Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

Leave a comment

Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Hiding in a cupboard with an esky full of icy poles, a torch and a pile of paperbacks whose contents are a world away from the USA might seem a sensible approach to 2017[*], but for the sake of humanity, the better course is to stay informed, keep talking (in complete sentences), forge connections and find avenues for resistance.

Regarding Rights is delighted to announce the publication of two books: the first makes an important contribution to understanding how societies sometimes countenance – but also resist – the infliction of dreadful harm on their members, and the second to understanding how societies seek to repair past harms.

Cynthia Banham’s book, Liberal Democracies and the Torture of their Citizens compares how America’s liberal allies responded to the use of torture against their citizens after 9/11. While in many respects Australia, the UK and Canada share similar political cultures and alliances with the USA, they behaved differently when their citizens, caught up in the War on Terror, were tortured. Cynthia concludes that human rights activism played an important role in how each state responded, and that this activism was in turn influenced by different national rights cultures, domestic legal and political human rights frameworks, and political opportunities.

Cynthia’s book will be the subject of discussion at a RegNet bookclub on 28th March, with guests George Williams, Dean of Law at UNSW, and Richard Ackland, publisher of Justinian and The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor and roving diarist. Keep an eye on the RegNet events page for more details.

The backdrop to Bridging Divides in Transitional Justice, by Cheryl White, is Cambodia’s revolution under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, and the culture of impunity and silence imposed by successive national governments. Dialogue on the suppressed past began in 2006 as key figures of the regime were brought before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a specially created and internationalised criminal court. The ECCC forms part of the panoply of international criminal courts of the post-Cold War era. Cheryl highlights the dissonance between the expressivism of idealised international criminal trials and their communicative value within the societies most affected by their operation. She explores the communicative dynamics of ECCC trial procedure, which have sparked unprecedented debate and reflection on the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia.

Bridging Divides in Transitional Justice will also be the subject of a RegNet bookclub in 2017. Details will be posted on the RegNet events page, or subscribe to RegNet’s email updates here.

[*] Feeling dispirited recently I went hunting in dusty wardrobes for PG Wodehouse but found instead HE Bates, who failed to cheer. I had forgotten that Pop Larkin doesn’t believe in paying his taxes either, and Ma is a terrible hypocrite.



Leave a comment

Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Brazil is in crisis. And once again, the poorest will bear the burden

A protester in Brasilia. The banner reads ‘Out Temer! Out everyone!’ Photograph: The Guardian/Adriano Machado/Reuters

A protester in Brasilia. The banner reads ‘Out Temer! Out everyone!’ Photograph: The Guardian/Adriano Machado/Reuters

As Brazil faces its worst economic crisis in decades, its government is taking steps to constitutionally enshrine a 20 year austerity plan that will freeze public spending at 2016 levels until 2037. Former CIGJ Visiting PhD scholar, Mariana Prandini Assis has written an article for The Guardian decrying the precedent the policy sets in South America, and the burden it will impose on the poor in what is already one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Transitional Justice and Civil Society in Asia and the Pacific

In September, CIGJ’s Lia Kent co-hosted with the Bell School’s Joanne Wallis a two-day workshop at ANU on ‘Transitional Justice and Civil Society in Asia and the Pacific’. Among the workshop’s international visitors were Associate Professors Vasuki Nesiah, from New York University, and Jelena Subotic, from Georgia State University. As well as their contributions to the workshop, each gave a public lecture – Vasuki on ‘Commissioning Civil Society’ and Jelena on ‘The Evolution of International Transitional Justice Advocacy’.

Civil Society Asia PacificThe workshop was part of a broader project (also involving Griffith University’s Professor Renee Jeffery) that looks beyond state based approaches to examine the politics of reconciliation in Asia and the Pacific. In their introduction to the workshop, Joanne and Lia noted that the Pacific tends to be left out of global transitional justice debates, perhaps because of the paucity of formal state-led transitional justice mechanisms in the region.

Joanne and Lia suggested a focus on Asia and the Pacific would enrich the existing scholarship, especially given what is distinctive about the region. This includes the central role of customary actors and institutions in resolving conflict; and understandings of civil society that diverge from common accounts in western scholarship and that question whether civil society is a distinct sphere separate from the State. The significance of faith-based actors and organisations in Asia Pacific is also distinctive, challenging the secular focus of much transitional justice scholarship.

In his concluding remarks, RegNet’s Professor John Braithwaite emphasised the issues associated with the professionalisation and commodification of civil society organisations, particularly where non-government organisations come to see themselves as businesses beholden to key performance indicators. John contrasted this process to mass mobilisations that – as theorised by Theda Skocpol – build social capital through the involvement of many actively contributing individuals.

Duterte deliberative symposium a great success

By Jayson Lamchek

Duterte - Beyond FacebookThe symposium ‘Let’s talk: Duterte beyond Facebook’ was co-sponsored by the CIGJ with the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra and ANU’s Filipino Association. It brought together individuals with different views about the Philippine government’s War on Drugs to engage with each other and Philippine-based human rights advocates. Participants came mainly from the Filipino community in Canberra, but some also travelled from Sydney, and a representative of Migrante-Australia came from Wondonga, Victoria. The Philippine Embassy as well as the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also sent delegations to observe the event.

 Participants engaged in workshops that drew out their underlying reasons for supporting, opposing, or feeling neutral about the War on Drugs. Very few said they felt neutral; the audience was almost evenly split between supporters and opponents. Those who supported Duterte’s efforts in the War on Drugs nevertheless said that protests should be welcomed. Some supporters expressed their view that the police are already adhering to strict rules of engagement in the arrest of drug suspects. During the discussion with guests from the Philippines, a relative of a victim, Mikas Matsuzawa, gave an account of the police operation that killed his uncle to illustrate how police violate rules. The Chairperson of the country’s Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, noted that police investigations into wrongful killings have not resulted in any cases being filed in court.

After the symposium, many participants described the community dialogue as a model of respectful interaction and commented that such interaction is sorely absent in social media. Organisers were approached by a number of the participants keen to participate in follow-up activities and to support the campaign to stop the killings in the Philippines.

The event was livestreamed on Facebook and was viewed by more than 1,000 people. Watch the recording online here.

End of Year Good Wishes

Regarding Rights wishes all our readers a happy and peaceful end of the year, and joy in the year ahead.


Leave a comment

Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Wonderful news for Ciara

ciara vivaRegarding Rights contributor and former CIGJ Visiting PhD scholar, Ciara O’Connell has successfully defended her doctoral thesis in a viva held at the University of Sussex School of Law, Politics and Sociology on 16th November. We are delighted to congratulate Ciara on this very significant milestone, and to report that she actually found the experience rewarding and empowering!

Ciara’s PhD examined the role of women’s reproductive rights in redressing gender-based harm in the Inter-American human rights system. Read Ciara’s Regarding Rights post, discussing aspects of her doctoral research here, and some of her other academic work here.

Duterte beyond Facebook

Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ is polarising political debate in the Philippines and beyond. Tomorrow (Saturday 3rd December), ANU will host a public deliberative forum designed to transcend the acrimony that Duterte’s policies have spawned on social media. The forum will encourage deeper reflection and respectful discussion about what is at stake. Sponsors include the CIGJ, the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra, and ANU’s Filipino Association.

Duterte - Beyond Facebook

Leave a comment

Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Examining legal responses to forced migration

Vera's students 1

Emma with Dr Věra Honusková and students from Věra’s ‘Asylum and Refugee Law Clinic’ at Charles University, Prague.

 Emma Larking was a guest speaker at a conference on ‘Legal Responses to Forced Mass Migration: Regional Approaches and Perspectives’ in Olomouc, the Czech Republic, last month.

A focus at the conference on forced migration within Africa provided a fascinating and useful corrective to characterisations of refugee flows into Europe as a crisis. It also challenged the idea – widespread in Europe – that the continent is the primary destination for all people forced into exile in Africa or the Middle East.

Continue Reading →

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Brasil, 2015 © Ana Guzzo | Flickr (

Brasil, 2015 © Ana Guzzo | Flickr (

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 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.

Continue Reading →

Leave a comment

Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

The Future of Women’s Engagement with International Law

Hilary Charlesworth with members of the International Court of Justice

Since Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin, and Shelley Wright published their ground-breaking ‘Feminist Approaches to International Law’ in 1991, scholars and advocates have been exploring the interaction between the rights and well-being of women and the promise of international law. The Future of Women’s Engagement with International Law Project aims to define the research agenda for women’s engagement with international law over the next 50 years. Continue Reading →