Human Rights and Making Change: Looking Backwards and Moving Forwards from the Northern Ireland High Court Decision on Abortion

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Dr Catherine O’Rourke, Ulster University Transitional Justice Institute.

Catherine O'RourkeDr Catherine O’Rourke is Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and International Law at Ulster University Transitional Justice Institute. She is currently also co-coordinator of the Gender Stream of the DFID-funded Political Settlements Research Programme, where she is investigating how international law norms for gender equality influence domestic power-brokering.

In the aftermath of last week’s High Court judgment declaring Northern Ireland’s prohibition of abortion to be incompatible with UK human rights legislation in specific instances, there has been much valuable consideration of the judgment’s legal and political implications, for this jurisdiction and others.  In this contribution, I reflect on what the litigation and judgment say about human rights advocacy in Northern Ireland.

In summer 2013, in response to the Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety consultation on the draft ‘Guidance on the Limited Circumstances of Termination of Pregnancy’, I blogged on the need for local human rights organisations to ‘step-up’ to defend the human rights under threat by the failure of successive governments to bring clarity to abortion law in the jurisdiction, as well as the (then) urgent threat posed by the manifold potential civil and political rights violations raised by the 2013 Draft Guidance. The context for the call to local human rights organisations, including the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, to begin to advocate on the access to abortion as a human rights issue reflected several years of silence and inaction in the face of clear human rights concerns presented by the legal status quo. Specifically, the call reflected the failure of any local human rights organisation to support the request for an inquiry to be conducted by the CEDAW Committee under the Convention’s Optional Protocol into access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

Since summer 2013, much has changed. While I was writing my call for the local human rights community to ‘step up’ on abortion and human rights in Northern Ireland, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Amnesty International and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission were all preparing responses to the consultation on the 2013 draft Guidance, emphasizing the manifold human rights compliance concerns raised therein. NI Abortion AmnestyAmnesty International has made reform to abortion law in Northern Ireland one of its priorities in its ‘My Body, My Rights’ campaign, involving inter alia the excellent report ‘Northern Ireland: Barriers to Accessing Abortion Services’. The Committee on the Administration of Justice has started to include access to abortion as a human rights concern in its 2015 shadow reporting to CESCR and to the Human Rights Committee. This marked an important new departure for a human rights organisation that had not previously raised the issue of abortion even in its shadow reporting to the CEDAW Committee.

NIHRCThe transformation of the approach of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to abortion is arguably the most notable of all. In its 2008 Guidance to the Secretary of State on the proposed content for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, the Human Rights Commission included only one reference to abortion:

The issue of women’s rights in respect of reproduction, and especially the issue of termination of pregnancy, has been one of the most controversial in the Commission’s consultations on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Forceful and deeply felt submissions have been made, in respect of a right to life for unborn children and in respect of a right of choice for women. There is no clear widely accepted international standard in respect of the underlying issues. (emphasis added)

In 2015, the Commission initiated the judicial review proceedings that were to ultimately prove successful in last week’s High Court decision, determining that Northern Ireland’s prohibition of abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in cases of sexual crime, up to the date when the foetus can exist independently, is incompatible with UK human rights legislation. The proceedings included also a third party written intervention from the Amnesty International Belfast office, in addition to Alliance for Choice, the Family Planning Association, Sarah Ewart and a number of anti-choice organisations.

Why the change and where to from here? When considered within the broader context of human rights advocacy in Northern Ireland, the significance of the litigation and its outcome is even more apparent. Local developments in human rights advocacy in Northern Ireland reflect – and were no doubt reinforced by – important legal developments in the European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence on access to abortion since Tysiac v Poland, and developed most notably through A,B,C v Ireland, RR v Poland and P and S v Poland. For rights issues that are locally contentious, such as abortion, the clear articulation of regional human rights obligations can be helpful in emboldening and providing cover for local human rights organisations to take on such issues. (There are inevitably limitations, however, in a human rights approach that articulates right of access to abortion in limited circumstances as a matter of private and family life, but not as a matter of gender equality.) The importance of the international is also evident from the central role of Amnesty International’s Belfast office to the litigation and surrounding press and public affairs activity. Amnesty International adopted the ‘My Body, My Rights’ campaign at a global level and, since then, has pursued a very active local campaign on abortion and human rights, in coordination with local pro-choice groups and constituencies. Arguably important also has been the diversification of human rights advocacy more broadly in the jurisdiction. From the traditional almost exclusive focus on conflict and post-conflict accountability issues (which I document in chapter 3 of my book, Gender Politics in Transitional Justice), contemporary human rights advocacy in Northern Ireland now takes in a broad swathe of issues from marriage equality to mental health and many others.

Taken together, these international, regional and locally-led developments have created a very changed context for pro-choice advocacy in Northern Ireland. Whereas human rights and pro-choice organisations traditionally maintained separate spheres of activity, with little cooperation or interface, last week’s High Court judgment evidences the potential effectiveness of coordinated strategies across human rights and pro-choice groups. Looking forward, as we consider strategies for translating the High Court judgment into progressive legal change, the particular skills of the human rights community in activating international scrutiny, combined with the critical role of pro-choice groups in continuing the articulate the essential equality arguments in working for social change, offer reasons for optimism.

 

 

School Admissions and the Equal Status Act

screenshot Irish Times headlineI have written a short piece for the Irish Times concerning school admissions and the Equal Status Act. The article has been published here. I may in due course develop this into a longer article for a journal in which I can provide evidence for each aspect, and tease out the issues in more depth.

Some extra points:

The Supreme Court case is Stokes v Christian Brothers High School [2015] IESC 13.

My article only discusses the main judgment in the case, agreed by three judges. It does not discuss the other judgment in the case, in which two judges found that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal in a case such as this.

The Equality Authority appeared as amicus curiae in this case. See the press release of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (which replaces the Equality Authority).

Aisling Twomey writes in the Irish Examiner about how travellers would thrive if they were given the opportunity.

The earlier stages are as follows:

Commentary on the High Court stage:

  • Olivia Smith, ‘Perpetuating Traveller children’s educational disadvantage in Ireland: Legacy rules and the limits of indirect discrimination’ (2014) 14 International Journal of Discrimination and the Law 145 (Sage Journals)
  • Mel Cousins, “Travellers, equality and school admission in the High Court: Stokes v Christian Brothers High School Clonmel” – http://works.bepress.com/mel_cousins/22
  • Page at Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project

I previously posted on travellers in County Clare and the Equal Status Act.

On International Law, Military Intervention in Syria and Complexity: Seán Butler IRC PhD candidate

Welcoming Seán Butler, IRC PhD candidate at UCC Faculty of Law

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Peacekeeping EmblemMilitary intervention in Syria, in the form of a bombing campaign conducted by Western powers, is a likely event in the coming weeks. With the UK no longer participating due a defeated motion in the House of Commons last week, action will most likely be undertaken by the US, for which President Obama will seek Congressional approval next week, and France. After two and a half years of international inaction in Syria, this new impetus for involvement in the conflict is a result of a chemical weapon attack that occurred in the countryside surrounding Damascus on 21 August, in which somewhere between 400 and 1400 people were killed. There is still a good deal of controversy over whether the attack was committed by forces loyal to the Assad regime or by a rebel group, although the US claims it has evidence that strongly points to the government as the culprits.

What is missing from the above paragraph from an international law perspective is UN Security Council authorisation. The UN Charter is very clear on the issue of the use of force in international relations: it may only be used in individual or collective self-defence (Article 51), or if authorised by the Security Council to “maintain or restore international peace and security”. States are not permitted to use military power to unilaterally enforce another state’s obligations under international norms or treaties (for a discussion of the possible need for such an addition to international law, see Pierre-Marie Dupuy (2012), “Back to the Future of a Multilateral Dimension of the Law of State Responsibility for Breaches of ‘Obligations Owed to the International Community as a Whole’”, 23(4) European Journal of International Law 1059-1069).

Contrary to some media reports, the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine does not offer a viable avenue for engagement, as the version endorsed by the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document only enjoins action under the Security Council umbrella (the original 2001 version proposed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty does briefly speak of ‘alternative’ avenues to the Security Council, but this does not reflect customary international law). Such an authorisation is not likely given that Russia and China have previously vetoed three draft Resolutions on Syria before the Council, due to political and economic ties to the Assad regime and the fallout from NATO exceeding its Security Council mandate to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya in 2011 (as discussed in my previous contribution to this blog).

The use of chemical weapons does not change the legal landscape in Syria, which leads to the question of why the attack has moved the Western powers to forcefully intervene in the conflict whereas more than 100,000 deaths previously did not. The most likely explanation is that the Obama administration is seeking to deter future uses of chemical weapons both specifically by the Assad regime and more generally by increasing the cost of using such weapons. While this is a noble gesture when taken in isolation, it is morally gruesome when viewed in the light of the many apparently acceptable deaths by ‘conventional’ weaponry in the war and normatively dangerous when seen in the context of its blatant disregard for international law. Such a policy also hints that any intervention will be very limited, with no real attempt to influence the material outcome of the conflict.

While the moral problems of the Western approach to the conflict are perhaps obvious, the impact of the legal problems may require further elaboration. After all, to quote the late jurist Antonio Cassese (speaking on NATO’s ‘illegal but legitimate’ intervention in Kosovo in 1999), ‘should one remain silent and inactive only because the existing body of international law proves incapable of remedying such a situation?’ What is the value in upholding a law that prevents the international community from acting to allay suffering or punish a regime willing to commit atrocities upon its own people?

It is obvious that the Security Council is a highly flawed institution that often fails to act when it is needed most. However, it needs to be viewed as ultimately an arena of political compromise rather than a strictly legal entity. Its composition, in particular its five permanent members and their respective vetoes, stems from a recognition that the sphere of international relations is dominated by a small group of powerful states, between whom a balance of power is necessary to maintain. It must be remembered that the Council’s primary mandate is the maintenance of peace rather than the protection of human rights. In this rarefied air of power politics, international law acts as a language of negotiation, a delineation of what is permissible and desirable. It seeks to map the progression of international consensus with regards to the communal good.

The restrictions on the use of force are designed to ensure its use for the benefit of the international community rather than any individual state’s self-interest. What that ‘communal good’ is should not be conflated with a narrow Western conception of it. While we may abhor the protection of state sovereignty at the expense of human rights, many in the developing world see sovereignty as a crucial bulwark against the onslaught of Western imperialism. Syria is an immensely hard case in this regard, and it is hard to accept the deaths of thousands of people when the West could do ‘something’ about it. What constitutes that ‘something’ is problematic, however, and we are naïve if we believe that Western military intervention will automatically improve the situation.

The Russian and Chinese block on legal action under the Security Council may be representative of self-interest, but it also represents a deep scepticism about what military action can do to improve the situation in Syria. The civil war in Syria is an interlocking series of messy conflicts involving political, ethnic, religious and wider regional interests. It cannot be bombed into a solution. Unilateral military action in Syria not only represents a misguided attempt at ‘doing something’ to deal with the conflict, but disregards the notion that there are conceptions of the communal good beyond what Western leaders narrowly perceive it to be. As such, the victims are likely to be not only the people of Syria, but faith in international law as a means by which that good can be realised.

 

 

The Law Concerning Intervention in Syria

Approximately 80,000 people have been killed in what is now being referred to as the “Syrian Civil War”, about half of whom were citizens. The conflict, which escalated from peaceful demonstrations during the ‘Arab Spring’ movement over two years ago, has drawn much attention from the global media as the international community grapples with how best to respond to end the bloodshed, restore peace to the country and ensure a degree of stability in the wider region. In doing so, the conflict engages with the contours of international law and poses some difficult questions with regards to sovereignty, human rights and responsibility.

There is no question that the conflict is now a fully-fledged war, and the indeed the International Committee of the Red Cross declared that it believed the intensity and duration of the violence meant that it should be classified as a “non-international armed conflict” in July 2012. As such, the conflict is subject to international humanitarian law, specifically Common Article 3 of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, which criminalises acts such as targeting civilians, “outrages upon personal dignity” and summary executions. Moreover, the landmark Tadic case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia declared that Additional Protocol II (APII) to the Geneva Conventions was part of customary international law, and therefore it would also apply to the war in Syria. APII expands upon Common Article 3 in both specificity and scope, dealing with issues such as prisoners of war, the forcible movement of civilians and protection for medical personnel.

Even if Syria was not in a state of war, restrictions on state action would still apply, through the vehicle of human rights law. Such an interpretation derives from Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which, while it permits derogations from the Covenant “[i]n time of public emergency”, does not allow derogation from the right to life and the right to freedom from torture among other rights. As such, the Syrian government does not have a free hand to quell the rebellion in whatever manner it sees fit. Additionally, it is believed the ICCPR would also apply to rebel groups in any area they control and thus act as the de facto government (see page 33 of this Human Rights Council report related to Libya for precedent in this regard).

In such a legal context (as well as the obvious moral context), the near-continual reporting of atrocities and human rights abuses from Syria is extremely worrying (there is an entire page on Wikipedia dedicated to “Human Rights Violations During the Syrian Civil War”). In November 2011, an Independent International Commission of Inquiry released a report detailing a series of crimes against humanity that had been committed up to that point, such as summary executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture. Although acts by the government comprise the bulk of such crimes, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay has notably pointed out that violations are being committed by both sides of the conflict. A prominent example of such crimes is the recent video that shows a well-known rebel commander cutting out and eating the heart of a government soldier, a crime regardless of what legal regime applies.

How can and should the international community respond to such grave breaches of international law and collective morality? Condemnations of the regime by the General Assembly and Human Rights Council have done little to stop the conflict or continuing atrocities. Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, so the International Criminal Court cannot get involved without a Security Council referral. The Security Council is itself deadlocked on the issue, with three attempted resolutions of simple condemnation (never mind any action being proposed) being struck down by the double veto of Russia and China. The European Union imposed on arms embargo on Syria, which did little due to the regime’s ability to rely on Russia for such equipment (the most recent occurrence of which is anti-aircraft missiles designed to deter Western states from unilateral military action).

The core problem is that, short of Security Council action on the subject, there is very little that can legally be done against the Syrian regime. The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine, which sought to prevent future Rwandas and Kosovos from occurring by creating a framework in which intervention could happen, is hamstrung by the requirement for Security Council authorisation that was added to the doctrine when ratified by the General Assembly in 2005 (the fallout from NATO’s mission in Libya in 2011 means R2P is not likely to be invoked by the Security Council any time soon). President Obama’s declaration that the use of chemical weapons was a ‘red line’ with regards to US action in Syria is not only legally dubious (though Syria is a signatory to the 1925 Geneva Protocol that bans chemical weapons in war, there is no means by which such a violation would permit intervention without involvement of the Security Council), but has proven itself little more than rhetoric in the two weeks since evidence of the use of such weapons emerged. The US and EU have declared a desire to arm the rebels, but such actions bring to mind the Nicaragua case in which the ICJ found that US support of the Contras in their rebellion against Daniel Ortega’s government was in violation of Nicaraguan sovereignty.

The only permissible use of force outside of Security Council authorisation in the UN Charter is Article 51, which permits collective or individual self-defence. Israel invoked this right when conducting an air raid on Damascus on 5 May, under the belief that their targets contained missiles bound for the militia Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such an attack brings to the fore questions about the boundaries of self-defence, specifically with regards to the distinction between imminence (permitted under the Caroline test) and pre-emption (outlawed). However, such an argument seems far more legally viable than proposals for NATO to intervene in Syria on the basis of defending Turkey. For such an argument to hold water, the Syrian conflict would need to escalate to the extent that it significantly threatened peace and stability in Turkey. There is no indication that this is happening.

Thousands of lives are threatened in Syria, and the hard-won stability in the Middle East is under serious threat. For such facts to reach the level of threatening “international peace and security”, however, requires Security Council recognition of such, which in turn requires consensus among the Permanent 5. There is no indication that this is likely, and so once again Western states may feel the need to violate international law in order to uphold ‘higher’ values.

 

Sean Butler

Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Scholar

Faculty of Law

University College Cork

The Food Assistance Convention 2012: a mouse that roars or a lion that squeaks?

In a previous post in March 2011 I discussed the background to the renegotiation of the Food Aid Convention 1999 (FAC 1999). In late April 2012, after a long-running and contentious series of negotiations by the major donor countries who were signatories to the FAC 1999, the text of the eagerly awaited Food Assistance Convention 2012 (FAC 2012) was published. The new FAC 2012 will remain open for signature until 31st December 2012, and will enter into force on 1st January 2013 if at least five of the signatories to the previous FAC 1999 have ratified the new convention.

First concluded in 1967, the Food Aid Convention 1999 was the only international legal instrument covering the provision of food aid to developing countries, and signatories were restricted to a small selection of donor countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. Implementation of the Convention was overseen by a Food Aid Committee, based in the International Grains Council in London. Yet serious concerns were raised regarding the operational and governance structures of the Food Aid Convention. Critics highlighted the out-dated model of physical food transfers from donor countries to recipient countries and a lack of utilisation of new methods of ensuring food security, such as cash transfers and increased use of micro-nutrient enriched foods and special nutritional products.

So in my previous post I highlighted the need to move from a Food Aid Convention to a Food Assistance Convention. As this has now come to pass, does this signify a major shift in donor country thinking on the provision of food and nutritional support to vulnerable communities? And does the rebranding of the Food Aid Convention 1999 into the Food Assistance Convention 2012 indicate that the needs-based approach supported by the EU and Canada has trumped the resource-based approach favoured by the USA and Japan?

In March 2011 I noted there was a need to move from discussion of what food stuffs to provide people facing food scarcity and famine, to what overall package of assistance is required to meet the needs of affected populations. I highlighted a series of issues that were up for discussion in the negotiation process, including whether additional donor members should be allowed to become signatories to the Convention, the form that food aid should take, and where a Food Aid/ Assistance Convention should fit within the overall international response to food scarcity and insecurity. So how have these, and other structural and contextual issues, been resolved in the new Convention?

Forms of food assistance: the change from “food aid” to “food assistance” represents an important shift in attitude from the original trade origins of the FAC in 1967, to acknowledging best practice in delivering food and nutritional assistance to vulnerable populations through cash transfers, local and regional procurement of food stuffs, and innovative approaches to reducing food and nutritional insecurity at the household and community level. The new Convention also includes explicit recognition that food assistance should be untied from donor countries own agricultural and trade objectives, and that in-kind food transfers from donors can distort the local markets and therefore have negative impacts on the overall levels of food security in a region. However, the subordination of FAC 2012 to obligations under the WTO still places a country’s trade considerations well before humanitarian responses.

Amounts of food assistance: the FAC 1999 contained detailed provisions on the amounts of food aid that were to be provided by each signatory, recorded in tons of grain which implied the physical transfer of food stuffs from donor countries to recipients. The FAC 2012 has a discretionary, non-binding system, whereby signatories announce an annual minimum commitment of food assistance expressed either as a minimum value or a minimum quantity of food stuffs. Donor countries simply have to provide details of their annual minimum commitments by 15th December each year, and it is now up to each donor country to determine its level of commitment each year. This represents a major weakening of the binding commitments contained in FAC 1999. Furthermore, as seen during the 2007-8 food price spike and the famine in the Horn of Africa during 2011 and 2012, the availability of food aid is often dependent on global food prices – and the total amount of donor countries’ commitments can fall when global prices increase. So allowing countries to express their commitment in monetary value passes the risk of price fluctuations onto the recipient countries, when previously donor countries bore this risk. Nevertheless, as noted by a former Director of the World Food Programme for the Asia and Pacific:

 “The FAC always seemed to me an accounting device more than a guarantee for an additional volume of resources in times of crisis. All donors, but certainly the major ones always provided food when they had it and did not provide food when they did not have it.”

Signatories: While initial signatories to FAC 2012 remains limited to the original signatories of FAC 1999 (plus those States that have joined the EU since 1999), Article 13 allows for any other State to accede to the Convention once it has entered into force. This is to be welcomed if it leads to an expansion of the base of key middle income donor countries such as Brazil, China India, Russia or South Africa, who had not been included in the formal renegotiation process. Not only would this help widen the base of donor countries, it can assist in committing a broader range of countries to the principles of effectiveness and accountability promoted in the new text.

Governance and inter-agency co-ordination: the new text explicitly requires donor countries to regularly monitor, evaluate and communicate the outcomes of their food assistance programmes. This reflects the increasing emphasis placed by donors themselves on transparency and accountability in development and humanitarian programming, as set out in the OECD’s Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness 2005 and Accra Agenda for Action 2008. Such openness is to be welcomed, as are the indications that the Food Assistance Committee will act in a more inclusive and transparent manner, for example by including recipient countries and civil society organisations in their discussions and meetings. It would be hard for donor countries to press recipient countries to act in an open, transparent and accountable manner, and to promote these principles as a basis for aid effectiveness, without acting in the same manner themselves. However, it remains to be seen what level of engagement and input is actively sought by the new Food Assistance Committee from middle income donors, recipient countries and non-governmental organisations. Therefore organisations within donor countries will need to monitor the stances taken by the national authorities, for example Irish Aid and the Department of Agriculture here in Ireland, to promote compliance with the new commitments. Furthermore, as noted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, it is not clear how the FAC 2012 will interact with existing food security structures, for example the UN High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, the Committee on World Food Security and the global Food Security Cluster.

Considering that the FAC 2012 is a legal framework for the provision of humanitarian food assistance to populations facing major food insecurity, it is notable how many aspects of the FAC 1999 have been improved. Overall, the FAC 2012 has created a more supportive structure for promoting best practice in food and nutritional interventions by donor countries. While the Overseas Development Institute has questioned whether the new convention will lead to any changes in the attitude of large donors, such as the USA, this has been countered by Professor Jennifer Clapp and C. Stuart Clark, who argue that the FAC 2012 plays a fundamental role for middle sized donor countries, such as Canada, Switzerland and Norway. Perhaps of most interest is the clear acknowledgement of the right to food set out in the preamble to the new Convention. By bringing the operation and governance of the Food Assistance Convention 2012 into the public sphere and by clearly recognising the right to food, donor countries have signalled that they wish to take their humanitarian commitments seriously. It is now incumbent upon the rest of us to build on the re-commitment of donor countries to ensuring sufficient assistance is provided to those facing severe food and nutritional insecurity. This requires the signature and accession of the FAC 2012 by as wide a range of countries as possible, and for us to hold donor countries to their word.

Climate Justice and the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ), delivered a public lecture at UCC’s Centre for Global Development titled ‘Climate Justice Post Durban’ on 18 January 2012. Mrs. Robinson explored the outcomes of the most recent UN climate change conference, COP17, which took place in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, from a climate justice perspective and the extent to which it addressed the needs of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

COP17, she said was concerned with “what I believe to be the most critical issue we all face – the future of our planet. In these times of economic crisis, amid worries about our own and the European and international economies, it is not surprising that attention focuses on our immediate problems. But, make no mistake about it, we ignore the threat posed by climate change at our peril.”

Mrs Robinson explained the three priorities for the MRFCJ at COP17; the legal form of a future climate agreement; food security and agriculture; and women’s leadership and the gender dimensions of climate change.

Speaking about the outcome of COP17, known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Mrs Robinson said: “The door is open for a new international and inclusive legally binding agreement to solve the climate change problem. We have a start date, January 2012, a deadline December 2015, and a lot of work to do, barriers to breakdown and agreement to reach before then.

“Central to this will be overcoming the divide between developed and developing countries in the climate negotiations. The alliance formed between the EU, the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States at COP17 started to challenge this divide. It is a move in the right direction that will need to be nurtured and strengthened in the coming years to facilitate an ambitious new agreement.”

She continued: “We made progress on issues of importance to climate justice including gender equality and food security. Both of these reflect the Principles of Climate Justice which underpin the work of MRFCJ and help to communicate the human impacts of climate change and demonstrate the need for solutions which are informed by human rights.”

“This work is far from complete and we will continue to work on these themes inside and outside the Climate Change Convention as core elements of our work on climate justice.”

The lecture was part of the UCC Centre for Global Development’s Global Challenges Lecture Series.

See also:

Full text of lecture

Climate issues crucial, says Robinson – Irish Times, 19th January 2012

Call for Papers: 6th Annual CCJHR Postgraduate Conference, 26th April 2012

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (CCHJR) at University College Cork is pleased to announce that the 6th Annual Postgraduate Conference will take place on Thursday, 26th April 2012. The conference is aimed at postgraduate researchers working in the areas of criminal law, criminal justice and human rights.

The theme for this year’s event is “Transformation and Reform: Structures and Mechanisms for Rights-Based Protections”. The aim is to examine the implications for individuals and rights-based protections that arise from recent proposals for major reforms at the national, European and international level, including proposals for changes to the Irish legal profession and potential constitutional amendments, reforms of the treaties and structures of the European Union, and the UN Treaty Body Reform process. This theme is intended to encourage debate and reflection on the challenging question of ensuring the protection of fundamental rights during periods of change and crisis.

This international one-day event is aimed at 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 from a national, European or international perspective. We will also welcome papers dealing with issues that fall within the broad theme of the conference.

The keynote address will be delivered by Professor Christopher McCrudden of Queen’s University Belfast. Professor McCrudden is currently working on an integrated theory of comparative human rights law, and is an expert on equality and discrimination, as well as the relationship between international economic law and human rights.

Papers will be streamed thematically. The two best papers, as selected by the conference organisers, will present their paper to the plenary session of the conference.

Abstracts for papers (max. 300 words) should be submitted to the conference organisers by 20th February 2012. Successful conference submissions will be notified by 20th March 2012. To be considered for the best paper and the opportunity to present to the plenary session, full papers should then be submitted by 16th April 2012. Submissions and further enquires should be directed to ucclawconf@gmail.com.

For further information and registration details please visit: www.ucc.ie/en/ccjhr

Please note: a CPD Certificate of Attendance will be available for this conference.

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 ucclawconf@gmail.com.

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.

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.