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Video showcases Human Rights Centre

10 December 2013

See why our Human Rights Centre is one of the best in the world in our new video showcasing its impact and legacy. Below is a transcript of the video.

Lorna McGregor:
Human Rights Centre at Essex is a really special place because it is one of the oldest centres in the world as an academic centre working on human rights. Also for the different issues that are covered. I think it is difficult to find another university where so many different human rights issues are being worked on from different disciplinary perspectives.

Professor Todd Landman:
There is a critical mass of scholars working around the topic of human rights and over the many years that I’ve been here I’ve been able to draw on their expertise for collective projects. I’m a political scientist, but I can work with lawyers, I can work with sociologists, I can work with philosophers, economists; even some biologists who are interested in issues that are pertinent to human rights. About 80 staff interested in human rights issues.

Professor Paul Hunt:
One thing stands out: it’s mixture of theory and practice. It’s critical to have a theoretical context, background, but we wish to go beyond the theory and look at practical issues of operationalisation.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed:
The hallmark of Essex’s Human Rights Centre is the interface with practice. So when I got this practitioner role as it were I looked naturally towards an institution which was leading in that field.

Professor Peter Patrick:
For quite a few years now I’ve been involved in investigating and trying to improve the way that language evidence is used and understood in determination of the claims of some asylum seekers. We started the language and asylum research group three years ago. It’s based at Essex (although it is international in scope), and it draws heavily on the experience and the knowledge of colleagues here such as Geoff Gilbert in law and Renos Papadopoulos who is also the founder and director of the Centre for Trauma, Asylum, and Refugees, not to mention my linguist colleges.

Dr Clara Sandoval:
My most recent piece of litigation work was the case of Garcia Lucero versus Chile. It was a case litigated by myself and my colleague Lorna McGregor together with other lawyers for the organisation REDRESS. While the judgment of the Inter-American Court did not give us everything we wanted there is a fantastic statement in that judgment that is to remind us that despite the passage of time, 40 years, and the fact that Mr Garcia lives in exile in the United Kingdom, those persons like him have a right to justice and have a right to reparation.

Professor Todd Landman:
Over the last few years I’ve been working on the measurement and assessment of democracy and human rights around the world, and that work involved developing frameworks for assessment here at Essex and then applying them in the field. So I’ve had experiences working in Mongolia, experiences working in Ukraine, Mozambique, Uganda and a number of other countries. What we try to do is take the systematic research base of the University into the field to help local teams assess the quality and well-being of human life.

Lorna McGregor:
A key project that I’ve been working on in the last year is a project that the Human Rights Centre and the Detention Rights and Social Justice programme of the Human Rights Centre has worked on together with Penal Reform International, on the review of the UN standard of minimum rules on the treatment of prisoners. I think that it’s been very powerful because we brought together a range of experts from practice, from NGOs, and from academia to analyse how these rules would need to be reviewed in order to comply with current international law standards. Our paper has been cited by states in their own submissions and cited by the UN.

Professor Peter Patrick:
I’ve written over 60 expert linguistic reports for appeals of asylum cases that have been turned down, partly on the basis of language. The last July there was a decision in the Scottish Court of Session, their Court of Appeal, based on a case that I’d advice on, which set a new and much higher bar for the use of language evidence in asylum cases. This Scottish standard or precedent is much higher than what is currently the case in England and Wales. So there is a clash in the law right now, and one possible outcome of this is that hundreds of cases that have been turned down on the basis of language evidence may be subject to reopening.

Dr Clara Sandoval:
Certainly the Human Rights Centre at the University has a strong tradition on litigation. It has really been part of our ethos to protect and help protect human beings using the law and using courts to that end. I would say that the founding persons of this litigation tradition were both Professor Francoise Hampson (still with us) and the late Professor Kevin Boyle. They really pushed the boundaries of the law and of international human rights law.

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley:
Certainly I do know, that whether I’ve done a visit as Special Rapporteur on Torture, or whether we’ve issued concluding observations in the Human Rights Committee, that those documents, that the recommendations that we have made, have often been used by civil society to be part of a continuing discourse.

Dr Clara Sandoval:
I think that all the work we do here at Essex allows you to have a real world impact. I am the Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network, where we are conducting work on how to help societies undergoing transitions to move forward but to face the many serious human rights violations that took place in the past. And in this capacity, for example, I’ve been able to advice the United Nations, particularly the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

Lorna McGregor:
I think Essex is an excellent place for any one that is practising in human rights to be based here as a visitor, or as a colleague, or as a student indeed.

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley:
I was the second UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Human Rights Centre at Essex does simply bring together a remarkable collection of scholar practitioners. My colleague Paul Hunt was responsible for a special procedure mandates Special Rapporteur on the Right to adequate Health. He was also a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

Professor Paul Hunt:

What I sought to do is to show how the right to the highest attainable standard of health can be operationalised, how it can be made real. How it can be taken from the Constitutions, and taken from the Treaties and actually applied in practice. And one step towards that was General Comment 14 on the right to health, which I contributed to.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed:
My work as the UN Rapporteur on Iran requires me to investigate human rights situation in Iran, and report my findings to the UN membership, the UN Council, and the General Assembly. Being in Essex is useful to my work at a variety of levels. First of all, the tradition at Essex of working with the UN mechanisms is quite helpful to me. There is also specific work done at Essex, in terms of the Human Rights in Iran Unit Scott Sheeran runs in engaging with academics doing work on Iran, Iranian Human Rights NGOs, as well as international NGOs work in Iran. So, a very broad combination of academic research, of practice based research, and a tradition of work with UN system provides me an actual home.

Professor Todd Landman:
One of the great things about teaching over the many years is, of course, our students. I’ve thought hundreds of students on various human rights programmes, and once they graduate, they often go into the field and do exciting work that has a real life impact.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed:
I was in the job earlier, that took me half way around the world as a Rapporteur, and I would frequently meet Essex graduates, be the Balkans, be Geneva, but involved in the practice of it.

Professor Paul Hunt:
There is a wonderful, diverse, cohort of former students from Essex who are now populating the ministries of justice and the UN Specialised Agencies and civil society, and they are a fantastic resource for their countries and for their institutions, but also for Essex.

More information
For further information about the Human Rights Centre please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or email: comms@essex.ac.uk.

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