Irish Centre for Human Rights, Summer Schools 2013 – Globalization / ICC / Cinema

The Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway is pleased to announce details of their Summer School programmes for 2013.

2013 Summer School Programmes at the Irish Centre for Human Rights

Summer School on Human Rights, Migration and Globalization
8 to 12 July 2013, NUI, Galway

The Irish Centre for Human Rights will host its inaugural Summer School on Human Rights, Migration and Globalization from 8 to 12 July 2013. The inaugural year’s subtopic is Defining and Promoting Human Rights of Migrants in an Era of Globalization. The five days of intensive sessions will be led by leading specialists including Professor Francois Crépeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. The Summer School will familiarise participants with the sources of migrants’ rights and the available protection mechanisms. It will also provide participants with an understanding of the major tensions underlying the issue of the protection of migrants’rights and of how globalization shapes these tensions. The programme will include social activities that will allow participants to network with each other and the panel in a relaxed environment. The Summer School is open to anyone interested in the contemporary challenges of migration and human rights protection. Participants will have an opportunity to propose their research ideas for discussion.

For more information, please visit:http://www.nuigalway.ie/human_rights.
Please address any additional queries to: hrandmigrationsummerschool@gmail.com.
Follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsMigrationAndGlobalizationSummerSchool.
The closing date for applications is 31 May 2013.

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The International Criminal Court Summer School 2013
17-21 June 2013, NUI Galway, Ireland
The annual International Criminal Court summer school at the Irish Centre for Human Rights is the premiere summer school specializing on the International Criminal Court. The summer school allows participants the opportunity to attend a series of intensive lectures over five days. The lectures are given by leading academics on the subject and by legal professionals working at the International Criminal Court. The summer school is attended by legal professionals, academics, postgraduate students and NGOs. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures and operations, and the applicable law. Participants are also given the opportunity to network with the speakers throughout the week. Lectures also speak to related issues in international criminal law, including: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression, universal jurisdiction, immunities, and the role of victims.
For more information and to register please visit our website at http://conference.ie/Conferences/index.asp?Conference=199or email iccsummerschool@gmail.com.

The closing date for applications is 31 May 2013. Limited scholarships now available!

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Summer School in Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy
27th June to 6th July 2013, NUI Galway, Ireland

Following the success of the last seven years in Venice and Galway, this is the fourth year that this summer school is hosted in Galway jointly by the Irish Centre for Human Rights and the Huston School of Film& Digital Media, NUIG. Elements of the summer school include information on the fundamentals of human rights, how to raise awareness of human rights on camera, the development of ideas and how these ideas should be pitched. This year’s programme will feature the Human Rights Cinema Event on 5th and 6th July, organized in collaboration with Amnesty International, Ireland and Galway One World Centre, in order to give participants the chance to assist human rights films which forms a basis for critical discussion.

The closing date for applications is 8 June 2013. Limited scholarships available!

For faculty and speakers, this year’s program, and more information please visit www.chra.ie or email to info@chra.ie. All events associated with the summer school could be followed from our Face Book page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Summer-School-in-Cinema-Human-Rights-and-Advocacy/128962737217375.

Irish Centre for Human Rights, Summer Schools 2013 – Globalization / ICC / Cinema

Caste Discrimination in the UK (and Ireland?): Why a Gandhian Approach is Wrong

The meaning of caste, and its global relevance, has been debated in the UK yesterday with MPs voting against adding caste discrimination to the Equality Act 2010, by 307 votes to 243. The Equalities minister, Jo Swinson, warned MPs of concern that legislation could increase stigma rather than ease the problem, with the government planning to tackle caste prejudice through an education programme instead.

Caste-based discrimination is the oldest form of racial discrimination in the world, with archaeologists seeing evidence of separated populations in Indian villages, the signs of caste exclusion, dating from 1500 BC. It has its origins in Hinduism, in particular the creation hymn the Purusha sukta in the Rig Veda, which describes how when they formed the god Purusha, “the Brahman was his mouth; the Rajanya was made his arms; what which was the Vaishya was this thighs; the Shudra sprang from his feet”. This fourfold or varna division into castes provides the structure, with the Dalits, formerly and derogatorily termed ‘Untouchables’, considered outcastes or outside the fourfold system.

Caste rules are manifold and complex, but they broadly operate along a purity and pollution concept under which the lowest are considered polluted, hence a web of ancient codes governing caste conduct including prohibitions on intra-caste marriage, temple entry for Dalits, or sharing of wells, or occupations confined to certain caste groups. The phenomenon in India known as ‘Dalit atrocities’ signals the continuance of caste prejudice, whereby Dalits are attacked for transgressing caste borders. Sexual violence in India has long had a caste element.

The issue of caste-based discrimination has dominated the Indian polity for over a century. India’s independence struggle in the early twentieth century became wrapped up in the issue of caste, when the leader of the Dalits, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, clashed repeatedly with the Hindu majority leader, Gandhi, over the optimum means of caste reform. Gandhi did not support untouchability or the discriminatory effects of caste, but he did support the caste system itself. He sought its reform through education, mirroring the UK government approach outlined yesterday. Ambedkar sought The Annihilation of Caste, a title for one of his books in 1936, and ultimately succeeded in his aims of a legal remedy against caste-based discrimination. This is seen in the 1950 Indian Constitution, which was drafted by Ambedkar; it includes a law expressly banning untouchability (Article 17) as well as caste-based discrimination, and reservations or affirmative action measures for the Scheduled Castes, those who are lowest in the system. Yet Ambedkar died in 1956; the constitutional promise has not been fulfilled since.

Ambedkar warned that caste would be exported by the Indian diaspora and become a global problem. There has been recognition of this at the international level, with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), ruling that caste-based discrimination is a form of racial discrimination under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD. It did this through use of the word ‘descent’. This is because caste is not included in the definition of racial discrimination under Article 1(1) ICERD, which defines racial discrimination on five grounds – race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin. Note that there is strong evidence that caste discrimination does not correlate to race, or skin colour, or ethnicity. Hence the ground ‘descent’ best fitted, with CERD ruling that caste-based discrimination is a form of descent-based discrimination and therefore a form of racial discrimination.

This ruling was in the context of a 1996 State Report by India to CERD; India disagreed, and when it came back before the Committee ten years’ later, in 2006, it still disagreed. CERD has also requested other States in South Asia, notably Nepal (the only other Hindu-majority State in the world) and Bangladesh, as well as several West African states, Japan (concerning the Buraku) and Yemen (concerning the al-Akhdam), about groups who are discriminated against because they are considered polluted, coming under the rubric of caste or descent-based discrimination.

There was also an important study by the then UN Sub-Commission which particularly examined caste in the South Asian diasporas, identifying it as a major problem.

Yesterday’s vote is a reaction to the growing evidence that caste-based discrimination is prevalent in the UK. The main Hindu representative voices are virulently against any such legislative recognition. But then again, they always have been; the Indian constitutional protections against caste-based discrimination were written by a Dalit, who argued that promises to ‘educate’ and to ‘reform’ Hinduism had done nothing in three millennia. Ambedkar argued throughout the 1930s that the only way to tackle caste was through legislation outlawing its pernicious effects.

David Cameron et al may be pleased to know that their approach is very much Ghandian, who believed that caste-based discrimination should be eradicated by Hindus themselves reforming their own religion. But in an otherwise remarkable humanitarian career, it is on caste that Gandhi’s reputation teeters. He was a high caste leader who was trying to protect his own discriminatory beliefs. He argued that each has their own place in Hinduism, a fundamentally inegalitarian and discriminatory philosophy. Thus in India, the ‘education’ approach to caste discrimination ended with the era of constitutional democracy, from 1950.

It is difficult if not impossible to compare India with the UK; they are clearly different, with caste endemic in India and having a different expression in the UK South Asian diaspora. But caste-based discrimination is still very much apparent in the UK, as reported by BBC’s Newsnight this week, and the failure to recognise this yesterday is wrong.

In Ireland, we have a small but significant Indian diaspora. I have never heard of a single case of caste-based discrimination in Ireland. But it may well have happened. Similar to the UK, the nine grounds in our legislation does not include ‘caste’. At present it would appear that such discrimination would not be legally prohibited, although there are nuances to the arguments around the meaning of ‘race’ following developments at the international level. We will await a case in Ireland to test our equality provisions. As awareness grows following the UK discussions, we may see such reports emerging.

Caste Discrimination in the UK (and Ireland?): Why a Gandhian Approach is Wrong

The Innocence of Youtube

The global reaction to the trailer for the film The Innocence of Muslims has prompted the banning of the video-sharing website Youtube (owned by Google) in three States – Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Youtube has itself restricted access to the film clip in a number of States, including Egypt, India, Indonesia and Libya, but maintains that the trailer does not violate its community guidelines.
Those community guidelines outline that the site does not ask for “the kind of respect reserved for nuns, the elderly and brain surgeons”, but set out a number of rules which include a provision on hate speech: Continue reading “The Innocence of Youtube”

The Innocence of Youtube

The ‘S’ Word: Why Ireland Needs a Law on Slavery

Slavery is in the news this week, with the convictions in the UK of four members of a family for forcing destitute men into “servitude”, including two counts of requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour. The Guardian reports that it is the “first successful conviction under new “modern day slavery” laws since legislation was introduced in 2010.” The reference is to Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 which creates an offence of holding another person in slavery or servitude or requiring them to perform forced or compulsory labour, which came into force in the UK on 6 April 2010. I’d like to focus on two angles in the case. The first is the pathological reluctance to use the term slavery without recourse to inverted commas  (‘slavery’), qualifiers (such as modern day slavery), related but lesser synonyms (such as servitude) or related but lesser terms (such as forced labour). This is based on a reluctance to call anything slavery which is not chattel slavery based on ownership, i.e. the transatlantic slave trade, formally abolished in the UK by the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act (with the exception of “the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company, or to the Island of Ceylon, or to the Island of Saint Helena”.) Continue reading “The ‘S’ Word: Why Ireland Needs a Law on Slavery”

The ‘S’ Word: Why Ireland Needs a Law on Slavery

War Crimes and the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka

On 22 March, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted the draft resolution, proposed by the United States, on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. It was issued in a context of war crimes accusations over the conduct of Sri Lankan forces in the final throes of the conflict with the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in April-May 2009, including a chilling documentary from Channel 4’s Jon Snow which has been influential in turning international opinion against Sri Lanka’s president, Mr Rajapaksa, and his government. Continue reading “War Crimes and the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka”

War Crimes and the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine

I participated as a witness at the South Africa session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine which took place last month in Cape Town, from 5-7 November. The Tribunal was founded in the 1950s by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, and originally hosted by Jean-Paul Sartre. Formally calling itself the International War Crimes Tribunal, it deliberated over two sessions in 1967 on the issue of American foreign policy and military intervention in Vietnam. The overall aim, according to Russell in 1967, was to arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance “in the smug streets of Europe and the complacent cities of North America”, and “prevent the crime of silence”. Continue reading “The Russell Tribunal on Palestine”

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Palestine and UNESCO: Upsets and Tensions Ahead of the Vote

UNESCO’s 36th General Conference begins today, running from October 25th to November 10th amid intense media interest since its executive committee decided to allow a vote to grant full membership to the Palestinians. Two-thirds of members will have to approve the bid in order for it to be successful.

There have been recriminations ahead of the vote, with the United States expressing “strong opposition” to the executive committee resolution. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has intimated that the Organisation should “think again” on its “inexplicable” decision, with Kay Granger, chair of the US Subcommittee responsible for US diplomatic funding, advocating for all US funding to be cut off; some 22% of UNESCO’s resources. A New York Times piece highlights that US legislation from the 1990s mandates a complete cut of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. Pressure indeed. Continue reading “Palestine and UNESCO: Upsets and Tensions Ahead of the Vote”

Palestine and UNESCO: Upsets and Tensions Ahead of the Vote

Dale Farm: Why Human Rights Needs to Infiltrate the Planning Process

The impending eviction of travellers from Dale Farm in Essex, delayed again but scheduled for Friday or Saturday, raises the question of whether Basildon Council’s actions will be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, as directly applied in the UK Human Rights Act 1998. There have been a number of cases involving Travellers and Roma before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but while the Roma have been relatively successful in defending their rights, the Travellers have won only one case. Continue reading “Dale Farm: Why Human Rights Needs to Infiltrate the Planning Process”

Dale Farm: Why Human Rights Needs to Infiltrate the Planning Process

Towards Affirmative Action in Irish Education

Amid accusations of educational apartheid in the admissions policies of Irish schools, a landmark Circuit Court ruling in Clonmel allowed an appeal by a secondary school against an Equality Authority ruling that it had indirectly discriminated against a Traveller boy in refusing to admit him. The admissions policy of the Christian Brothers High School in Clonmel is a familiar one in the Irish educational landscape: that the applicant be Catholic; that he would have attended a recognised feeder primary school; and that he would have had a father or brother who attended the school prior to him. Continue reading “Towards Affirmative Action in Irish Education”

Towards Affirmative Action in Irish Education

Minority Rights Summer School Highlights Plight of the Rohingyas

I was the organiser for this year’s Minority Rights Summer School, held at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, from 13th-17th June. It was the eleventh year of the School, which always attracts an interesting group of academics, students, activists and lobbyists, as well as those with a general interest in minority and indigenous rights and the role of human rights law in promoting equality and diversity. The programme this year saw a range of speakers, including a full day of sessions dedicated to a forum on indigenous peoples’ rights with contributions from scholars and practitioners. Continue reading “Minority Rights Summer School Highlights Plight of the Rohingyas”

Minority Rights Summer School Highlights Plight of the Rohingyas