Friday, 8 January 2010

Call for Papers – CCJHR Postgraduate Conference 29th Apil 2010

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at University College Cork is pleased to announce its IV Annual Postgraduate Conference which will take place on Thursday, 29th April, 2010. The conference is aimed at those who are undertaking postgraduate research in the areas of criminal law, criminal justice and human rights.

The theme for this year's event is "Borders of Justice: Locating the Law in Times of Transition." The aim is to reflect upon how reactionary law making and the related rhetoric of crisis impact negatively on fundamental rights protection and the criminal law. We hope that this theme will encourage debate on the challenging and complex questions which arise when defining the remit of the law in changing and turbulent times.

This international one-day event will attract promising research scholars from Ireland, the UK and Europe in the areas of law, politics, philosophy and the related social sciences. We are especially interested in papers that relate to human rights, criminal justice, criminal law or the intersection of these fields. However, we also welcome papers dealing with issues outside these areas that fall within the broader theme of the conference. Papers will be streamed thematically, with previous years including such sessions as "Contemporary Discourse in Criminal Law", "Civil Liberties, Technology and State Security Claims" and "International Law, Human Rights and Development Policy".

The best paper of the conference will receive a prize of €200 which is sponsored by Griffith College, Cork.

Please submit an abstract (max. 300 words) to the organising committee by Friday, 12th February 2010. Successful conference submissions will be notified by Friday, 26th February 2010. Submissions and further enquires should be directed to

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Monday, 14 September 2009

New Irish human rights blog

I've been away for a few weeks and things have been busy in the meantime, not least on the blogging front. This is mostly due to the arrival of a new Irish human rights blog appropriately entitled Human Rights in Ireland.

The blog is written by a number of contributors chosen for their knowledge and diverse focus areas and their aim is "to provide varied and diverse content relating to human rights". Thus far they have been successful.

Its certain a blog to watch to keep up to date not only on Irish human rights issues, but international human rights issues as well as more practical matters such as conferences, journals, and jobs.

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill passes all stages of the Dáil

The governments controversial organised crime legislation has today passed through all stages of the Dáil with the final vote being 118 to 23. It will now go to the Seanad.

Final attempts to gain more time for debate were rejected by vote of 76-61. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny had argued that the issues raised by the Bill were too serious to be "rammed through". However, the government continued its claim that action was needed now. Tánaiste Mary Coughlan claimed that there had already been plenty of discussion on the issues and insisted that "delaying the Bill would represent a dereliction of duty, especially if something happened between now and the return of the House."

What is it that might happen? Of course there is a good chance that we will see offences carried out by those involved with organised crime over the summer, but that will happen regardless of the passing of the legislation. So what would happen between now and September 16th that makes such a difference? Certainly not the operation of the new provisions once they are passed. The Courts are due to take their own summer break, rising at the end July for two months. Thus even if the Bill is passed now it will not become operational until after the Dáil returns from its summer holidays.

However, it appears that, as expected the Bill is now well on track to becoming law. We will therefore wait for the upcoming constitutional and human rights challenges that are bound to follow its implementation.

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

Pressure on the government on the organised crime bill continues

Yesterday saw a letter in the Irish Times signed by 133 lawyers critising the government's Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. The letter raises concerns about the manner of the introduction of the Bill:

It has been introduced without any research to support its desirability and without canvassing expert opinion or inviting contribution from interested parties on the issues.
It appears now that it will be passed without proper debate in the Dáil because such debate has been guillotined by the Government.
It is quite simply astounding that we as a society would jettison ancient rights and rules of evidence in such a manner and seemingly without regard to the effect such impetuous legislating might ultimately have on the respect for the rule of law in this country.

And goes on to point to the problems in removing the right to jury trials in organised crime cases, the use of Garda opinion evidence, and the manned in which extentions to periods of detention can be obtained "in secret".

The letter does not reject outright the need to take action, but ultimately calls on the government to "withdraw this Bill and instead provide for a short consultative period during which reasoned debate can be heard."

The response from Minister of Justice Dermot Ahern was unbending:

“They are entitled to their opinion. I don’t agree with them when they say that this was introduced without any research without canvassing expert opinion.”

Rather than introducing any amendments to respond to the growing criticism from criminal law experts and human rights organisations the Minister introduced a further measure to allow former gardaí to give uncorroborated opinion evidence at trial.

And just to reassure people further of the terrible state of emergency the country faces Willie O'Dea, Minister for Defence, added to the hype about gang crime by stating that the use of the Special Criminal Court were justified because "gangland crime posed a greater threat to the State than terrorism ever did".

The approach being taken by supporters of the Bill is that if you criticise the proposal, somehow you are only interested in the human rights of criminals and could care less about the victims. To oppose action that will undermine the rule of law and age-old mechanisms to safeguard people from the risk of miscarriages of justice, is not to be self interested. In fact, most of the critics of the Bill are not saying do nothing. Rather they are asking for time and a reasoned debate. As Carol Coulter rightly pointed out in the Irish Times yesterday:

It is not clear what is to be gained by such haste, other than the appearance of doing something about serious crime.
The courts will rise for two months at the end of this month, with only the District Court sitting, so there will be no trials for serious crime during that period anyway. Postponing the finalisation of the Bill until after the summer recess will have little practical impact on the fight against the criminals, but could allow time for a reasoned debate about a comprehensive response to the problem of serious crime and ruthless criminals, with an input from all those with relevant experience.

The haste seems more about being seen to take action. Yet the results of a legislative process that will have taken only 10 days since publication to pass into law will have a significant impact on the criminal justice system and may well see Ireland in breach of its international human rights law obligations.

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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

CCJHR Annual Distinguished Lecture - Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in association with the International Law Association (Irish Branch) is pleased to announce that this years Annual Distinguished Lecture will be given by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill, Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College and Professor of International Refugee Law in the University of Oxford.

The title of the lecture is:

‘The Extra-Territorial Reach of Human Rights Obligations’

The event will take place in the Multi-Functional Hall, Aras na Mac Leinn, on Monday, 23rd March at 6pm


Guy S. Goodwin Gill, MA, DPhil (Oxon), is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and Professor of International Refugee Law in the University of Oxford. He was formerly Professor of Asylum Law at the University of Amsterdam, and served as a Legal Adviser in the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in various countries from 1976-1988. Since 1997, he has been President of the Refugee Legal Centre (a UK non-governmental organization providing legal advice and representation to refugees and asylum seekers). He is the Founding Editor of the International Journal of Refugee Law (Oxford University Press) and was Editor-in-Chief from 1989-2001. Professor Goodwin-Gill has written extensively on refugees, migration, elections, and child soldiers. Recent publications include The Refugee in International Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3rd edn. (with Dr Jane McAdam), 2007; Free and Fair Elections, Geneva: Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2nd edn., 2006; Basic Documents on Human Rights, with Ian Brownlie, eds., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 5th edn., 2006; ‘The Politics of Refugee Protection’, 27 Refugee Survey Quarterly 8-23 (2008); ‘Forced Migration: Refugees, Rights and Security’, in Jane McAdam, ed., Forced Migration, Human Rights and Security, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2008, 1-18; ‘Migrant Rights and “Managed Migration”,’ in Chetail, V., ed., Mondialisation, migration et droits de l’homme: le droit international en question / Globalization, Migration and Human Rights: International Law under Review, Bruxelles: Bruylant, 2007, Vol. II, 161-187; ‘State Responsibility and the “Good Faith” Obligation in International Law’, in Fitzmaurice, M. & Sarooshi, D., eds., Issues of State Responsibility before International Judicial Institutions, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004, 75-104; ‘Refugees and Responsibility in the Twenty-First Century: More Lessons from the South Pacific’, 12 Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal 23-46 (2003). Professor Goodwin-Gill is a Barrister and practices from Blackstone Chambers, London; among other cases, he has represented the UNHCR on a number of occasions, including in the House of Lords in R (European Roma Rights Centre and others) v. Immigration Officer at Prague Airport and another (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees intervening) [2005] 2 AC 1, [2004] UKHL 55; and in the Court of Appeal in R (on the application of Al Rawi and others) v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and another [2007] 2 WLR 1219, [2006] EWCA Civ. 1279.

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Friday, 20 February 2009

Seminar: Dr. Nazila Ghanea-Hercock

On 24th February 2009 the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in cooperation with the UCC Baha’i Cultural Society, will host a research Seminar by Dr. Nazila Ghanea-Hercock, Oxford University entitled ‘Beyond Categorisation?: A Consideration of the Human Rights of the Baha’is of Iran’.

The seminar will take place from 1 - 2.00 pm in O’Rahilly Building (ORB), Floor 2, Room 255, UCC. All welcome.

Dr. Nazila Ghanea-Hercock is University Lecturer in International Human Rights Law, Kellogg College, Oxford University. Nazila is the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Religion and Human Rights. She has carried out funded research with the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and was an International Policy Fellow with the Open Society Institute (OSI) 2006-2007. Her research interests in International Human Rights Law include: freedom of religion or belief, women's rights, minority rights, UN human rights machinery, human rights in the Middle East. She is an affiliated Global Faculty member of BIHE. She initiated and now serves on the Executive Board of the international network ‘Focus on Freedom of Religion or Belief’.

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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Lord Lester condemns British Government’s Human Rights record

UCC Faculty of Law Adjunct Professor Lord Lester of Herne QC has revealed that he quit as Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s advisor on constitutional reform last month because of the British Government’s “dismal” lack of leadership on human rights. Described at the time of his appointment as an “eminent outsider” brought into “the government of all talents” his position was clearly not a comfortable one.

In a speech marking 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Lord Lester revealed that he had felt “tethered” by the government and described its human rights record as “dismal and deeply disappointing”. He singled out the Justice Secretary Jack Straw for particular criticism for both a failure to defend the Human Rights Act and the lack of radical constitutional reform. The criticism of Jack Straw comes on the back of the Justice Secretary’s comments in the Daily Mail pledging to “reform the ‘villain’s charter’” (the Human Rights Act).
Lord Lester stated that

"In spite of its achievement in introducing the Human Rights Act, the government has a deeply disappointing record in giving effect to the values underpinning the Human Rights Act in its policies and practices. Through a lack of political leadership, it has also failed to match the expectations raised by the Governance of Britain green paper for much-needed constitutional reform."

And he criticised the government's failures to fight for human rights in relation to a wide range of human rights issues:

"The government could have celebrated Human Rights Day by defending the Human Rights Act against unfair attack. It could have celebrated by accepting the recommendations of the UN human rights treaty bodies, the joint committee on human rights and NGOs to allow the people of this country to exercise the right of individual petition against the government under the international covenant on civil and political rights, the convention for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, and the torture convention.
"The UK is alone in the European Union in refusing to do so in the case of the international covenant. And the government is judge in its own, rather than in the people's cause, in shielding itself in this way."

Many human rights activists and organisations have voiced their support and understanding for Lord Lester’s position. Amnesty International issued a statement saying that they sympathised with his position and were “disappointed by the antagonism towards human rights coming from the government.” The proposed 42 day detention period and the treatment of asylum seekers were singled out by Amnesty as causing particular concern.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

20th World Aids Day - Stigmatisation and Discrimination in Ireland

Today is International World Aids Day. Often portrayed as a health issue, it is far more complex than that involving important human rights issues in relation to such issues as discrimination, access to health services, and the provision of adequate support services.

In Ireland recent data shows that nearly 5,000 people had tested positive for HIV by June 2008, with 170 new cases being seen in the first half of the year. In the run up to the 20th World Aids Day the stigmatisation of those who live with HIV has been highlighted. In the first national report on HIV related stigma and discrimination published on November 26th by Stamp Out Stigma. Commenting on the report, Ciaran McKinney, vice-chair of the campaign stated “The studies found that people living with HIV experienced significant levels of stigma and discrimination across a wide range of areas: in families, among friends, in the workplace and in accessing health and social care services.”

Significantly, the findings include the fact that 49% of those living with HIV reported that they were discriminated against by their friends, and 28 % that they had experienced discrimination from their families. 54% of the general public and 84% of people living with HIV agreed that people with HIV are viewed negatively by society. Whilst the general public in the main felt that people with HIV should not feel ashamed of their condition, a significant proportion (23%) reported that they would worry about sharing a meal with someone with HIV, illustrating a worrying lack of understanding about the virus.

Discrimination against people living with HIV is of course illegal in Ireland under the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 and 2004. In addition, the Equality Authority has previously indicated that it would take up cases of discrimination based on HIV and AIDS although no such cases have yet been seen. What is not clear is why that is the case, although stigmatisation and the fears of people living with HIV and AIDS may well be a factor. Clearly at a minimum more education and advocacy work about HIV and AIDS is needed to promote greater awareness and understanding. But with the recent budget cutting the Equality Authority’s budget by 43% spending in this area generally is unlikely to see a large increase in the near future.

However, whatever the financial climate it is important to remember that “The promotion and protection of human rights must be at the centre of all aspects of an effective response to HIV and AIDS” (Amnesty International).

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Friday, 7 November 2008

‘Whither America: Law & Human Rights in the next US Administration?’

On Thursday 6th November, Professor Samantha Power and Professor Cass Sunstein, newly appointed adjunct Professors in the Faculty of Law, delivered their (joint) inaugural lecture. Both Professors have acted as advisors to the President elect and are distinguished public commentators as well as highly respected academics. The title: ‘Whither America: Law & Human Rights in the next US Administration?’ provided the audience not only an insight into the role of the rule of law and human rights in the forthcoming US Administration but also reflections on Barak Obama and the road to his historic win in the Presidential election this week.

Professor Sunstein opened the lecture with some personal reflections of Obama the man; his thoughtfulness, stillness and his intellect. This set the scene for his examination of Obama as a “visionary minimalist”. The minimalist element is Obama’s rejection of “standard social divisions” – liberals/conservatives, Democrats/Republicans. The need to respect competing views and forge policies that will attract support from all sides is a central element of Obama’s approach. At the same time, Professor Sunstein characterised him as a visionary because he is “willing to think big” with ambitious energy plans and reform of key public services. The result will be a President in a different mould than that which has been witnessed in recent years.

Professor Power considered America’s role internationally as well as nationally, noting the difficulty America found itself in during the Bush years – at odds often with the rest of the world. President Elect Obama wanted America to once more take a role on the international stage that would be about cooperation and would encompass not only human rights but also issues of fundamental importance to the future such as global warming and international peace and security.

The reinvigoration of the role of American on the International stage was picked up by Professor Sunstein in the questions and answers session in particular in relation to the role of the US as a beacon of human rights. He advised the audience to “expect leadership on fundamental rights – not only in relation to traditional rights but also the framing of new rights” such as sexual orientation and the strengthening of disability rights both of which President Elect Obama referred to in his acceptance speech.

Neither Professor Power not Professor Sunstein were speaking directly for President Elect Obama in their lecture, but they were able to point to the themes that came from the presidential campaign which showed the scope for real change for America in the new presidential era. The appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court, the protection of human rights, the closing of Guantanamo Bay and an end to rendition flights, an emphasis on heathcare and education and the strengthening of the rule of law were all key themes. Obama, we were reminded was a constitutional lawyer who had once taught human rights. His commitment to the principles of human rights was not just about rhetoric, it was about realising genuine change after eight years in which America had acted to undermine its respect for law and rights.

One issue that was raised but left unanswered was what happens now with the sense of civic responsibility and democracy that had been energised by the grass roots movement mobilised so effectively by Obama. How can the new energy and activism be harnessed for real social change at the grassroots level?

The sense of history being made was however very clear to the audience, as was the sense of excitement for a new phase in America’s history, the idea a renewal of America, both domestically and internationally. The lecture encapsulated that mood, felt far beyond the shores of the USA.

A podcast of the lecture will be available on the UCC website soon.

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