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 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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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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Creating Permanent Memories of Torture

Image from http://www.mhpbooks.com

Image from http://www.mhpbooks.com

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Since Christmas 2014, it’s been possible to buy a book version of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program on global book selling websites like Book Depository and Amazon.[1]

The book version of the “torture report,” as it’s commonly known, was published by independent New York publisher Melville House. According to media accounts, it took 72 hours and the services of a dozen employees and a team of volunteers to transform the torture report into a properly formatted manuscript ready to send to the printers for publication as a paperback and ebook. Before it was a book, the torture report was (and still is) available as a PDF document that can be freely downloaded from the Internet. Continue Reading →


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The International Court of Justice and the Question of Reparations

The Peace Palace, Home of the International Court of Justice

The Peace Palace, Home of the International Court of Justice

By Carla Ferstman

Director, REDRESS

On 1 July 2015, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided to resume the proceedings in the case of Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), with regard to the question of reparations. The case concerns Uganda’s role in the protracted and devastating conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has caused unimaginable suffering to the civilian population. Continue Reading →


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Two Approaches to Human Rights Review in Post-War Sri Lanka

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay listens to an ethnic Tamil war survivor during her visit to Mullivaikkal, Sri Lanka. Source: The Hindu, 9 Sept 2013.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay listens to an ethnic Tamil war survivor during her visit to Mullivaikkal, Sri Lanka. Source: The Hindu, 9 Sept 2013.

By Jacinta Mulders, Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

Some have lauded the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism for its state-based model, ensuring equality of treatment between all 193 UN member states. Others have criticised the bureaucratic nature of the process and the superficiality of the documents produced. Continue Reading →


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The Impunity Dilemma: Sexual Offences by UN Peacekeepers

A Ghanaian peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, on guard duty during a visit by the Special Representative Karin Landgren, in Cestos City, Liberia, Friday 16, November, 2012. UNMIL Photo/Staton Winter

A Ghanaian peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, on guard duty during a visit by the Special Representative Karin Landgren, in Cestos City, Liberia, Friday 16, November, 2012.
UNMIL Photo/Staton Winter

By Róisín Burke

Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway

In recent months several leaked UN reports revealed that sexual offences by peacekeepers, UN and others, is rampant. This is not a new phenomenon. Sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers has been a significant problem for the UN since at least the 1990s. Incidents have included alleged and proven cases of rape, gang rape, pedophilia, prostitution, and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse across numerous UN operations.[1] Continue Reading →


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Indignation, not engagement: Australia’s response to international criticism of asylum seeker detention

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Photo: http://www.unmultimedia.org

Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Photo: http://www.unmultimedia.org

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

The Abbott government’s recent outrage at the United Nations over a finding by the Special Rapporteur on torture that Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate international law has a very familiar ring. Continue Reading →


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Time to reign in corporate colonisation

By Nathan Willis, Southern Cross University

Route of the pipeline laid out in Kyaukme Town, northern Shan State. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

As ‘corporate colonisation’ extends its reach and grip over land, natural resources and ways of life in some of the poorest places on our planet, lawyers and academics along with grassroots activists are casting a critical eye over existing corporate accountability mechanisms and searching for new ways to ensure corporations based in wealthy countries take responsibility for their actions abroad.

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