Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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The Trials and Travails of Universal Jurisdiction: The FDLR Trial in Germany

By Christoph Sperfeldt, Centre for International Governance and Justice, RegNet, ANU

The Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart

On 28 September 2015, a four-year landmark universal jurisdiction trial came to an end: The Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart, Germany, convicted Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, the President and Vice-President of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and sentenced them to 13 and 8 years in prison, respectively. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the judgment as an excellent example of how national criminal courts and the United Nations can work together to end impunity for serious international crimes.

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Centre for International Governance and Justice

The Centre is delighted to welcome its final two Visiting PhD Scholars under the auspices of Hilary Charlesworth’s “Strengthening the International Rights System: Rights, Regulation and Ritualism” ARC Laureate Fellowship.

Siobhán Airey is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa, where she is a member of its Human Rights Research and Education Centre. She has previously held a number of positions in the areas of rights and social justice. Siobhán’s research focuses on the role of international law in overseas development aid, and asks how international development co-operation law acts as an instrument of global governance.

Yesim Yildiz is currently undertaking a PhD in sociology at the University of Cambridge. Her work looks at the ways in which memories of traumatic violent events in modern Turkey emerge in government discourse, and the extent to which the current ruling party’s politics of memory have achieved truth, reconciliation, and justice. Yesim has also worked in rights-related areas, as well as with the BBC World Service.

We look forward to hearing more about Siobhán and Yesim’s research in Regarding Rights!


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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

The past two weeks have seen the CIGJ host the fantastically successful Festival of International Law. Events included workshops, film screenings, and masterclasses, and centred on international law’s role in the Palestine-Israel relationship and international criminal law as rhetoric.

This coming Wednesday, Michelle Jarvis, Deputy to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal (and who also presented a special session at the international criminal law as rhetoric workshop), will present a seminar at the CIGJ in which she reflects back over two decades of the tribunal’s work and identifies some of the key challenges for international justice in the future. The seminar is open to the public: further details can be found here.

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A UN focal point on reprisals: The time has come

19th session of the Human Rights Council, Room XX © UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre

By Madeleine Sinclair, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

The Secretary-General recently shared his annual report on reprisals against individuals and groups cooperating with the UN and the picture is alarming. From the torture in Tajikistan of a prisoner who cooperated with a UN human rights expert, to the serious threats against a defender and his family in Burundi following his briefing to the Committee against Torture, the Secretary-General’s report exposes the horrific human cost of cooperating with the UN.

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News & Events

Human rights, Australia’s international reputation, and our new PM

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Francois Crepeau (Reuters)

UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Francois Crépeau

While not surprising, it was nevertheless deeply troubling to learn that the Australian Government under Malcolm Turnbull’s new leadership will not facilitate UN access to the Australian funded detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island, nor guarantee that individuals who have had access to these centres and who provide information about them to the UN will be protected from prosecution – and possible imprisonment – under the Australian Border Force Act 2015. As a result, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Francois Crépeau, has cancelled his planned visit.

For the moment, Mr Turnbull continues to defend the indefensible by supporting the camps on Nauru and Manus Island, and mandatory immigration detention for certain classes of people (mostly asylum seekers who arrive by boat). But he has distinguished himself from former PM, Tony Abbott, by reaffirming Australia’s desire to be seen internationally as a country committed to human rights.

Mr Turnbull has reversed Mr Abbott’s instructions to Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop to jettison Australia’s bid for a place on the UN Human Rights Council. Australia’s bid is much more likely to garner support with Mr Turnbull as PM. Mr Abbott gained international notoriety for his dismissive attitude towards UN human rights mechanisms. Nor would it have gone unnoticed that while Australia consistently exhorts other countries to strengthen their human rights institutions (we regularly sponsor Human Rights Council resolutions in support of National Human Rights Institutions), Mr Abbott pilloried our own Australian Human Rights Commission and chief Commissioner Gillian Triggs. As a Minister in Mr Abbott’s Government, Mr Turnbull defended Professor Triggs.

Mr Turnbull is perceived internationally as more open to co-operative action on climate change than Mr Abbott, but his recognition that a country’s attitude to human rights protection influences its international reputation was another reason for the surprisingly warm welcome that greeted Australia’s delegation to the UN General Assembly in New York this week.

Festival of International Law

 Banksy's street art of the dove of peace wearing a flak jacket with a target superimposed on it

Banksy dove of peace flickr attribute to eddiedangerous

The CIGJ’s festival of international law begins next week, examining the relationship between Palestine and Israel, and continues the following week, exploring new directions in international law. Don’t forget to register! (just follow the links)