Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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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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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Congratulations to Jacky Parry and Suzanne Akila

passportWarmest congratulations to Jacky Parry and Suzanne Akila on receiving excellent examiners’ reports for their PhDs.

Jacky’s PhD was on ‘Transitional Justice and Displacement: Lessons from Liberia and Afghanistan’. She used her Liberian and Afghan case studies to examine how refugees contribute to transitional justice processes. Jacky argued for a broader understanding of transitional justice, suggesting that it could even include mechanisms such as out of country voting. The examiners described Jacky’s work as ‘perceptive and original’, advancing important and novel arguments about forms of transitional justice. Read Jacky’s blog about her fieldwork in Liberia here.

Jacky held an ARC Laureate Fellowship PhD Scholarship while at RegNet. She is currently working in Iraq with the International Organization for Migration, putting her thesis research into daily use!

Suza’s topic was ‘Participation and the Protection of Citizens Abroad in International Law’ and investigated how states exercise diplomatic protection for their citizens who face the death penalty abroad. The thesis was both an innovative account of international legal doctrine as well as a set of rich in depth case studies. Examiners described its contribution as ‘original and compelling’ with writing that was ‘lucid, economical, persuasive and stylish’.

While at RegNet, Suza held a Sir Roland Wilson PhD Scholarship and she is now working in the Legal Office in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Both Suza and Jacky were supervised by CIGJ Director, Professor Hilary Charlesworth.


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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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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Regarding Rights is delighted to announce that another RR contributor, Jayson Lamchek (see his post on ‘The Marwan Affair’), has had his thesis approved. Like Shane Chalmers, whose achievement we featured in our last news and events post, Jayson received glowing reports from his examiners.

Jayson’s thesis is titled Myth-Making and Reality: A Critical Examination of Human Rights-Compliant Counterterrorism in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Examiner Sundhya Pahuja said

This is an excellent thesis. It is highly original, well argued, rigorously researched, theoretically astute and politically courageous.

Another examiner, Antony Anghie provided rare praise for academic writing of any sort, saying that the thesis ‘reads at times like a thriller’!

Both Shane and Jayson were supervised by former CIGJ Fellow, Jeremy Farrall, who is now based in ANU’s Coral Bell School.


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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Examiners applaud ‘an exceptional’ PhD

Shane, supervisor Jeremy Farrall, and ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’

Shane, supervisor Jeremy Farrall, and ‘Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law’

Regarding Rights is thrilled to announce that Shane Chalmers’s PhD has been approved. Shane is a popular RR contributor (see his posts, ‘The Living Dead’ and ‘The “call and answer” of the Universal Periodic Review’), and the introduction to his thesis, Law’s Rule: Liberia and the Rule of Law appeared earlier this year in the post, ‘Being detained: Prelude to a thesis on Liberia and the rule of law’.

Shane’s examiners described his thesis as both a pleasure to read and ‘a truly interdisciplinary work of scholarship’. Peter Rush commented:

This is an exceptional thesis….Its contribution is not only to the study of the discourses and institutions of the rule of law in Liberia, but also to contemporary theories of law’s rule, of legal pluralism, and of post-conflict studies, as well as to the jurisprudence of law. Its facility with the existing debates in these fields, as well as the politics of rule of law debates in international law and in Liberia, is nothing less than remarkable.

Shane is currently undertaking an Australian Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship on ‘The Rule of Law in Transition’. The Fellowship is hosted by the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Spain, and Shane plans to spend his time transforming his thesis into a book. Enjoy your time at Oñati Shane – and congratulations on a wonderful PhD result!

Masterclass on investment treaties

StopTheTPPsurfboard%20flickr%20attribute%20to%20SumOfUsCIGJ Associate Professor, Anthea Roberts, held a masterclass recently on the global Investment Treaty System that has emerged since the 1990s.

Based on thousands of bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements, the system has also seen hundreds of investor-state arbitrations. These arbitrations, in which private corporations can take states to arbitration under the terms of state-based investment treaties, have been hugely controversial. In some cases, investors have been awarded large damages – in one case the Czech Republic was required to pay a sum equivalent to its annual health budget.

Originally promoted as a way of encouraging foreign direct investment in states, whether the system actually has any impact on business investment decisions is now unclear. Also troubling is evidence that poor or weaker states have entered treaties that contain ‘investor-state dispute settlement clauses’ – allowing private companies to sue states – with little understanding of the liability implications.

While wealthy states have also found themselves drawn into costly arbitrations, including the case brought by the tobacco company, Philip Morris, against Australia, these states are now drafting investment treaty obligations more carefully and narrowly, attempting to achieve a better balance between investor protection and state sovereignty. However, many older style investment treaties remain in effect, causing risks for treaty parties.

Following Anthea’s masterclass, RegNet visitor Richard Braddock gave a seminar on recent developments in investment agreements, discussing how governments are attempting to exercise greater control over the terms of the agreements and the resolution of investor-state disputes.

Regarding Rights will publish a post based on Anthea’s masterclass in coming weeks.


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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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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Coming Home by Beverley Grant, 2007. Image: Australian Human Rights Commission

Coming Home by Beverley Grant, 2007. Image: Australian Human Rights Commission

Abuse of Aboriginal children in detention does not happen in a vacuum, or without the collusion of the society that builds and runs ‘juvenile justice’ centres. Mike Seccombe has written an excellent article in The Saturday Paper explaining how successive Northern Territory governments have channelled federal funding into predominantly white electorates and away from Aboriginal communities.

Seccombe draws on analysis by John Taylor, of ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. He also quotes Jon Altman, of RegNet and the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, who emphasises the money spent on ‘locking people up rather than investing in their health, education and development’.

John Braithwaite has written about what changes we might expect from the Royal Commission into Don Dale Detention Centre, and about alternative approaches to justice, on his War ∙ Crime ∙ Regulation blog. In another post for John’s blog, Valerie Braithwaite highlights the contributions of people like Sharynne Hamilton, who completed an Indigenous internship with RegNet and is now researching Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders among children in the criminal justice system in Western Australia.

Sharynne believes that institutionalised racism affects Aboriginal children from the start of their lives, but that empowering Aboriginal communities would have a hugely positive impact:

I would love to see big programs on country. The kids love their families, their communities, they love fishing swimming hunting – often with an older person in the community like grandad. They are excellent at sport, excellent at art, and love music. But none of this is nurtured. And if they are going to be healed it has to be – and could be – easily!

To highlight the plight of Aboriginal children involved with the justice system beyond the Northern Territory, Sharynne has passed on this short video.


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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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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Brasil, 2015 © Ana Guzzo | Flickr (publicseminar.org)

Brasil, 2015 © Ana Guzzo | Flickr (publicseminar.org)

Political gymnastics in Turkey and Brazil

In Turkey, President Erdoğan is using a coup d’état as a pretext to suspend the rule of law, entrench his authoritarian government, and lock up dissidents in their thousands. According to a report in The Guardian, more than 2,700 judges and prosecutors, and 20,000 teachers and administrators have been suspended from their jobs and a work travel ban imposed on academics.

Meanwhile, Regarding Rights contributor and former CIGJ Visiting PhD scholar, Mariana Prandini Assis has argued – in a post for publicseminar.org co-authored with Pablo Holmes – that the ouster of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, although conducted under the guise of legality, was in effect a coup d’état.

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