defenders (Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the multimedia monk form Cambodia, and Shirin Ebadi’s former lawyer: Nasrin Sotoudeh) and the Jury making the final choice on 2 October will have a hard time.

Still, the hard choices have been made already for the NJCM Thoolen Award – may I take this occasion to thank the Jury and Franka for their excellent work – and I am proud to hand over the prizes to the 3 finalists.