Current Issues and Common Challenges for the Protection of Human Rights in Europe, Africa and the Americas
In the aftermath of the horrors of World War Two and the Holocaust, States across the world made a fundamental decision to be governed by an international Rule of Law, in which all States would be obliged to ensure respect for universal rights to which all human beings are entitled based on our common humanity. Landmark achievements, including the establishment of the United Nations and the UN Treaty Body System; the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a multitude of subsequent human rights instruments; and the creation of regional human rights courts and commissions; all demonstrate a commitment to an international rules-based order that upholds the rights of individuals and the duties that States owe to their citizens. Today, few scholars would argue that human rights are not a matter of the utmost international concern.
However, the world has recently witnessed a rise in nationalist populism in many States, which advocates disengagement from international laws and institutions. Even established liberal democracies have threatened to withdraw from international human rights systems. Therefore, the time was right to convene an international conference of human rights experts to discuss current issues and common challenges and to try to find ways to strengthen international human rights protections going forward.
On Friday 14th June 2019, Mr Anthony Wenton of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law co-convened a conference with Dr Anelen Micus of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford; Professor Clara Sandoval-Villalba of the Human Rights Centre and School of Law, University of Essex; and Professor Rachel Murray of the Human Rights Implementation Centre, University of Bristol. The event was generously hosted by the law firm Travers Smith, who have been longstanding supporters of the Bingham Centre's work.
The event brought together leading figures from the three regional human rights systems in Europe, Africa and the Americas; the UN Human Rights Committee; academia; civil society; and National Human Rights Institutions. The conference also greatly benefited from the Rt Hon Lord Justice Singh's insights into issues surrounding the domestic application of international human rights judgments.
Please click here to view the conference programme with speaker biographies.
In order to disseminate this invaluable comparative dialogue and in the interest of sparking further discussion, videos of each panel can be accessed below:
- Murray Hunt, Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law
Opening Remarks - An overview of current issues and common challenges in the three systems
- Professor Rachel Murray (Human Rights Implementation Centre, University of Bristol and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Human Rights Law Implementation Project)
- Dr Par Engstrom (University College London)
Panel 1 - The relationship between the national and regional levels
This panel considered the impact of international human rights jurisprudence at the national level, the implementation of judgments and decisions by national authorities, and the broader domestication of international human rights law. It also considered dialogues between the national and regional levels.
- Chair: Dr Alice Donald (Middlesex University and ESRC Human Rights Law Implementation Project)
- Professor Michael Addo (University of Notre Dame)
- The Rt Hon Lord Justice Singh (member of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales)
- Ms Ximena Soley (Max Planck Institute for International Law)
- Ms Anne-Katrin Speck (European Implementation Network and ESRC Human Rights Law Implementation Project)
Panel 2 - Institutional challenges and opportunities at the regional level
This panel considered some of the major challenges facing the three regional human rights systems such as high caseloads, non-implementation of judgments, resistance to international human rights institutions and standards, and threats of withdrawal. It also considered the current reform agendas and opportunities to strengthen the regional machinery that supports national implementation.
- Chair: Professor Sarah Cleveland (Columbia University and former Vice Chair of the UN Human Rights Committee)
- Judge Róbert Spanó (Judge and Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights)
- Mr Joseph Whittal (Commissioner of Ghana's Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice)
- Professor Philip Leach (Middlesex University/ European Human Rights Advocacy Centre and ESRC Human Rights Law Implementation Project)
- Professor Clara Sandoval-Villalba (Human Rights Centre and School of Law, University of Essex and ESRC Human Rights Law Implementation Project)
Panel 3 - Regional responses to violations of economic, social and cultural rights
This panel considered how each of the three regional human rights systems addresses violations of economic, social and cultural rights. It considered whether a clear body of international human rights law is emerging and where there are points of difference or tension between the three systems.
- Chair: Dr Annelen Micus (Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford)
- Dr Pablo González-Domínguez (Staff Attorney at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights)
- Mr Gaye Sowe (Executive Director, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa)
- Professor Aoife Nolan (European Committee of Social Rights / Nottingham University)
- Dr Isaac de Paz González (The Autonomous University of Baja California, Tijuana)
- Professor Kate O'Regan (Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court)