Posts Tagged ‘university’

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

Venice School Of Human Rights: program for 9-16 June 2018

February 23, 2018

Banner Venice School PCDN

The Venice School of Human Rights (created in 2010) wants to highlight that the respect for human rights is the responsibility of all, that “Human Rights are our responsibility”.

THE PROGRAMME

After a first joint session, participants will be divided in the three thematic clusters following the choice made upon enrollment. Clusters will focus on Business & Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders and Women, Peace and Security.

Cluster on Business & Human Rights: recent trends and developments

Under the leadership of Giulia Di Tommaso, an international lawyer with over twenty years of global experience in Legal and Public Affairs on a wide range of business issues, the course explores the interdisciplinary components of the Business and Human Rights agenda and provides thoughtful insights on the most recent developments from experts representatives from Academia, International Organizations and Institutions (EU, UN, FAO, OECD), and the private sector

Cluster on Human Rights Defenders

Under the responsibility of George Ulrich, Program Director of the European Master in Human Rights and Democratization (EMA), the cluster on Human Rights Defenders will review a cross-section of instruments, policies and coordination mechanisms that have been devised to protect and facilitate the work of human rights defenders. It will also explore possibilities for reinforcing the work of human rights defenders through a targeted engagement with international, regional and national human rights mechanisms as well as civil society organisations operative in areas intersecting with the work of local human rights defenders giving particular attention to contexts of imminent threat to human rights, notably conflict and post-conflict situations and situations of repressive governance, as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

Cluster on Women, Peace and Security in a growing extremist and militarised world: Agenda, implementation gap and the transformative approach & potential of CEDAW

The cluster under the leadership of Kalliope Agapiou-Josephides, Chairperson of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EU Agency) and former Vice-President of the European Inter University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation will provide a state of the art critical appraisal on the Women, Peace and Security agenda in a growing extremist and militarised world and stimulate reflection on achievements, key challenges and ways ahead. Participants will have the opportunity to refine their knowledge on both empirically and theoretically informed analyses and highly benefit from discussions with experienced field activists, leading scholars and world-class decision-makers.

Opening and Closing Lectures

The Opening Lectures of the School will be held by Manfred Nowak, EIUC Secretary General and Dalia Leinarte, Chairperson of the CEDAW Committee. Manfred Nowak, Professor of international law and human rights at the University of Vienna, has been the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and member of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Dalia Leinarte, Professor of Family History at Vilnius University is the Director of the Gender Studies Centre at Vilnius University and  Member of the working group for Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The Closing Lecture of the School will be held by Ambassador Mara Marinaki, the Principle Gender EEAS Advisor on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Ambassador Mara Marinaki is a law graduate from the University of Athens, and holds an LL.M in International Law from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.

Dates: 9 – 16 June 2018

Application deadline: 23 April 2018

For any query about the Venice School of Human Rights you can drop a mail to veniceschool@eiuc.org or visit https://eiuc.org/school

https://pcdnetwork.org/blogs/venice-school-of-human-rights-4/

University of New South Wales adds to its human rights institute

December 8, 2017

UNSW’s new centre of innovation on human rights is taking shape as the world marks Human Rights Day on 10 December.

eleanor_roosevelt.jpg

Former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Announced by UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs earlier this year, the Australian Human Rights Institute will further the interdisciplinary aims of the University’s 2025 Strategy  UNSW’s investment in the institute of $13 million to 2025 will allow research to be applied to real-world human rights violations, making an impact on communities in Australia and around the world when they are most in need of innovative responses.

Research will be focused on three areas: human rights and business, human rights and health, and gender justice. Australian Human Rights Institute Director Professor Louise Chappell says the new work will build on the strong foundations of the Australian Human Rights Centre, established in the Faculty of Law in 1986 and led for the past 13 years by Professor Andrea Durbach.

A cross-cutting theme emerging for the institute is the rapid advancement in technology, which has some negative human rights implications but also offers interesting new solutions. “It’s really clear that AI could create further frightening aspects of violence such as remotely controlling what’s happening in someone’s house,” Professor Chappell says. “But that same technology could also be turned around by victims of domestic violence, in this case, so that they’re able to protect themselves and link to support networks faster than ever before.”

Another aim of the Institute is to mentor the next cohort of rights defenders, linking emerging scholars with senior experts and UNSW’s deep networks in the human rights field.

The Institute will launch in early 2018 and is planning a program of lectures and other events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you like to get updates about the Australian Human Rights Institute, sign up for emails here.

https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/business-law/new-unsw-institute-takes-shape-world-marks-human-rights-day

Special event with Michel Forst on 2 December in London: Protection Regime HRDs

November 27, 2015

In an earlier post [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/new-tactics-in-human-rights-follows-up-on-the-protection-regime-of-hrds/] I referred to the latest Special Issue in OUP’s International Journal of Human Rights on ‘Critical Perspectives on the Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders’, in which scholars and practitioners critically appraise the construction and functioning of this protection regime.

In this context there is an evening event in London on 2 December 2015 in collaboration with the Human Rights Researchers Network at Senate House, University of London from 6.00-8.30pm. Special guest at this event is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst.

Tickets are limited and available here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/critical-perspectives-on-the-security-and-protection-of-human-rights-defenders-tickets-19171391147

For the network see: http://www.sas.ac.uk/hrc/networks-study-groups/human-rights-researchers-network

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!

Deadline
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: http://www.njcm.nl <http://www.njcm.nl/site/njcm/scriptieprijs/deelname>

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  [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/media-framing-and-the-independence-of-the-judiciary-the-case-of-water-boarding/]
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: NJCM@law.leidenuniv.nl

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges at Buffalo University

April 19, 2015

Alison Des Forges (1942-2009) was a well-known human rights defender and one of the world’s leading experts on the Rwandan genocide. She was senior adviser of Human Rights Watch at the time of her death in the crash of Continental flight 3407. HRW named its human rights award after her [see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/alison-des-forges-award-extraordinary-activism]. Now the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee in her native Buffalo (NY) is organizing three events in Buffalo on 23 and 24 April 2015 with as focus “Islam, Islamism, and Human Rights in Africa”:
  • An international symposium on April 23 featuring talks by university researchers and representatives of human rights organizations working in Africa. This event is free and open to the public.
  • A scholarship dinner and discussion on April 23. [reservation is required, and tickets are $100 per person. Proceeds go to the Alison Des Forges Memorial Scholarships]
  • A community roundtable on April 24, where university researchers will reflect on the previous day’s symposium topics: “The Interplay of Politics, Religion, Terrorism, Modernity and Human Rights”.

In an effort to address issues of intense public concern, these events will explore in depth the recent rise of violent extremist groups in Africa,” said Dussourd, co-chair of the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee. “In so doing, we will go beyond sensational media headlines to the historical roots of this phenomenon as we examine groups such as Boko Haram, Seleka and Al-Shabaab.”

For information about the events contact Ellen Dussourd  dussourd@buffalo.edu)

Events in memory of Alison Des Forges will focus on Islam and human rights in Africa – University at Buffalo.

The Anna Lindh Lecture 2014 focused on human rights defenders

October 27, 2014

On 23 October former UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, gave the Anna Lindh Lecture 2014 under the title: “Providing a safe and enabling environment for Human Rights Defenders: Critical factors to Consider”. This was done in the context of the 30th anniversary of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Lund, Sweden.

The full text is available: http://rwi.lu.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AL-Sekaggya-2014.pdf