The Last Post

February 20, 2012

This blog is now inactive, due to the closure of the International Council on Human Rights Policy (ICHRP) at the end of February 2012. The decision to close was taken by the Executive Board primarily due to continued financial difficulties, largely a result of the difficult funding climate, especially for human rights and even more so for human rights policy research. It is especially regrettable because for more than a decade the ICHRP stimulated co-operation and exchange across the non-governmental, governmental and inter-governmental sectors, and strove to mediate between competing perspectives. ICHRP's intellectual autonomy, its willingness to engage with complexity, readiness to risk breaking boundaries of discipline and practice, commitment to rigour and collaboration will continue to render ICHRP's work, approach and contributions relevant for many years to come.

Preserving a Rich Legacy

A new ICHRP web archive will ensure that the fruits of 35 major multi-disciplinary research initiatives, including all reports, summaries, translations and nearly 200 working papers, covering a wide range of policy issues, will continue to be freely accessible for the benefit of researchers, policy makers, human rights practitioners and others.

In addition, a publicly accessible archive of all materials pertaining to ICHRP's history and founding, operations over the years, drafts, research materials and communications are available at the library of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Of course, you may also peruse the old articles on this blog, which was active from June 2011 until February 2012.

Legislating Truth: The Paradox of the French Armenian Genocide Bill

By Cailean Maclean

© Reuters
Last Tuesday saw the French National Assembly pass a law banning the denial or minimization of the Armenian Genocide, a move which has immediately attracted the diplomatic ire of Turkey; the state successor to the regime which committed said actions. Some commentators have seen this as a deeply cynical ploy, an election year attempt to engage the 500’000 strong French-Armenian population. Others see this as an attempt of those opposed to Turkish membership in the EU to further differentiate and marginalize the country from the European community. 

Regardless of the French political calculations behind this vote, it brings forth numerous issues of direct and relevant interest to the personal rights of European citizens. National attempts to control historical debate through government fiat ultimately do the disservice of curtailing free speech, establishing competing legal “truths” and politicizing the suffering of victims rather than recognizing them on their own merits.  

Strasbourg strikes back? A trio of UK judgments

by Kate Donald

Yesterday, 17th January 2011, the European Court of Human Rights announced three major judgments in cases brought against the UK. All were predicted to have significant implications, for British policy and for the human rights discourse in the UK. As it turned out, the Court found against the UK in one case and for the UK in the other two.

In the case of Othman (Abu Qatada) v United Kingdom, the Court found that ‘radical Islamic preacher’ and Jordanian national Abu Qatada could not be deported to Jordan, where he is wanted on charges of terrorism (in fact he has already been convicted in absentia of involvement in two terrorist conspiracies). The Court found this would violate Article 6, the right to a fair trial. Interestingly, the Court did not find there would be a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture) or Article 5 (right to liberty and security). The judgment confounds the UK government’s efforts to deport Qatada, having obtained diplomatic assurances from Jordan that Qatada would not be subjected to torture or ill-treatment on his return.

Realising the rights of marginalised citizens in decentralisation policy: Lessons from León

By Ross Wain

In urban local governance marginalised citizens’ human rights are realised by achieving greater accountability and participation in governance, through increasing these citizens’ power in decision-making processes. Decentralisation policy must go beyond procedural democracy that simply creates institutional structures, to be designed with an explicit normative goal of ensuring that marginal groups become independent political actors with the ability to compete for resources (Luckham et al. 2000). Nicaragua’s Healthy Municipality Initiative is a decentralisation process piloted in the city of León. The context that made it so successful can be understood counterfactually to instruct a human rights approach to decentralisation policy when such a context does not exist. 

Russia, GOLOS, and the Funding Dilemma: Is Fair Voting Just a Western Plot?

By Cailean MacLean

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev
For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union and the chaos of the early 90’s, ordinary voters have taken to the streets in significant numbers in Russia to challenge the veracity of the recent parliamentary election. United Russia, the political party established by Vladimir Putin, saw its share of the vote fall from the 64% of 2008 to the historic low of 49%. While this represents a significant drop, numerous reports of vote rigging, electoral fraud, and government domination of official media point to a true tally that is far below the published results. The true numbers and full extent of any vote falsification is unlikely to ever be known to the public, principally due to the lack of independent electoral monitors able to function freely within the country.

Human Rights through a Biopolitical Lens?

By Ashley Drew

© 'Children of Men' movie.
At the recent Birkbeck University;conference on critical theory of human rights law experts in the field both questioned and analysed current visualisations, perspectives and approaches to human rights in terms of their legal framework and application. An impressive and varied array of thinkers spoke including Slavoj Zizek, Costas Douzinas and Conor Gearty, to name a few. Discussions ranged from the politics of Frantz Fanon to challenging the neo-liberal capitalist paradigm of human rights. Personally, I was glad to hear a number of speakers refer to “biopolitics” in their presentations. When the conference came to a close, I was left wondering whether the frame of “biopolitics” could address the inadequacies of universality and even if this concept might provide a more meaningful approach to human rights.

New Evidence that Corruption Threatens the Right to Health Care

By Roy Poses

Article 12 of the ICESCR [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] established the “right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”, defined as the “right to the enjoyment of a variety of facilities, goods, services and conditions necessary for the realisation of the highest attainable standard of health.” Starting five years ago, a series of authoritative reports suggested that the right to health is seriously threatened by corruption, and health care corruption in particular.

In 2006, Transparency International's Global Corruption Report asserted in its executive summary, " the scale of corruption is vast in both rich and poor countries." As we summarized here, the report discussed the scale and diversity of health care corruption, and the severity of its adverse effects.

The 2009 US Institute of Medicine report on conflicts of interest provided an outline of steps to reduce the conflicts of interest that increase the risk of corruption.