The fifth seminar in the series “Atrocities and the Development of Human Rights” focused on how human rights has changed global political and legal landscapes as a reaction to the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and the fall of the South African Apartheid regime in the 90’s.
Troels Gaulsø from Department of Political Science at University of Copenhagen focused on international politics the changing role of the UN Security Council.
Jakob v. H. Holtermann from Faculty of Law at University of Copenhagen focused on the institutionalisation of human rights and international criminal law through tribunals and international courts.
How are human rights and security related in international politics? And how is it changing?
Since the 90’s we have witnessed a rise of human rights on the UN security agenda. The number of mentions of human rights in resolutions in the UN Security Council has risen 7-fold in this period and the UN Security Council has started receiving monthly briefings from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P), obliging the international community to assist or ultimately intervene if states fail to protect their citizens, is a part of this development and came as a reaction to the failure of the international community in preventing the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia.
The mainstream understanding of security is broadening to include intra-state human rights issues. To some states like Russia and China this development is viewed as a threat to national sovereignty.
Jakob v. H. Holtermann
Should war criminals be punished or offered conditional amnesty if they agree to cooperate? These have been the two ways in which atrocities have handled after since the 90’s. But what are the pros and cons of the two? And is peace or justice more important?
In his presentation Jakob v. H. Holtermann showed how a number of the implicit arguments for punishing might not make sense in international crimes. In many atrocities violence is normalized to the point that it becomes meaningless to point out individual perpetuators. And in some cases the threat of punishment might lead despots to cling on to power thereby potentially jeopardizing peace.
In the case of South Africa perpetrators were offered amnesty under the circumstance that they cooperate in bringing forward information that could help bring “truth and reconciliation” – information that they might have withheld if under threat of punishment. This may well have paved the way for peace – but did it bring justice?
Jakob Lindmark Frier is the new chairperson. Jakob has a master degree in business studies and communication from RUC and since last year he has expanded the scope of Think Rights into the area of human rights and businesses.
Morten Bruun is our new vice-chairperson. Morten recently finished his B.Sc. in sociology at UCPH and will be pursuing his masters this fall. He has had an important role in planning and executing our recent seminar series Atrocities and Development of Human Rights and he is now leading the development of a new series in the fall.
On the 13th of April Robin May Schott gave her talk on sexual violence in conflict. As is the case for most issues in human rights, we are dealing with a very complex issue. Rape has always been part of war, but it has only recently become the focus of scholarly research and political action. The genocide in Rwanda and the Yugoslavian civil war made the public aware of the issue.
Though the new found focus on preventing rape is indeed positive, much can be criticized about the way the issue has been tackled in international politics. The political discourse has been dominated by a binary logic – with women as victims and men as perpetrators. This focus tends to both diminish the agency of women and overlook male victims of rape. In this, the political discourse reproduces a binary concept of gender.
The language ‘rape as a weapon of war’ is equally problematic. Rape is not only a strategy used during conflict, but might better be described as a practice of war. Something tolerated, but not necessarily planed. The challenge is then, how can we focus on changing the social conditions that lead to rape?
A lecture by Ahlam Chemlali, Project Manager at DIGNITY
Imagine that you have been forced into a room. The room is filled with a constant explosion of sounds, blinking lights and distorted visual effects. You are locked in, and exposed to this cacophony of sounds and light until you are on the verge of breaking.
This was how Ahlam Chemlali, Project Manager at DIGNITY, described a new torture technique known as a ‘fun house’. This technique does not leave a physical mark on the body, but has psychological implications, and it is a technique that lets democratic countries, such as the UK, outsource torture to non-democratic countries, such as Saudi Arabia. And with that description she kicked off the third seminar in Think Rights’ seminar series Atrocities and the Development of Human Rights.
In her lecture, Chemlali discussed how states legitimize torture by making it a matter of protecting states from terrorism and protecting civilians by getting information out of suspects. However, she asserted that this, by no means, is based on facts or scientific research. It is solely based on fear. This is also the case when Ted Cruz says that waterboarding isn’t torture but ‘just’ enhanced interrogation, or when Donald Trump says that he’ll “bring a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”. To this Chemlali added: “Waterboarding is torture, there are no grey areas”.
The first seminar in the series: ’Atrocities and the History of Human Rights’ was held at Studenterhuset on February 10, 2016. Morten Dige from Aarhus University visited Studenterhuset to conduct the seminar, and it was a great success! ‘Human Dignity and Human Rights’ set the frame for the seminar, which gave rise to a provoking and fascinating philosophical debate with a lively crowd wanting to discuss the nature of humanity.
Who has the right to dignity, and how has dignity as a term changed over time? What is the relation between dignity and human rights? And is the concept of human dignity a basis of human rights? These were just some of the questions, which Morten Dige addressed during the seminar. Not only did these questions open up for a conceptual discussion about humanity and what the term implies and means, it also linked the concepts of philosophy and history, which gave the audience something to think about in terms of the general application of human rights, and in terms of the contemporary issues relating to the concepts of human rights and dignity.
This seminar provided the foundation for the Atrocities-series.
You can listen to the presentation here:
You can also download Morten Diges power point Presentation.
Would you like to be a part of a network of students and professionals with a shared interest in human rights? Would you like to help shape the future of a dynamic human rights organization? Do you want know more about the work of Think Rights?
Then join us for an information meeting and annual general assembly. At the meeting we will introduce the organization, our projects and tell how you can get involved. All groups are open to new members.
After the information meeting we will have our annual general assembly where we will elect the new board. To vote for the board you need to be a registered member of Think Rights. You can sign up at the meeting for 50 kr. pr year which includes a copy of The Universal, our annual human rights journal .
If you want to know more about the board, please contact chairman Alexander Andersson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIME: April 7th at 7PM
PLACE: Studenterhuset, Købmagergade, Copenhagen
Introduction to Think Rights by Alexander Andersson, Chairman
Introduction to current projects:
– Atrocities and the Development of Human Rights by Anne-Mai Flyvholm
– Business and Human Rights by Jakob Lindmark Frier
– The Universal – Annual Human Rights Review by Alexander Andersson
– Women’s Rights by Line Møller Christensen
– Crossing Borders (events) by Larisa Andrei
The journal is available as hard copy and can be bought at our events for 30 kr. It is also available via mail for 30 kr + postage if you send an e-mail with your name and address to email@example.com.
The Universal – Annual Human Rights Review is looking for papers for its 2017 volume. The Universal is a multidisciplinary journal that accepts papers from all academic disciplines with a focus on human rights. In doing so, The Universal endeavors to foster interdisciplinary debate and as such gives priority to articles with an interdisciplinary scope.
The theme of volume two is “Human Rights Challenges in a Transforming Europe – Perspectives from Then and Now”. Priority will be given to articles related to this theme.
Articles may deal with – but are by no means limited to – the following questions:
Is the EU able to continue to live up to its reputation as a leading beacon of human rights? Does the EU promote human rights in the rest of the world?
How do large European enterprises that produce goods in developing countries manage human rights issues?
How does the growing pessimism towards the EU project affect human rights issues?
Should European countries work towards more open or closed borders in the light of human rights issues? How have these borders developed over time?
How and to what extent does the EU approach migration, refugees and asylum seekers? What are the human rights implications of this for displaced peoples?
How to promote human rights in European refugee camps?
How and to what extent do individual European countries handle their internal human rights issues? What are the greater implications of these approaches for the expansion of human rights?
How do new nationalist tendencies affect human rights issues in Europe?
How does the EU and European countries manage increasing islamophobic tendencies? How to best protect religious minorities?
How have European identities changed through time?
In what ways is European history used strategically today as e.g. invented traditions? How are e.g. Viking symbols used in nationalist movements?
How do individual countries handle EU law? What are the implications?
How can EU and European countries protect LGBT people?
The Universal primarily aims to publish research-based articles by students and recent graduates at BA, MA and PhD level. To be considered for publication, research-based papers need to be within the topic of human rights and comply with The Universal’s submission guidelines. Papers that are initially approved will go through a double-blind peer review by two reviewers, after which the editors will select the papers to be included in the volume. Authors are expected to edit their articles in accordance with the advice from the two peer reviewers before publication.
It is also possible to contribute with smaller pieces such as literary reviews, responses to articles, book reviews, opinion pieces and field notes. These do not need to comply with the submission guidelines. For more information, contact the editorial team firstname.lastname@example.org.
All contributions must be original, not previously or simultaneously published elsewhere.
How to apply
First step is to submit an abstract describing the theme, methods, empirical material and theoretical framework of the article. The abstract must be no more than 250 words and should be emailed to email@example.com no later than November 1st 2016. Before December 1st the authors will receive notification of whether or not they are invited to submit an article. Complete articles should be handed in before February 1st 2017.
Publication of volume 2 is scheduled for fall 2017.
The Universal is non-profit and is available for free at thinkrights.dk.
Papers will also be indexed at major academic databases. To submit a paper, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no fee for submission or publication.