Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Professor Megan Davis

Professor Megan Davis

Megan Davis re-elected to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Professor Megan Davis, who was once a PhD scholar at the CIGJ and is now Director of the Indigenous Law Centre in the Faculty of Law at UNSW, has been re-elected by the UN Economic and Social Council to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights. Professor Davis’ re-election received overwhelming support.

Professor Davis has extensive experience as an international lawyer at the United Nations and she participated in drafting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In her doctoral thesis and subsequent research, Professor Davis argues that the right to self-determination as it is recognised in international law does not pay adequate attention to the situation of Aboriginal women. She uses Martha Nussbaum’s theory of capabilities to reframe the concept of self-determination, focusing in particular on the significance of a constitutional guarantee of equality. In December last year, Professor Davis delivered Melbourne University’s NAARM  Oration. The text of her speech, ‘An Alternative Framework for Re-Imagining Self-Determination’ was published in full on the blog, ‘Sheilas’.

Regarding Rights and all at the CIGJ warmly congratulate Professor Davis on her re-election to UNPFII.

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The Israeli-Palestinian Question: What Can The Security Council Do?

Security Council Open Debate on the Question of Palestine

Security Council Open Debate on the Question of Palestine

By Marie-Eve Loiselle

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

The treatment of the Israel-Palestine question within the UN’s supreme decision-making body is a stark reminder of the Council’s inherently political nature.

Hope for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is fading. If it has any chance of seeing the light of day, action is needed now.  Challenging the creation of a Palestinian state is emerging support for a bi-national state. The Economist wrote in March about the eclectic mix of proponents of this outcome: on one side those who see the area as totally Jewish or Arab; on the other, idealists hopeful that Palestinians and Jews have a chance at coexisting together in one state. Many of those who support the one-state solution hold that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are now so entrenched that it would be impossible to reverse the cycle and establish one viable Palestinian state.

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United Nations Declaration on Animal Welfare: Why not rights?

'Advocacy for animals: Highway to Hell', Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 2013

‘Advocacy for animals: Highway to Hell’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 2013


By Clare McCausland

University of Melbourne

For the past 13 years the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has been lobbying for a UN Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW). To date they have not been successful in achieving this aim. While they cite the in-principle support of more than 44 nations and boast an online petition with more than two million signatures, Geneva has so far been silent on the proposal. Should the animal protection community be dismayed or should it take a different tack?

Here I want to suggest that the UDAW as it currently stands could work just as well as a Declaration of the (Welfare) Rights of Animals. I will focus primarily on the reasons why this is a theoretically coherent option. Towards the end I’ll suggest briefly why I think a rights declaration would be a preferable document, even if the question may now be moot for political reasons.

In 2000 the Secretary of WSPA was Australia’s own RSPCA chief, Dr Hugh Wirth, who in 2004 became the organisation’s President.  Like many others, Wirth distinguishes between two kinds of animal protection: animal rights and animal welfare. In 2004 in an edition of the RSPCA News he wrote:

The general media, and thus a great number of people in the community, believe that animal welfare and animal rights are synonymous terms and are therefore interchangeable. This view is simply wrong. The RSPCA is part of the worldwide animal welfare movement which believes that humans may make use of animals for companionship, work, pleasure and food and fibre production, provided all animals are always treated with respect, not subjected to cruelty and their welfare is fully protected.

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New Forms of Peacekeeping

DRC wiki commons

wiki commons

By Hilary Charlesworth

Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

On 28 March, the UN Security Council took the historic step of authorising an ‘Intervention Brigade’ to counter rebel groups in North Kivu province in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), bordering Rwanda (SCR 2098). The brigade (of just over 3000 troops) is to operate within the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and has been established for 12 months. The brigade will have its headquarters in Goma. The same resolution extended MONUSCO’s mandate for another year.

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“He put electric shock on me”: a glimpse of the persistent, widespread practice of torture in Papua

Matan Klembiap
Photograph courtesy of Anum Siregar, Democratic Alliance for Papua

By Budi Hernawan

On 15 February 2013, in the sub-district of Depapre (approximately 30 kilometres west of the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura), six Papuan men were arrested and detained by the local police. Daniel Gobay (30), Arsel Kobak (23), Eneko Pahabol (23), Yosafat Satto (41), and Salim Yaru (35) were in a car when the police stopped and searched them. Matan Klembiap (40), who was on his motorbike behind the car that the police stopped, was also detained. During the police interrogation all of the men were tortured to confess that they knew the whereabouts of two key pro-Papuan independence activists, Sebby Sambom and Terrianus Sato, who have gone into hiding. On the following day, four of the men were released without any charge; Daniel Gobay and Matan Klembiap remain in police custody, charged with “possessing a sharp weapon” under the Emergency Regulation 12/1951, a legacy from the Dutch colonial laws. Continue Reading →