Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Being Detained: Prelude to a thesis on Liberia and the rule of law

By Shane Chalmers*

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

‘Nimba County Prison Inmates, Liberia’ (photo: United Nations/Christopher Herwig)

‘Nimba County Prison Inmates, Liberia’ (photo: United Nations/Christopher Herwig)

The Training and Development Officer from the Corrections Advisory Unit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia is standing outside the prison gate, her white skin marking her out as much as her blue UN insignia. I have crossed this street innumerable times before but have never noticed the ‘corrections facility’. Its towering perimeter wall blends into the Ministry of Defence and military barracks that run alongside, but even these do not stand out in Monrovia; this could have been any other international NGO compound. The urban streetscape of Liberia’s capital city is dominated by walls topped with razor wire and patrolled by private security guards. Continue Reading →


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Overcoming sorcery related violence

By Miranda Forsyth

Centre for International Governance & Justice, ANU

Goroka conference, 'Say No'

Goroka conference, ‘Say No’

 It’s time to move beyond sensationalist and moralistic portrayals of the violence associated with witchcraft and sorcery. Torturing, burning, killing and banishing individuals accused of witchcraft or sorcery is a significant problem across the world. But media coverage is regularly premised on the tired dichotomy of the civilized West and the primitive “other”. Common headlines such as “it is the twenty-first century and they are still burning witches” assumes such behavior is determined by some inevitable evolutionary timeline. But on the ground it is often the stresses of modern life that are driving the escalation in witchcraft violence. Nor is belief in magic, evil and unexplained (and unexplainable) phenomena limited to the global South: a Gallup survey in 2005 found seventy five percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief.

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The way to a cohesive society: cultural assimilation or structural inclusion?

By Ibolya (Ibi) Losoncz*, RegNet, ANU

Australian Government poster displayed between 1949 and 1951 in reception rooms and dining halls at various migrant reception centres in Australia. (Image courtesy of the NAA/Wikipedia).

Australian Government poster displayed between 1949 and 1951 in various migrant reception centres. (Image courtesy of the NAA/Wikipedia).

Increased international migration, including refugee admissions and resettlement, has changed the ethnic make-up of many developed countries. Instead of capitalising on diversity, government policies rely heavily on the assimilation of migrants as a way to create cohesion and unity within mainstream society. In public discourse, assimilation also tends to be portrayed as a precondition for social cohesion. But wouldn’t supporting the economic, social and political participation of newly arrived immigrants while acknowledging their diverse cultures be a more effective way of building a cohesive society? A critical look at Australia’s humanitarian resettlement program provides valuable insights to this important question.

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Teaching Human Rights

By Hilary Charlesworth,

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

2016 Human Rights Tertiary Teachers' Workshop

2016 Human Rights Tertiary Teachers’ Workshop

The Australian Human Rights Teachers’ Workshop, now in its sixth year, has become an important gathering for academics working in the field. It was the brainchild of Professor John Tobin (Melbourne Law School) and has been co-organised each year by MLS, CIGJ and UNSW. This year’s workshop at UNSW Law School on 17 February attracted over 100 university teachers from all around Australia and New Zealand. It covered a range of topics, from higher degree research in human rights from the perspective of students (including former CIGJ visiting PhD student Rosemary Grey) and supervisors, to clinical teaching in human rights. Sarah Holcombe (ANU) gave a fascinating account of the project of translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into the central-Australian language of Pintupi-Luritja.

The opening session of the Workshop was particularly engaging. It dealt with Stephen Hopgood’s recent book, The Endtimes of Human Rights, and how such a thoroughgoing critique of human rights might be used in the classroom. Continue Reading →


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Academics and practitioners: bringing together our strengths

By Philippa Smales*
Research for Development Impact Network

Domestic Workers

Bringing together academics and practitioners can strengthen research in many different areas, including in human rights and in international aid and development. Due to the nature of their work, academics and practitioners tend to conceive of and measure their research impact or outputs differently. While this can lead to a failure to connect, harnessing the strengths of both approaches can produce better outcomes, overall.

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The Living Dead — An Independence Framework

By Shane Chalmers*

Centre for International Governance & Justice, RegNet, ANU

‘Untitled, 1960’ (Photograph: Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, published by The Guardian)

‘Untitled, 1960’ (Photograph: Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, published by The Guardian)

This studio portrait was taken in 1960 by the Beninese photographer Joseph Moise Agbodjélou, within months of Benin gaining independence from France. What is remarkable about the photograph is its critical-representational style, that is, its self-conscious use of the representational framework of the art form to create the art work.

The art form is studio photography, which in its traditional mode was developed to create an idealised image. The result is supposed to be a representation, of the family for instance, that one can hang in the entrance of the home as a reminder of its real nature; thus the reality of family life is the one on display in the photograph and not the dysfunctional one on display in everyday life.[1] In this way, the traditional mode of studio photography uses the representational framework uncritically to create a fantasy portrayed as reality. Continue Reading →


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Law as a site of politics: an interview with Hilary Charlesworth

By Mareike Riedel

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

Hilary-Charlesworth

This interview with CIGJ Director, Hilary Charlesworth, appeared first on Völkerrechtsblog.

Hilary Charlesworth is best known for her work on feminist theory and international law, however her intellectual curiosity extends far beyond this – for example she recently explored the role of rituals and ritualism in human rights monitoring and in 2011 she was appointed judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice for the Whaling in the Antarctic case. In 2015 Völkerrechtsblog had the pleasure to meet with Hilary Charlesworth in her sunny Canberra office and talk with her about the old and new boundaries of international law and what feminism in international institutions has in common with space food.

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Ritualised responses to ‘new’ terror threats post 9/11

By Rumyana Grozdanova, University of Liverpool

News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11

A hijacker points his pistol from the cockpit of TWA Flight 847 as an ABC news crew approaches the jet for an interview at Beirut International Airport on June 19, 1985. Image: Salon.com http://www.salon.com/2010/11/11/airport_security_5/

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but since the attacks of 11 September 2001 it has been characterised as an unprecedented transnational challenge requiring new laws and international collaboration to combat it. The adoption of UN Security Council Resolutions supporting expansive counter-terror measures, and within some regional organisations and states, the rush to support and implement these measures – all under the rubric of the right of states to individual and collective self-defence – now has the appearance of a well-rehearsed ritual in the aftermath of any particular act of terrorism.

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From spaces of domination to spaces of resistance: Aboriginal people against the forced closure of remote communities

Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities  Image: Yildiz

Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities
Image: Yildiz

By Yesim Yaprak Yildiz, University of Cambridge

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra sent a delegation to the Australian Parliament to deliver a message to Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull. The day was 27th November 2015; a global day of action against the threatened closure of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and other regions due to funding cuts by the federal government. Continue Reading →


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Normative Esperanto? A Closer Look at the Proposed Indicatorisation of the Right to Development in the UN

Declaration on RTDBy Siobhán Airey

There is now a very solid body of literature, both scholarly and practice-focused, on the relationship between indicators and human rights. It addresses pragmatic considerations (how indicators can develop precision on the normative content of human rights, especially for socio-economic human rights, and aid the monitoring of states’ duties to fulfill their international human rights obligations); political considerations (how the use of indicators can result in shifts in relationships between different policy spheres and their institutional mechanisms and human rights, and between human rights actors such as rights-holders and duty-bearers and those with responsibility for monitoring those institutions and actors); epistemological questions with normative effects (how indicators can foreground certain kinds of knowledge and ways of seeing the world and, through their use in a human rights context, can shape what we think a human right might be). This work can also illuminate the role of indicators, especially in a human rights context, in helping to solidify the “legality” of human rights norms (helping them become more “law-like”).

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