Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Civil Society Resistance in Liberal Democracies in a Time of Rising Non-Accountability

By Cynthia Banham*

School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, and RegNet, ANU

No way

Political accountability, we are taught to believe, is a defining feature of liberal democracies. A basic relationship of accountability lies at the heart of democratic government: citizens elect their political representatives, and these representatives become accountable to voters. Yet political accountability, as we have traditionally understood it to exist in liberal democracy, is under stress.

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Rethinking the International Criminal Justice Project in the Global South

By Michelle Burgis-Kasthala*

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

ICC in Ivory Coast in 2013. Image: BBC News

ICC in Ivory Coast in 2013. Image: BBC News

Concerns about the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) continuing relevance in Africa following exit announcements by Burundi, South Africa, and Gambia are widespread. But the picture across the continent is more complex. While some African states have clearly rejected the Court, the majority remain members. How can we explain the fracturing of the Court’s support in Africa? More fundamentally – what is the best way of studying international criminal justice and its effects in the Global South – whether in Africa or elsewhere?

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The role of civil society in Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review

By Kirsty Anantharajah

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

Sri Lankan civil war. Image: Andy Freifeld/Pinterest

Sri Lankan civil war. Image: Andy Freifeld/Pinterest

Sri Lanka’s game playing at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) during its first two reviews in 2008 and 2012 tested the ability of this human rights mechanism to achieve its aims and maintain the integrity of its principles, including objectivity and transparency. This post explores how the proactive participation of civil society pushed back against the rights ritualism displayed by the Sri Lankan state at the UPR.[i]

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Investment Treaty Law and Arbitration: Common Controversies

By Anthea Roberts,

Centre for International Governance & Justice, RegNet

My previous blog provided an introduction to investment treaty law and arbitration. In this blog, I consider some controversial aspects of an area of law that has only recently attracted widespread public attention.

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An Introduction to Investment Treaty Law and Arbitration

By Anthea Roberts,

Centre for International Governance & Justice, RegNet

High profile cases in which corporations have taken states to arbitration, such as the case brought by tobacco company Philip Morris against Australia, have drawn public attention to an area of treaty law that has until recently been poorly understood except by a small club of experts. This blog provides an introduction to investment treaty law. A subsequent blog will discuss some of its more contentious aspects.

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The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants – What’s Missing?

By Emma Larking

Centre for International Governance & Justice, RegNet

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the UN General Assembly in September commits states to negotiating by 2018 ‘Global Compacts’ on refugees, and for safe, orderly and regular migration. Unfortunately, these Global  Compacts will not be legally binding. As currently envisaged, they represent a disastrous missed opportunity.

When the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was first drafted, the UN Secretary General expressed regret that it did not include a binding resettlement mechanism.[1] Continue Reading →


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A Family Destruction Lens on Warfare

By John Braithwaite, RegNet, ANU

Official opening of the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital, Brisbane, Australia. Photo: State Library of Queensland

Official opening of Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital, Brisbane, Australia. Photo: State Library of Queensland

Conducting fieldwork in conflict and post-conflict zones, I keep meeting people who say their lives have no meaning. That which gives life meaning, the warmth and trust and stability provided by healthy and loving human relationships, is a target of war. Victims are forced to watch their loved ones brutalised, and it is also a tactic of war to force people to commit acts of horrendous violence on those they love.

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The Vengeful State: How Democratic Governments Respond to National Security Leaks

By Peter Grabosky, RegNet, ANU

Image: WikiLeaks

Image: WikiLeaks

States usually respond harshly when individuals publicly disclose national security information without authorisation. I have written elsewhere about the vengeance wreaked by the French State in the Dreyfus Affair; by the British Executive in response to Clive Ponting’s disclosure of information about the sinking of the Argentine cruiser the General Belgrano during the Falklands war; by the Israeli Government in response to Morechai Vanunu’s disclosure of state nuclear secrets; and by the US Administration in the case of the Pentagon papers.[1]

More recently, the leaking of classified information by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden again highlighted the tension between state secrecy in purported defence of national security and the public’s right to know about the operations of government and public authorities. Continue Reading →


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Women as Humans: Human Rights, Feminisms, and Rethinking the Human

By Amber Karanikolas

Image: flickr/BWSS

Image: flickr/BWSS

To come up against what functions, for some, as a limit case of the human is a challenge to rethink the human. And the task to rethink the human is part of the democratic trajectory of evolving human rights jurisprudence.[1]

Who is the subject of human rights? Or, to put the question another way, who has the right to be human? Do women? The concept of human rights is continually evolving, and it is used in diverse ways. Human rights can encompass the many forms of ‘rights-talk’ that social movements use to make their claims, and internationally, recognition of human rights is proliferating. Although not denoting global compliance with human rights norms, it is now commonplace to declare that we live in an age of human rights.

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Law and Emancipation

By Hilary Charlesworth,

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Hilary Louvain

On 21st April, CIGJ Director Hilary Charlesworth was awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the Faculty of Law and Criminology at the Catholic University of Louvain. With Professors Michael Grimaldi from the Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II) and Jonathan Simon from the University of California, Berkeley, Hilary was honoured in a ceremony based on the theme, ‘Law and Emancipation’. This is the address given by Hilary at the conferral ceremony:

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