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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Civil Society Resistance in Liberal Democracies in a Time of Rising Non-Accountability

By Cynthia Banham*

School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, and RegNet, ANU

No way

Political accountability, we are taught to believe, is a defining feature of liberal democracies. A basic relationship of accountability lies at the heart of democratic government: citizens elect their political representatives, and these representatives become accountable to voters. Yet political accountability, as we have traditionally understood it to exist in liberal democracy, is under stress.

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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.

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Centre for International Governance & Justice: News & Events

Exciting news for Cynthia

 Cynthia BanhamWe are delighted to announce that CIGJ Postdoctoral Fellow and Regarding Rights contributor, Cynthia Banham has been awarded a University of Queensland Fellowship. These prestigious Fellowships are designed to support academics of exceptional calibre. Cynthia will take up the Fellowship in UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies where she will work on a new project titled, ‘The voice and international human rights: offshore detention after 9.11’. In other great news for Cynthia, she has signed a contract with Hart Publishing to publish a book based on her PhD thesis. The book will be called Liberal Democracies and the Torture of their Citizens and is due out in 2017. Congratulations on both counts Cynthia!

Human Rights Tertiary Teachers Workshop

2016 Human Rights Tertiary Teachers' Workshop

2016 Human Rights Tertiary Teachers’ Workshop

The 6th annual Human Rights Tertiary Teachers’ Workshop was hosted by the Faculty of Law at UNSW on the 17th of February. As with previous workshops, it was a wonderful day with many lively discussions about the practice and teaching of human rights. We will provide a fuller account of the day in a future ‘news & events’ post.

 

 


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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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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Welcome Catherine O’Rourke! Catherine is Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and International Law, and Gender Research Coordinator at the University of Ulster’s Transitional Justice Institute (TJI). Her current research projects consider the perceived costs and benefits of feminist engagement with international law. One case study considers local, transnational and ‘insider’ campaigns for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in Northern Ireland. A second case study is concerned with local alliances between human rights and feminist organisations in engaging the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to advance women’s reproductive rights in Northern Ireland.

Catherine arrived at the CIGJ last Monday and graciously stepped into a free seminar slot to discuss a fascinating development in international criminal law. Recently, the TJI was commissioned by the International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims to hold a consultation on the implementation of the reparations order in the Lubanga case. Catherine described some of the complex issues that emerged at the consultation and the dilemmas that remain.

Catherine will also present a seminar this coming Tuesday: ‘Feminist strategy in International Law: a conceptual and empirical framework.’

Torture After 9.11: The Asia Pacific Context

CIGJ fellow, Cynthia Banham, is convening a workshop on ‘Torture After 9.11: The Asia Pacific Context. The workshop, to be held at ANU in November, will examine the current state of the norm against torture with particular emphasis on understandings and practices around torture in the Asia-Pacific region. The keynote address will be delivered by Professor Stephen Toope, Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. A call for papers has just been circulated.


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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Cynthia BanhamCongratulations to Cynthia Banham

Frequent Regarding Rights contributor and CIGJ member Cynthia Banham has successfully completed her PhD. Titled “The Responses of Liberal Democracies to the Torture of Citizens: A Comparative Study”, Cynthia’s research compares how three liberal democracies – Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom – responded to the torture of their own citizens after 11 September 2001. One of Cynthia’s examiner’s reports described her thesis as “an engaging read from beginning to end,” praising its detailed empirical analysis; another hailed it as a “substantial, original, well-written and well-documented contribution” to the field. This examiner added that, “The writing…was crystal clear, and the structure effective and well thought out.” Congratulations on a fantastic achievement, Cynthia!

Human Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: Rituals and Ritualism released

The new year also saw the publication of a new volume by CIGJ researchers. Edited by Hilary Charlesworth and Emma Larking, Human Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: Rituals and Ritualism (published by Cambridge University Press) provides the first sustained analysis of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and explains how the Review functions within the architecture of the United Nations. Drawing on socio-legal scholarship and the insights of human rights practitioners, essays in the volume consider the UPR’s regulatory power and the rituals and ritualism associated with the Review, and suggests how this ritualism might be overcome. Chapters include an examination of Canada’s appearance before the UPR by Regarding Rights editor, Benjamin Authers, and a consideration of Africa’s engagement with the mechanism by CIGJ affiliate, Takele Bulto.

Talk by  Bryan Stevenson

The upcoming Fifth Annual Human Rights Tertiary Teachers’ Workshop will feature a keynote lecture by Bryan Stevenson, Professor at NYU Law School and Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. One of America’s leading human rights lawyers and clinical law professors, Stevenson has been described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as American’s own Nelson Mandela and his soon to be released book, Just Mercy, has been described in the New York Times as ‘searing, moving and infuriating memoir’ of his experience in tackling racism and injustice in the American justice system. Bryan will offer his reflections on how to engage and motivate students to protect and promote human rights beyond the classroom.

If you’re interested in attending the Workshop, please register through this webform.


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Torture Admission by US at UN Treaty Body Review

Image: Witness Against Torture/flickr

By Cynthia Banham,

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

The United States official left the UN Committee Against Torture in no doubt when he appeared before it last month: the US used torture as a matter of policy after 11 September 2001.[1]

‘[W]e do not claim to be perfect,’ Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, told the Committee. ‘A little more than ten years ago, our government was employing interrogation methods that, as President Obama has said, any fair-minded person would believe were torture.’[2] In the same breath, Malinowski also noted that torture not only devastates its victims, but harms people and countries that use it and is employed to coerce false confessions – or to inflict suffering for its own sake.

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Torture, the War on Terror, and The New York Times

By Cynthia Banham,

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Image: www.tytnetwork.com

Last month, The New York Times decided it was time to ‘recalibrate’ its language to describe aspects of the US’s treatment of detainees in the war on terror. The executive editor, Dean Banquet, released a statement announcing that, at the urging of the newspaper’s reporters, from now on it would use the word ‘torture’ to describe some of the more brutal interrogation methods the CIA used against detainees under the Bush Administration. Previously the newspaper had used euphemisms favoured by the Bush Administration to describe these practices, such as ‘harsh or brutal interrogation methods’. Continue Reading →


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The UK Detainee Inquiry: accountability promises unfulfilled

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib Image from the Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AbuGhraibAbuse-standing-on-box.jpg

Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib
Image from the Wikimedia Commons

Six days before the Christmas just gone, the British government unexpectedly released the public version of the report of the Detainee Inquiry into torture complicity by British officials after 11 September 2001. Established in 2010, the Detainee Inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron soon after taking office. It followed a series of damaging court cases brought by Britain’s detainees in the war on terror (citizens and residents) over their alleged torture, and the UK’s involvement.

The Report of the Detainee Inquiry raises many difficult questions for the government and its intelligence agencies, but makes no findings. Some of the questions concern official advice given to British intelligence agents who witnessed the torture of terrorist suspects to the effect that “there was no obligation to intervene”. Others relate to whether the UK became “inappropriately” involved in the US’s extraordinary rendition program. Continue Reading →