Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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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.


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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.

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

Regarding Rights Regular, Cynthia Banham in the Guardian

Cynthia Banham discusses the politics of the David Hicks case in this recent article for The Guardian.

‘Evidently Australia held some sway over the US in relation to its citizens at Guantanamo Bay – but it only wielded it when domestic politics demanded it.’
Evidently Australia held some sway over the US in relation to its citizens at Guantanamo Bay – but it only wielded it when domestic politics demanded it.’ Photograph: Nikki Short/AAPImage


CIGJ Visitors

It has been a busy few weeks at the Centre, with visits from Sally Engle Merry, Róisín Burke, and Mariana Assis. Sally is Professor of Anthropology, Law and Society at New York University and an Adjunct Professor at the Centre. With typical energy and generosity, Sally packed a great deal into her week long stay. She hosted a masterclass discussing her work on the politics of indicators in the field of human rights; gave a seminar considering four different approaches to doing ethnography in the transnational sphere; and delivered a lecture to celebrate International Women’s Day and the fourth anniversary of ANU’s Gender Institute. Following her lecture, Sally launched three new books, including Human Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: Rituals and Ritualism, edited by Emma Larking and CIGJ director, Hilary Charlesworth. Contributors to the book include Ben Authers and CIGJ affiliate, Takele Bulto.

Róisín Burke is an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow based at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway. She is currently working on a project examining rule of law programming in transitional states, with a focus on gender justice and women’s legal empowerment. Róisín will be with us until the end of the month.

It has also been a delight to welcome Mariana Assis, our most recent Visiting PhD Scholar. Mariana joins us from the New School for Social Research, where her work focuses on the transnational production and circulation of women’s rights discourses. We look forward to hearing more about Mariana’s research in the digital pages of Regarding Rights!

New database of views issued by Human Rights Treaty Bodies

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recently launched a public online database of all case law issued by the UN’s human rights treaty bodies.

As well as being a resource for the general public and for scholars, the Office of the High Commissioner said it hopes the data base will assist individuals who are preparing to submit complaints to the committees by giving them access to the views and decisions taken by expert members.

Another useful resource for Australians are the follow-up reports compiled by Remedy Australia to assess Australia’s responses to treaty body views, and in particular, to see if substantive remedies have been provided in cases in which complaints of human rights violations have been upheld. Remedy’s analysis of 33 cases in which complaints of human rights violations were upheld by the treaty bodies between 1994-2014 suggests that only six have been fully remedied.

International Law Association (Australia) Launches Blog

The ILA (Australia) recently launched a new blog: The ILA Reporter. The blog is edited by Timothy Gorton and CIGJ affiliate, Harry Aitken. Regarding Rights congratulates everyone involved on this exciting new contribution to international law reporting and commentary.

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Centre for International Governance and Justice: News and Events

We are happy to announce the successful recipients of CIGJ Visiting PhD Scholarships for 2014: congratulations to Mariana Assis (The New School for Social Research); Ciara O’Connell (University of Sussex); Mikko Rajavuori (University of Turku); Yvette Selim (University of New South Wales); and Nathan Willis (Southern Cross University). We also look forward to welcoming Jonathan Kent (University of Toronto) and Betheli O’Carroll (University of Queensland) as Visiting PhD Scholars at the Centre later this year. We will introduce all our PhD visitors individually to Regarding Rights readers over the course of the year – and we look forward to their contributions to our human rights conversation! Our thanks as well to everyone who applied – the strength of the applications we received made our decision-making extremely difficult. If you missed out this year, please do think about applying again next year.