Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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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.



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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Welcome Nathan Willis

Nathan Willis

Our most recent Visiting PhD scholar, Nathan Willis, joined us early in the new year. Nathan is based at Southern Cross University and his PhD research analyses the use of rule of law concepts by foreign investors in Rakhine (Arakan) State, Myanmar (Burma). He also considers what legal strategies are available to communities in Rakhine State to safeguard their interests in land and natural resources.

Nathan completed the Juris Doctor degree at the University of Southern Queensland in 2012 and was awarded the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. He is a Registered Nurse and has specialised in both International Health and Development and Aged Care. Nathan has been a lovely addition to the CIGJ and RegNet community and we will be sorry to farewell him at the end of this month. Happily, though, he leaves us with our first  Regarding Rights post for the year – Nathan’s consideration of whether Australia’s Corporations Act should be reformed in order to restrain ‘corporate colonialism’ will be published next week.

Congratulations Cheryl White

We are thrilled to congratulate Regarding Rights contributor and much-valued member of RegNet, Cheryl White on the successful completion of her PhD. Cheryl’s thesis, ‘From Expressivism to Communication: A Study of the Trial Procedure of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia’ undertook a close study of the first trial in the ECCC and, on this basis, critiqued prevailing theories of international criminal justice. Describing the thesis as ‘a pleasure to read’, one of her examiners elaborated: ‘This [is] an excellent submission, based on a theory crafted from original thinking and deep and mature reflection. The work has balance, high calibre conceptualisation and engagement with theory, thorough and wide-ranging research, sophisticated and meticulous analysis, an original methodology and a wonderful drafting style throughout.’

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Making reparation for Khmer Rouge crimes at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Khieu Sampham and Nuon Chea image from

Khieu Sampham and Nuon Chea
image from

By Cheryl White

Centre for International Governance and Justice

The magnitude of crimes of mass atrocity and the depth of the harm they cause, personal and societal, render reparations awards inadequate in real terms. However, representative justice process and tangible reparations, although limited, may give new hope to victims of crimes in contexts where previously the hope of a meaningful remedy had been lost. This may now be playing out in Cambodia, where after more than thirty years victims of the Khmer Rouge regime have rights to participate in trials of the leaders of the regime, and to receive tangible reparations. Continue Reading →