Essex Human Rights Summer School

The Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex ran its five day summer school on Human Rights Research Methods at its Colchester campus from 29 June to 3 July 2015. This was followed by a second week (6-7 July) of thematic modules on cutting edge issues in human rights, including:

  • Human Rights, Big Data and Technology (6-7 July)
  • Economic and Social Dimensions of Transitional Justice (6-7 July)
  • Human Rights and Drug Policy (6-7 July)

Human Rights Research Methods, 29 June-3 July 2015

  • Overview

    Following our highly successful launch of this unique summer school, we are offering the Human Rights Research Methods summer school again in 2015. The motivation for the summer school is the recognition that very little attention has been paid to methodology in human rights. This is in spite of the level of research on human rights that is carried out by academics, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nation and the direct bearing methodology has on the strength, persuasiveness and legitimacy of research findings and their impact on policy and practice.

    This summer school provides the core methods and skills needed to carry out human rights research whether for academic scholarship, bids for large research projects or reports for NGOs, international organisations and governments. Someone taking the summer school will learn how to design research proects and carry them out anywhere in the world. They wil learn about the range of tools and methodologies for human rights research (whether academic or practical) and when, why and how to employ particular research methods in particular research contexts. The summer school not only focuses on documenting human rights violations using qualitative and quantitative research methods but also measuring the impact and evidencing the effectiveness of policies and practices based on human rights. It is an essential course for postgraduate students, academics, lawyers and human rights professionals working in NGOs, government and international orgaisations.

    "These are exactly the types of skills needed by researchers in NGOs and in the UN and other international organisations. Knowing the Human Rights Centre, I am confident that it will deliver a summer school that is not only strong in academic content but very relevant and applicable to practical contexts."
    Ian Martin, former Secretary General of Amnesty International and head of UN human rights missions and peace operations in Rwanda, East Timor, Nepal and Libya

  • Learning outcomes

    All sessions will address research design, methodology and impact and will draw heavily on examples and case-studies. The programme also includes dedicated sessions on particular projects to develop the themes of research design, methodology and impact in greater depth. The summer school will be interactive, affording students many opportunities to apply the theory they have learned, including through dedicated sessions in which students will be given a problem ahead of the class and asked to prepare the research questions, methodology and impact strategy. Students will have the opportunity to receive feedback on existing research plans in one-on-one clinics throughout the school.

    In taking this course, students will:

    • have a strong understanding of the key methods used in human rights research and the way in which they can be used on their own or in combination (mixed methods);
    • learn to design research projects with a strong methodology, including for grant applications and to have optimal impact on policy and in practice;
    • have a strong understanding of how to ensure that the research meets ethical standards including in NGOs without ethics committees;
    • gain a strong appreciation of qualitative interviewing techniques including issues involved with interviewing victims and affected communities and carrying out research on sensitive human rights topics;
    • learn how to interpret data gained through interviews;
    • become ‘literate’ in carrying out quantitative research and collecting, processing and using data;
    • understand how to do research in different countries and researching in closed and challenging societies;
    • how to design and carry out comparative country research; and
    • how to measure the impact of policies and practices based on human rights.

  • Teaching team

    The summer school will be taught by a combination of Essex and external human rights academics and practitioners. The team includes:

    • Associate Professor Başak Çalı, Koç University, Turkey
    • Professor Paul Hunt, Human Rights Centre and School of Law, University of Essex and former Senior Human Rights Advisor to the World Health Organization Assistant Director-General; UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and Rapporteur of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    • Professor Todd Landman, Executive Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Human Rights Centre and Department of Government, University of Essex
    • Lorna McGregor, Director of the Human Rights Centre, School of Law, University of Essex and former International Legal Advisor to REDRESS and the International Bar Association
    • Dr Sarah Nouwen, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
    • Professor Leigh A Payne, Director of the Latin American Centre, University of Oxford
    • Dr Róisín Ryan-Flood, Human Rights Centre and Department of Sociology, University of Essex
    • Professor Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Professor of Clinical Law and Faculty Director, Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, New York University School of Law
    • Associate Professor Nora Sveaass, Member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Department of Psychology, University of Oslo
    • Esther Major, Researcher on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Amnesty International

    Esther Major is currently working as Researcher/Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for Amnesty International. Prior to that post she worked as Amnesty International's researcher on Central America, responsible for planning and running AI research missions, campaign and advocacy work in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Amongst other projects, Esther was responsible for developing and conducting research and producing reports documenting sexual violence against women and girls, violations of women and girl's sexual and reproductive rights including the impact of the criminalisation of abortion, as well as research into violations of human rights by the military and police following the coup d’etat in Honduras. She is currently working on a project investigating the access women and girls have to sexual and reproductive information, services and goods in Burkina Faso.

    Prior to working at Amnesty Esther worked for the IBA Human Rights Institute for 8 years, and was responsible for projects in several countries including a six year project in Zimbabwe which focussed on judges, lawyers and prosecutors. She planned, coordinated and carried out several research missions to investigate and document human rights violations during the 8 years she worked there including to Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. She is fluent in English and Spanish. Esther has an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex.

  • Teaching sessions

    Sessions on the summer school include:

    Introductory Session (Lorna McGregor, Essex)

    This session will provide an overview of the week, focusing on project design and the choice of methods available and commonly used in scholarship and in practice.

    Interviewing Survivors of Human Rights Violations (Nora Sveaass, University of Oslo)

    Looking into the situation of survivors of gross human rights violations when they are seeking justice and reparation, often many years after the traumatic events, losses etc., represent major challenges for a researcher. A number of conditions must be dealt with, such as, creating a relation of trust, present the research interest in ways that engage, at all times respect the boundaries of the person and always be attentive to problems in relation to the interviews. One should always be in contact with persons or professionals that may be supportive in case informants need this. These issues, ethical dilemmas and other challenges will be dealt with and examples from ongoing research in the field will be presented and discussed.

    Interviewing Women and Girls (Esther Major, Amnesty International)

    Interviewing survivors of abuses and human rights violations throws up a myriad of "best practice" ethical and safety issues which must be taken into account and considered. This session will focus on the existing standards and guidelines, as well as drawing on experience documenting human rights violations and abuses by both state and non-state actors. In particular, attention will be paid to documenting violence against women and girls and violations of sexual and reproductive rights.

    Some discussion will also take place on obtaining and use of images and some particular ethical and other considerations when seeking and using audiovisual materials. How to seek and obtain consent, how to ensure the work does not contribute to re-affirming pre-existing stereotypes will feature amongst the issues covered. At the end some time will also be given to conducting interviews with officials, as well as victims. The session will aim to be a mixture of presentation and open discussion, with questions and interaction positively encouraged.

    Conducting In-Country Research (Esther Major, Amnesty International)

    How we do our work and conduct research into human rights violations is (or should be!) as important as what we produce at the end of an investigation. This session will focus on research methodology development and factors to consider when planning to research and document human rights violations and abuses. The idea will be to be as practical as possible, highlighting the key stages of research methodology development, why and how each of these stages is crucial to contribute to the success of the research and or campaign, as well as to guarantee accountability and transparency in our work. Some of the key ethical and safety issues that may need to be considered from the outset as well as during a research project will also be aired and opened up to discussion.

    Researching in Conflict and Post-Conflict States (Sarah Nouwen, University of Cambridge)

    Based on experiences in Uganda and Sudan, this session addresses the practical, epistemological, ethical and existential challenges of interviewing about human rights issues in (post-)conflict states. Borrowing from the anthropological practice of reflexivity, we will discuss, inter alia, the notion of informed consent, the challenges of socially desirable, pedagogical and survival answers, the phenomenon of feedback, reactivity and research fatigue, the desire to do something helpful, the various security risks and personal questions of complicity.

    Single and Comparative Case Studies (Başak Çalı, Koc University)

    These sessions will address how to carry out single and comparative case studies of human rights law, its effects and impact. The sessions will focus on how to carry out legal and qualitative single case studies and comparative case studies and justification of case selection in qualitative and legal research design. The sessions will distinguish positivistic and interpretive case study and comparative design, but will focus in detail into interpretive case study designs and the relationship with research questions, literature review and case-selection justification. The sessions will then look at the design and implementation of two successful ESRC and QNRF funded research projects, both with multiple case-studies. The sessions will conclude with writing case-selection justification exercises and evaluation of these justifications.

    Qualitative Data Analysis (Róisín Ryan-Flood, University of Essex)

    Data analysis is far more than simply providing a summary of interview transcripts. This session will cover: how to transcribe interviews; how to identify patterns in the data; and how to make sense of research material using discourse analysis.

    Choosing between Research Approaches: Qualitative v/and Quantitative (Todd Landman, University of Essex and Margaret Satterthwaite, New York University)

    This session examines the rationale underpinning the choice of a qualitative and quantitative approach, demonstrating through a case study the possibilities and limitations of both. It also considers the possibilities of combining qualitative and quantitative approaches and the impact that might have on research outcomes.

    Counting Human Rights Violations (Todd Landman, University of Essex)

    This session examines events-based data on individual violations of human rights that has been developed in the work on truth commissions, commissions of inquiry, conflict research and other projects that utilise the ‘who did what to whom’ framework developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (, Benetech Initiative (, and Human Rights Data Analysis Group ( It discusses the challenges around source material, event complexity, reporting biases, and making strong inferences.

    Surveys (Todd Landman, University of Essex)

    This session looks at ‘standards-based’ measures of human rights practice that code country performance on ordinal scales for comparative analysis and survey-based measures based on perceptions and experiences of human rights practices. Standards-based scales are very popular in development work and policy analysis at a higher level of abstraction, and have formed a large part of the existing social science literature on explaining the cross-national and time-series variation in human rights protection. Survey-based measures rely on designing and administering questionnaire instruments to samples of the population within countries, and have been used to assess a wide range of human rights violations experienced by particular parts of the population. For both types of measures, discussion will focus on sources of information, types of samples, external and internal validity, and the limitations of each style of measurement and assessment.

    Socio-Economic and Administrative Statistics (Todd Landman, University of Essex)

    This session examines the use of socio-economic and administrative statistics, which involves using existing or creating new indicators for governmental activity that has a bearing on human rights, including input, process, output, outcome, and impact indicators. The United Nations has developed a framework for incorporating these kinds of measures into the work of treaty bodies, as well as other kids of human rights project work.

    Human Rights Indicators (Margaret Sattherthwaite, New York University)

    Does human rights law "work"? Have government efforts led to improved outcomes? How can we determine whether human rights advocacy efforts are having an impact? Researchers and advocates alike have turned to human rights indicators in recent years to answer questions like these. This session will consider the major approaches to human rights indicators, as well as assessing the promise and perils of embracing this approach to assessing progress.

    The Role of Databases (Leigh Payne, University of Oxford)

    Does torture prevention work? Do human rights treaties make a difference? These two questions represent the types of concerns behind the creation of human rights databases. Several human rights databases attempt to track human rights improvements or their decline and to put tools in the hands of analysts to measure the effectiveness of human rights laws, policies, and practices on human rights outcomes. These include the Cingranelli and Richards Human Rights Data Project, Freedom House, Ill-Treatment and Torture Country-Year Data, and Political Terror Scale. In addition to discussing the value and objectives of these databases, in this session we will consider the critiques of human rights database measurements and indicators. We will further explore alternative methodologies to understanding human rights outcomes.

    Measuring the Impact of Transitional Justice (Leigh Payne, University of Oxford)

    Does transitional justice work? While the mechanisms of criminal trials, truth commissions, reparations, vetting, and customary justice are increasingly promoted and adopted around the world, scholars and policy-makers still probe their effectiveness in reducing human rights violations. Some contend that transitional justice is overloaded with goals and objectives that it cannot possibly fulfil. Others posit that transitional justice mechanisms fail because they do not address the root causes of violations. Certain proponents of transitional justice call for ‘holistic’ approaches that combine an array of mechanisms, while others suggest that only specific mechanisms will deter human rights violations. In this session we will examine the arguments made, the key debates, and empirical analyses that test and attempt to resolve them.

    Measuring the Impact of the Right to Health (Paul Hunt, University of Essex)

    This session will explore a WHO project (2012-2013) that investigated whether or not there is evidence that human rights contribute to health gains for women and children. First, participants will learn a little about health rights, such as the OHCHR-WHO understanding on a human rights-based approach to health; participants are asked to read at least one of the readings (see list below) before the session. Second, they will be provided with some basic information about human rights and women’s and children’s health in a country and asked to reflect on how to approach a project to investigate the impact (if any) of human rights on women’s and children’s health in that country. Which research questions might be asked? Which methods might be used? Which disciplines? What are among the key challenges/obstacles confronting such a study? This exercise will be conducted in small groups which report back to the whole group. After discussion, Paul Hunt and the participants will look at the report of the WHO project and consider how it approached these issues.

    Bringing the Methods Together: When to Use What (Lorna McGregor, University of Essex)

    Details to follow.

    One-to-One Clinic (Gary Williams, University of Essex)

    On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the summer school, a one-to-one clinic will be run over lunchtime where students can receive feedback on a one-page research methodology plan submitted ahead of the summer school.

Annual Human Rights Lecture

Our inaugural Annual Human Rights Lecture took place during the Summer Shool on Wednesday 1 July. Our speaker was Hila Jilani, pioneering lawyer, pro-democracy campaigner, leading activist in Pakistan's women's movement and international champion of human rights.

Thematic Modules, 6-7 July 2015

The second week of our summer school offered a range of thematic modules on cutting edge issues in human rights.

Human Rights, Big Data and Technology, 6–7 July

  • Overview

    This summer school module and examines the use of Big Data and Technology as both a key threat to human rights and a possible means of achieving human rights protection. It first examines the risks to privacy and a wide range of other human rights posed by security surveillance and near ubiquitous non-State surveillance. Of particular concern is the use made of collected data, for instance through the use of predictive analytic techniques.

    The module then addresses the increasing use of Big Data and Technology by human rights organisations to collect evidence and document human rights violations, with a particular focus on user-generated content and social media. We will examine the ethics involved in both critiquing and advocating for the use of Big Data and Technology for human rights; the reliability and possibility of mining and analysing such data to document human rights violations, including its potential use as evidence before national courts and the international criminal court; and the limits of data protection and informed consent.

  • Teaching team

    This summer school module will be taught by a combination of Essex and external human rights academics and practitioners. Confirmed teachers include:

    Tanya O’Carroll is currently Adviser to the Technology and Human Rights team at Amnesty International, which has been recently established to respond to opportunities and threats to human rights resulting from the development and use of new technologies by civil society, governments and companies. Most recently Tanya has been leading a new strand of work for Amnesty focused on investigating and campaigning against unlawful surveillance, including the launch of the #UnfollowMe campaign. In her current role, she also focuses on investigating, piloting and developing new tools and tactics to assist in human rights monitoring and reporting, individual protection, and rapid response. At Amnesty, Tanya has the lead the development of the Panic Button App for human rights defenders, launch of the Detekt anti-spyware software for activists and journalists and deployment of the Globaleaks platform to help Amnesty receive information securely and anonymously from sources. Before joining Amnesty, Tanya worked with WITNESS’s Cameras Everywhere Initiative and in Honduras developing a media project with an LGBTI organization following the 2009 military coup. Tanya has an MA in Human Rights from Columbia University in New York and a BA in History from Cambridge University.

    Jean-Jacques Badibanga started his carrier as a private lawyer at the Brussels Bar. In 1998, he joined Avocats Sans Frontières (“ASF”) a NGO which lead programs to support the development and the reinforcement of judicial systems with emphasis on Human Rights and Rule of Law. Starting as ASF Head of Mission in Rwanda with the mandate to provide assistance to the national authorities in dealing with the genocide trials, in 2001 he got appointed Director in charge of Programs in Africa at the headquarters in Brussels. In 2004 Mr Badibanga joined the International Criminal Court, first within the Investigation division where he eventually lead the investigation on the Central African Republic which ended up with the arrest of Jean-Pierre Bemba the former rebel leader who was then the Vice President of Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr Badibanga joined the Prosecution division in 2010 and he is currently leading the prosecution in the case The Prosecutor v/ Jean-Pierre Bemba.

    Sam Dubberley is a co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub and a fellow of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University where he was part of a research team that studied how broadcasters use content sourced from social media. He has over ten years’ experience in broadcast news and was head of the Eurovision News Exchange from 2010 to 2013, managing the world’s largest exchange of television news content. He was a bulletin editor for Bloomberg Television. Sam holds an MA in Modern Languages from the University of Cambridge, an MA with Distinction in Media and Communication from the University of Leicester, and an MBA from Koç University, Istanbul.

    Carly Nyst is the Legal Director of Privacy International, a London-based NGO dedicated to fighting unlawful surveillance and promoting the right to privacy around the world. Carly directs Privacy International’s public interest litigation and leads the organisation’s advocacy in regional and international human rights mechanisms, where Privacy International advocates for stronger protections for privacy and personal data. Carly is an Australian-qualified human rights lawyer, and was previously the Legal Adviser to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and Visiting Scholar at the Colombia Law School’s Human Rights Institute.

  • Sessions

    Sessions on this summer school module include:

    What We Know (and do not Know) about Security and Soft-Surveillance (Pete Fussey, Essex)

    Surveillance has been a continual feature of human societies stretching back to antiquity. Modernity saw important changes in the use of surveillance, as it enabled multiple ordering and organising processes, and operated as a means to make visible a series of variously imagined forms of urban dangerousness including disease, disorder and dissent. The twentieth century brought rapid changes in the ubiquity, potency and technological sophistication of surveillance practices and, as the century turned, 9/11 further catalyzed these developments and shepherded in many new coercive applications. Despite such long histories surveillance remains a highly controversial issue today, particularly in the wake of Edward Snowden’s June 2013 revelations over NSA and GCHQ surveillance. Perhaps aided by the readily available dystopian imagery of Orwell, and the frequently repeated binary of liberty versus security, many technologically advanced forms of surveillance have inspired a range of responses, often articulated in polarized expressions of outrage or techno-evangelism.

    This session examines the growth, application and impact of technological surveillance in relation to contemporary forms of security. This proliferation of surveillance has drawn multiple diverse practices, organisational approaches and ambitions for control into play, generating numerous paradoxes in the way surveillance operates. Among these, the governance of security has never been more diverse, yet Edward Snowden’s revelations remind us that the state matters. The ubiquity of social media and its co-option into policing functions challenge the way surveyors and surveyed are distinguished and blurs the boundaries between confession and coercion. Collapsing distinctions between domestic and international risks generate questions over the location of borders, the satiability of demands for security and the contribution of ubiquitous surveillance to ambient levels of suspicion and anxiety. Perhaps most importantly, this profusion of surveillance has led to a diversification of its impacts onto the surveilled. Such complexities animate important questions over coercion and control in contemporary life and challenge the common reduction of surveillance to Orwellian metaphors or simple dichotomies of liberty versus security.

    The Rights’ Implications (Threats and Opportunities) (Daragh Murray and Lorna McGregor, Essex)

    This session will address the human rights implications arising from the use of communications technology and Big Data. To-date, work in this area has been motivated by State surveillance and the Snowden revelations and has focused primarily on the right to privacy. However, privacy protections are just one aspect of a complex issue: new technology poses threats and opportunities in equal measure, and engages the full spectrum of human rights protections. For instance, the use of predictive health care analytics to prioritise the allocation of scare health resources can amplify existing inequalities, further disadvantaging the disadvantaged. At the same time, disaggregated data can be used to identify vulnerable communities requiring intervention, and facilitating progressive realisation. This session will trace the threats and opportunities associated with the use of technology and Big Data, taking a comprehensive look at the rights affected.

    The Current International Regulatory Approach (Daragh Murray and Lorna McGregor, Essex, and Carly Nyst, Privacy International)

    The past three years has seen international regulation as it pertains to human rights and technology move forward in leaps and bounds. The political fallout of the Snowden revelations gave birth to international initiatives to reinforce the protection of privacy and data protection in the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, resulting in two UNGA resolutions and the establishment by the Council of a new Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. Internet governance processes began, for the first time, taking human rights considerations. Concurrently, data protection and data retention debates have been in flux the world over. As South Africa became the 100th State to adopt data protection regulation, European governments and corporations have been engaged in the contentious elaboration of the European Data Protection Regulation, wrestling over complex debates around anonymisation, big data and the protection of personal information in an era of cross-border data transfer. The European Court of Justice invalidated the Data Retention Directive and is considering the lawfulness of the Safe Harbour Agreement, and European courts are being asked to consider the lawfulness of mass surveillance practices. Concurrently, the European Commission is reviewing the European Dual-Use Regulation which controls, inter alia, the export of surveillance technologies, and is expected to produce a draft regulation by the end of 2015.

    This session will assess the current international regulatory approach to human rights and technology, with a focus on surveillance, data protection and the export of surveillance technologies. We will analyse the impact of political and societal developments on international human rights law pertaining to privacy and data protection, and discuss developing soft law standards pertaining to these issues.

    Regulation at the National Level: the case of GCHQ (Kirsty Hughes, Univeristy of Cambridge)

    The Snowden revelations highlighted the role of the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (‘GCHQ’) in the interception, collection, analysis and transfer of data, sparking significant public and parliamentary debate. This issue will be used as a case study to examine existing approaches to regulation at the national level. We will examine the adequacy of domestic laws, issues arising in relation to national security concerns and restrictions, and the use of governmental guidelines.

    Use of User Generated Content and Social Media as a New Approach to Human Rights Documentation: the Possibilities and the Problems (Tanya O'Carroll, Amnesty International)

    This session will look at how technology can be used to assist in the documentation of human rights violations and the protection of human rights defenders. The experiences of Witness and Amnesty International will be examined in order to draw out both the possibilities and the potential problems arising in this regard. Case studies will be used to highlight specific issues arising, and to identify potential future developments.

    Can Eyewitness Media through Social Media be Used (Sam Dubberley, Eyewitness Media Hub)

    The emergence of social media networks and associated technologies in the past decade have allowed citizens to document their lives in unprecedented ways in an unprecedented volume. News organisations have been able to capitalise on this phenomenon and tell their audiences stories with an immediacy never previously possible. Much of what news organisations have discovered is now being used by human rights advocacy and prosecution. But with these new possibilities to witness the world come a range of challenges. Focussing on the media landscape, this seminar will look at some of the best examples of stories told through content sourced from social media networks, it will explain some of the skills required to find the content and verify that it is what it purports to be. It will also touch on the challenges around the content producer - both legal and ethical - that need to be addressed and discuss some of what needs to be done to ensure this content is used in a sustainable fashion moving forward.

    Social Media as Evidence before the ICC (Jean-Jacques Badibanga, International Criminal Court)

    Digital evidence can greatly assist in the prosecution of international crimes. Emails and other communications, satellite images, and user-generated content – such as photos or videos recorded on smartphones or other devices – can provide an invaluable source of evidence in relation to both establishing the facts and identifying the role of specific individuals. However, the use of electronic evidence also poses significant challenges, particularly in relation to relevance and reliability. This session will look at the challenges faced by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in using electronic evidence, and the measures taken to overcome these difficulties.

    Protecting data and communications: what can and cannot be done (Ed Paton-Williams, Open Rights Group)

    This session is practically focused and will look at what can and cannot be done with respect to the protection of personal data and communications. We will begin by addressing the ability of States and other third parties to intercept and retrieve data, and the typical practices that can lead to vulnerabilities. We will then address the measures that can be taken to secure data, including the use of encryption. Importantly, this element of the discussion will highlight the limits of possible protection, particularly over the long-term.

Economic and Social Dimensions of Transitional Justice, 6–7 July

  • Overview

    This summer school module organised by the Essex Transitional Justice Network will examine to what extent and how transitional justice should address the economic and social dimensions of conflict or repression, such as land displacement or resource plunder.

    Day one will provide an introduction to transitional justice, followed by discussions of how to conceptualise economic and social dimensions of transitional justice, the benefits and challenges of broadening transitional justice processes to include such issues, and analyse how to address violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the context of transitional justice. Day two will look at different case studies in which economic and social dimensions of transitional justice played an important role, such as Colombia, Uganda, the DRC, and the Arab Uprising.

  • Teaching team

    This summer school module will be taught by a combination of Essex and external human rights academics and practitioners. Confirmed teachers include:

    • Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl, Lecturer in Comparative Politics of the Middle East, SOAS, University of London
    • Dr Phil Clark, Reader in Comparative and International Politics, SOAS, University of London
    • Ingrid Gubbay, Hausfeld Global Litigation Solutions
    • Professor Sheldon Leader, Essex Business and Human Rights Project, Human Rights Centre and School of Law, University of Essex
    • Marcus Lenzen, Conflict Adviser, Conflict Humanitarian and Security Department, Department for International Development (DFID)
    • Professor Sabine Michalowski, Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network, Human Rights Centre and School of Law, University of Essex
    • Neslon Camilo Sanchez, Researcher, Dejusticia and Associate Professor, Universidad Nacional de Colombia


    Reem Abou-el-Fadl is Lecturer in Comparative Politics of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her research interests include the foreign policy making of developing states, as well as nationalism in Turkey and the Arab world, and her work has appeared in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Journal of Palestine Studies, and the International Journal of Transitional Justice, among other venues. She is particularly interested in Egyptian politics and history, and is co-editor of the Egypt page at jadaliyya e-zine. She is editor of the forthcoming volume Revolutionary Egypt: Connecting Domestic and International Struggles (Routledge, 2015).

    Phil Clark is a Reader in Comparative and International Studies at SOAS, University of London. He was previously the co-founder and convenor of Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) at the University of Oxford. His latest book is the The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda: Justice without Lawyers (Cambridge University Press) and he is currently completing a book on the politics of the International Criminal Court in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Ingrid Gubbay is a lawyer at Hausfeld Global Litigation Solutions. Her current practice is largely international in reach, and builds on a long tradition of the sister firms in the US, which have led the charge on testing legal principles of corporate complicity and liability against major corporations which financially and materially supported brutal regimes, for example Apartheid and the Holocaust. Ingrid currently acts and advises a number of organisations working on the front line in a number of human rights and environmental contexts including, land grabbing with respect to mining and logging operations, Judicial Review, employment and labour practices, supply chain issues, privacy and mass surveillance, and climate justice.

    Sheldon Leader is professor of law at the University of Essex and the Director of the Essex Business and Human Rights Projects, working on the social and human rights impacts of business activity. He regularly advises NGOs, governments and practitioners and the social impacts by business on which he has worked cover the full range of human rights, with a focus on labour/employment rights and on the property and resource rights of local populations affected by projects.

    Marcus Lenzen joined the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in 2009 and is currently a Senior Conflict Adviser in the Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department (CHASE). Previous roles with DFID included lead Conflict Adviser in Nigeria and lead on UK policy and funding towards multilateral peacebuilding institutions. Prior to joining DFID Marcus held positions with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the German Development Service (GIZ) and worked in and on countries and regions such as the Balkans, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Guatemala and Peru.

    Sabine Michalowski is Professor of Law at the University of Essex and Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network whose research area ‘Economic and social dimensions of transitional justice’ she chairs. Her current research focuses, inter alia, on corporate complicity and on economic dimensions of transitional justice. Her relevant publications include an edited collection on Corporate Accountability in the Context of Transitional Justice (Routledge in 2013) and “Ius cogens, Transitional Justice and Other Trends of the Debate on Odious Debts: A Response to the World Bank Discussion Paper on Odious Debts”, 48 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 61-120 (2010) (co-authored with Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky).

    Nelson Camilo Sánchez is Research coordinator of the Center for the Study of Law, Justice, and Society –Dejusticia and associate professor at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota. He holds a J.D from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and an LL.M in International Legal Studies from Harvard Law School. During 2004-2005 he received the "Rómulo Gallegos" scholarship from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. His recent publications include “Corporate Accountability, Reparations, and Distributive Justice in Post-Conflict Societies” (In Corporate Accountability in the Context of Transitional Justice, edited by Michalowski S.) and “Return within the Bounds of the Pinheiro Principles: The Colombian Land Restitution Experience” (Washington University Global Studies Law Review – coauthored with Attanasio D).

  • Sessions

    Sessions on this summer school module include:

    Introduction to Transitional Justice (Phil Clark, SOAS)

    This session will address the origins, key concepts, processes and debates within the broad field of transitional justice. It will highlight key tensions between analytical and advocacy trends in this field and their impact on current scholarship and policymaking. It will also question whether current transitional justice orthodoxies are appropriate for responding to increasingly complex forms of armed conflict, including intimate violence involving large numbers of everyday victims and perpetrators.

    What are the economic and social dimensions of transitional justice? (Sabine Michalowski, Essex)

    Traditionally, transitional justice (TJ) processes have focused on the accountability of perpetrators of gross human rights violations such as disappearances and torture. However, there is an increasing awareness that violations of civil and political rights are only one side of the story, as they are often closely linked with violations of socio-economic rights or the pursuit of economic interests and policies that can only be implemented by political oppression. This realisation is supported by the findings of various Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (e.g. Sierra Leone, Peru, East Timor).

    The main aim of this class is to discuss what is meant by economic and social dimensions of transitional justice, to explore if and why it might be important to include such dimensions into the transitional justice debate, and what potential problems such a broadening of the transitional agenda might raise. In particular, the following questions will be addressed:

    • Can the aims of transitional justice be achieved without addressing the socio-economic causes and consequence of conflicts or oppression?
    • What are the economic and social issues that might need to be included in the transitional justice debate?
    • What effect does the inclusion of socio-economic factors have on the understanding of transitional justice?
    • What are the potential problems of broadening the field of transitional justice so as to include socio-economic factors?

    Transitional Justice and Development (Marcus Lenzen, DFID)

    There are many connections between the fields of transitional justice and development but conceptually they remain under-explored, and in practice the relevant ‘communities’ do not engage much with one another. Both are fields of theoretical exploration and practical implementation concerned with processes of transformative change, often in the same societies. Many countries with legacies of mass human rights abuse also suffer from deep-seated poverty and inequality. Transitional justice measures, despite of conceptual origins linked firmly to transitions from authoritarian rule, have increasingly become articulated as a part of peacebuilding in countries emerging from violent conflict. Development assistance has also become increasingly concerned with supporting peacebuilding and statebuilding, not in the least as large parts of the world’s poorest people live in fragile and conflict-affected states. In 2011, the World Bank dedicated for the first time a World Development Report to the linkage between development and conflict, focusing on understanding recurring cycles of violence and how to break them. Aspects of justice featured prominently, and it recognised that human rights violations increase chances of violent conflict. The report also referred to transitional justice as a “core programme tool” to forestall cycles of violence.

    This session will explore the conceptual and practical linkages and issues between transitional justice and development by trying to answer the following questions:

    • Why should development actors be concerned with transitional justice (and vice versa)?
    • Which concepts help thinking about the linkages as well as limitations or contradictions?
    • What can transitional justice learn from development practice (and vice versa)?
    • Which practical and political issues do practitioners need to grapple with (with case studies)?

    Transitional Justice and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Camilio Sanchez, Dejusticia and Universidad Nacional de Colombia)

    The session will address the relationship between transitional justice and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). The question on how to deal with the economic and social dimensions of gross violence can be addressed by using different approaches to social justice: as a development problem, as a redistribution and equality question, or as a lack of fulfilment of ESCR. This session will focus on the latter. It will emphasize the particularities of the ESCR language and the dilemmas of using this approach to address the social and economic aftermaths of conflicts and repression.

    Case study Colombia (Camilio Sanchez, Dejusticia and Universidad Nacional de Colombia)

    This session will briefly present the dilemmas faced by the current transition process in Colombia regarding how to confront an agenda of transition from war to peace and the legacy of a more than 60 year old armed conflict. Among the issues addressed, there will be a focus on debates related to social phenomena that are considered to have triggered the conflict: social inequality, land concentration, and poverty. From there, the institutions and mechanisms created in the country which are under consideration to confront these problems will be discussed.

    Economic and Social Dimensions of Transitional Justice: The Case of Egypt (Reem Abou-El-Fadl, SOAS)

    The departure point of this session is that the conventional focus in transitional justice (TJ) processes on accountability for violations of civil and political rights is inadequate. Instead, the TJ agenda needs to be broadened, both to include economic and social dimensions, and as a direct result of this, to pay attention to the culpability of external actors. Both of these dimensions appeared most urgently during the Arab uprisings, as a string of neoliberal authoritarian regimes with external backing were challenged or overthrown. This session will focus on the Egyptian case to allow for a deeper empirical engagement with the theoretical debate on TJ, and to acquaint students with the details of a pivotal case in the Arab uprisings.

    The class will cover the period before the toppling of Husni Mubarak, and specifically the last ten years of his thirty year rule, during which his neoliberal policies intensified, before moving to the phases of ‘transition’ after his ouster on 11 February 2011. It will consider the three periods in which the military council, Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Mursi, and most recently General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi have governed, to allow students a sense of the chronology and continuity in TJ shortcomings since 2011. We will ask:

    • What were the features of Egypt’s economic and political system under Mubarak? What were the grievances of different sectors, e.g. workers, youth, etc.?
    • After Mubarak’s ousting, what were the main priorities of TJ practitioners with regard to Egypt? Who was contributing and shaping this debate? Did it inform policy?
    • How should we evaluate the trajectory of TJ since Mubarak’s ousting? What efforts and achievements have been made in this field, and which areas deserved more attention, and why?
    • What is the role of ‘experts’ positionality in debates about TJ in the Arab world and what is the import of the critique of orientalism made by Edward Said to this?

    In short, we are examining the politics of transitional justice in Egypt, as much as its practical and legal dimensions.

    Case study Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Phil Clark, SOAS)

    This session will assess some key social and economic dimensions of transitional justice in Uganda and the DRC. In doing so, it will explore the complex social and economic bases of conflict in these two countries, debates over responsibility for mass atrocity, overlapping victim-perpetrator identities, the implications of regional conflict (including proxy warfare) for transitional justice, and the difficult intersections of international, national and community-based approaches to transitional justice.

    Roundtable discussion – Transitional Justice and corporate accountability (Sabine Michalowski and Sheldon Leader, Essex, Camilo Sanchez, Dejusticia and Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Ingrid Gubbay, Hausfeld Global Litigation Solutions)

    This final session of the summer school will bring together experts on transitional justice and business and human rights to share their experience with how corporations can be held to account for their role in conflict or repression as part of transitional justice efforts and what challenges this brings.

Human Rights and Drug Policy, 6–7 July

  • Overview

    Developing a human rights framework for the study and implementation of drug policy

    Drug control is a neglected and under-researched human rights theme despite the scale of human rights abuses occurring in its name each year. The relationship between international human rights law and international drug control law is therefore a significant issue for human rights activists and scholars, yet to date it has largely gone unaddressed.

    A United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) scheduled for 2016 is a key moment to begin a discourse on how human rights can be given meaningful effect in the implementation of drug policy. This summer school module organised by the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy provides the core legal foundations of human rights and drug control, presents tools to undertake research, introduces the political landscape of policy reform and provides an in-depth discussion on the some of the most polarising human rights issues in the lead up to the UNGASS and beyond.

  • Teaching team

    This summer school module will be taught by a combination of Essex and external human rights academics and practitioners. Confirmed teachers include:

    • Dr Rick Lines, Visiting Fellow, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and Co-Founder/Chair of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy; Executive Director, Harm Reduction International
    • Professor Dave Bewley-Taylor, Director of the Global Drug Policy Observatory, Swansea University
    • Professor Joanne Csete, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
    • Professor Matthew Weait, School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London
    • Damon Barrett, Visiting Fellow, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex and Co-Founder/Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy; Stockholm University
    • Professor Julia Buxton, School of Public Policy, Central Eastern European University
    • Julie Hannah, Human Rights Centre and Co-Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, University of Essex

  • Sessions

    Sessions on this summer school module include:

    Legal Foundations of Human Rights and Drug Control (Rick Lines, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy)

    ‘No rule, treaty or custom, no matter how special its subject matter…applies in a vacuum.’ –International Law Commission, 2006

    This session will provide an introduction to the international law of drug control and its intersections with human rights law. It will look at how to apply a human rights legal methodology to scrutinize drug control activities, introduce key legal materials, provide direction on where to go for guidance and delve into questions of treaty interpretation.

    Setting the Political Stage: The confluence and collision of drug policy and national interest (Dave Bewley-Taylor, Swansea)

    Drug policy’s place in the hierarchy of foreign policy often sustains the parallel universes of human rights and drug control.

    Offering an international relations perspective of drug control, this session will provide an historical overview of the development of the drug control regime and an overview of the broad geopolitical issues underpinning contemporary drug reform debates. The subordinated human rights discourse within the political debates on drug control will be examined.

    Policy changes and human rights issues arising at the domestic level: Case stories on evidence having a place in policy-making (or not) (Joanne Csete, Columbia)

    Despite the need to implement evidence-based policy responses to drug control, scientific evidence about drug policy and program measures is still often dismissed. This session will present positive case studies of successful experiences of reliance on academic research and other evidence to advance drug policy reform. An examination of the case of drug courts will be used to illustrate the dangers for health and human rights of non-evidence-based policies. Reference will be made to the upcoming UNGASS debates, as well as the broader reform movement.

    Challenges to researching and advocating for criminalized groups (Matthew Weait, Birkbeck)

    Understanding the effects of criminalisation on the rights of individuals is an important area of human rights inquiry, particularly when it comes to drug control. This session will borrow from lessons learned on how criminal laws affect people living with HIV and present best practices for those working on drug control issues. The session will cover: challenges in researching criminalized groups, methods for creating an evidence base within criminalised groups to advocate for policy change, and how criminal laws affect groups that advocates are supposed to be helping.

    Promoting Security in Latin America: Human rights, drug policy and development (Julia Buxton, Central Eastern European University)

    Drugs and drug control have primarily been viewed as a crime and security issue. This policy position has had particularly devastating socio-economic and human rights impacts in Latin American countries, often on the frontlines of enforcement-led drug control responses. This session will offer a producer-country perspective on human rights and drug policy, and present the case for re-conceptualising drug control as a development issue.

    A small part of this session will examine drug control on the African continent, presenting human rights challenges to current policy design and how lessons offered from the Latin American experience must be incorporated to prevent similar consequences from emerging.

    Children and Young People: The Convention on the rights of the child as a framework for drug policy evaluation (Damon Barrett, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy)

    Children’s vulnerability to drugs and the drug trade are clear, but this has often been a useful tool in advancing a prohibitionist drug control model, rather than an impetus to assess drug policies for their impact, positive or negative on children. This session will set out the deficiencies in international drugs agreements in relation to children and young people and show how the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child can serve as a more appropriate, legally binding and consensus based framework for policy evaluation.

    Drug Control and the Right to Health: Exploring tensions between human rights and public health policy responses (Joanne Csete, Columbia)

    Agreed elements of the right to health will be used to analyze ways in which the reality of health and social services for people who use drugs in many settings undermine health rights. The session will include consideration of rights-unfriendly forms of treatment of drug dependence, gender-based rights violations in health services, and ignoring health evidence in the design of drug prevention programs for young people.

    Making human rights operational in drug control: From theory to practice (Julie Hannah and Damon Barrett, International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy)

    It has become a common refrain that a human rights based approach to drug control is needed. Focusing on international legal and institutional arrangements, this session will discuss how human rights based approaches require a new look at the structures and operation of international drug control governance.

    Public roundtable event: Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Control

    Are international guidelines on human rights and drug control a viable output for the UNGASS?

Contact us

For more information about the 2016 Essex Human Rights Summer School, please email


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