The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) was established in 1993, thereby formalising a longstanding commitment to human rights activities at Nottingham.
Since 1993, the HRLC's commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights has grown and the HRLC became an internationally recognised human rights institution with a substantial record of achievement in the design and delivery of policy-linked research and knowledge transfer, technical cooperation, bilateral assistance, publications, capacity building and training.
The HRLC works in partnership with a wide range of international organisations, national governments and civil society actors. A selection of our most recent projects is featured below:
Handbook Access to Justice in Europe
Dates: January - July 2015
Unit: European Human Rights Law
Core staff: Dr Debbie Sayers, Professor David Harris, Ms An Cuypers
Funder: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
In January 2015 HRLC was awarded a contract by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) to write a Handbook on Access to Justice in Europe. The project was overseen jointly by the FRA and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
The objective of the project was to prepare and develop a handbook on access to justice in Europe, on the basis of the relevant law of the European Union and the Council of Europe, in particular the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the ECtHR.
The Handbook consists of a practical overview of the key European legal and jurisprudential principles in the area of access to justice. It covers the following topics: the right to a fair and public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal; legal aid; the right to be advised, defended and represented; the right to an effective remedy; limitations on access to justice; length of proceedings; and certain selected focus areas. The Handbook was published by the FRA in 2016.
FRAME (Fostering Human Rights Among European Policies)
Dates: May 2013 - April 2017
Unit: European Human Rights Law
Core staff: Prof. Jeffrey Kenner, Petr Pribyla (until Sept 2014), Dr Stuart Wallace (Sept 2014 - Sept 2016), Prof. Mary Footer, Prof. Aoife Nolan, Dr Nara Ghazaryan, Agnes Flues
Funder: The European Commission
FRAME was a large-scale, multi-disciplinary research project on Fostering Human Rights Among European (Internal and External) Policies. The project was coordinated by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and involved a consortium of 19 partners, in Europe and worldwide. The project aimed to understand the challenges and opportunities for the EU's human rights engagement and to recommend policies and tools that ensure these challenges are overcome and opportunities are seized in an optimal manner.
The research focused around four clusters: 'factors', 'actors', 'policies' and 'tools'. Nottingham participated in and co-ordinated the second cluster, 'actors', which combined four main areas of research:
- Engagement with UN/Regional Multilateral Organisations - led by Adam Mickiewicz University and the Poznan Human Rights Centre
- Regional Partnership and Bilateral Cooperation - Eötvös Loránad University
- Engagement with Private Actors, TNCs and Civil Society – HRLC
- Coherence Among EU Institutions and Member States - University College Dublin
All reports, final recommendations and outcomes of the project are available on: FP7-FRAME.
Strategic Planning and Human Rights Training for Commissioners and Staff of Bahrain's National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR)
Dates: 23-25 February 2014
Location: Manama, Bahrain
Unit: Short Courses and Training
Core staff: Professor Dominic McGoldrick, Agnes Flues
Building upon a capacity-building training that took place in October 2013 in Nottingham, the main focus of the programme was to engage the NIHR Commissioners and the Commission staff in a dialogue and reflections about the NIHR's Strategic Plans.
This three-day tailored training programme comprised two principal components: strategic planning for Commissioners, and human rights training for Commission staff. The former was delivered by adopting a comparative approach to the experiences of other national commissions. The latter provided an overview of international human rights law. Participants included Commissioners and Commission staff. In addition, representatives from the Commission of the Rights of Detainees and Prisoners as well as NGOs took part in several meetings.
The training programme provided participants with an opportunity to engage in dialogue with expert practitioners with significant experience of strategic planning for other national commissions. By focusing on principles of best practice, by comparing the experience of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the participants reflected upon strategies for complaints procedures, working with civil society and NGOs, evaluating progress on economic and social rights and preparing for Bahrain's Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council.
In addition to this, HRLC provided members of the Commission and Commission staff with training on human rights, which focused upon the development of the international human rights treaty system and the United Nations human rights system.
The dialogue between course participants and the expert training team facilitated a critical review, analysis and assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by the Institution for consideration in future planning.
Training team: Professor Dominic McGoldrick, Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, University of Nottingham, John Kissane, International Consultant, Randa Siniora, Executive Director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Palestine.
Expert Workshop on United Nations Special Procedures System
Dates: 6-7 November 2014
Unit: Economic and Social Rights Unit
Core staff: Professor Aoife Nolan, Professor Thérèse Murphy, Dr Rosa Freedman
From 6-7 November 2014, HRLC's Economic and Social Rights Unit hosted an Expert Workshop on the United Nations Special Procedures System at the University of Nottingham. The Workshop was convened by Professor Aoife Nolan, Professor Thérèse Murphy and Dr Rosa Freedman of the University of Birmingham. They were joined by 21 experts including former mandate-holders, representatives of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), members of the United Nations Treaty Monitoring Bodies, academics and members of civil society.
The Workshop aimed to encourage participants to explore some of the strengths and weaknesses in the Special Procedures system and to consider proposals for improvement of the system, which faces challenges both externally from States, and internally from within the UN.
The Workshop considered the development and structure of the Special Procedures system and array of topical issues. Sessions were held on: The development and structure of the Special Procedures system; Operationalisation of the Special Procedures and engagement with States; the 'politicisation' of mandate and; the impact of ideological tensions on the Special Procedures System.
- Professor Aoife Nolan, Joint ESR Unit Head and Professor of International Human Rights Law, University of Nottingham
- Professor Thérèse Murphy, Joint ESR Unit Head and Professor of International Human Rights Law, University of Nottingham
- Dr Rosa Freedman, University of Birmingham
- Professor Malcolm Evans, University of Bristol
- Dr Jessie Hohmann, Queen Mary University of London - Dr Elvira Dominguez-Redondo, Middlesex University London
- Marc Limon, Universal Rights Group
- Professor Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (2008-2014)/Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Paul Bentall, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Jane Connors, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Professor Shaheen Ali, former Member of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (2008 - 2014)
- Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (2008-2014)
- Professor Surya Subedi, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights (since 2009)
- Felice Gaer, AJC Jacob Blaustein Institute/Member of the UN Committee Against Torture
- Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (since 2011)
- Dr Najat M'jid, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and the Child Pornography (2008 - 2014)
- Dr Danielle Beswick, University of Birmingham
- Phil Lynch, International Service for Human Rights
Proceedings from the Workshop form the basis of a book published in September 2017, The United Nations Special Procedures System (Brill, 2017), and launched at the UN in Geneva.
Training for Sudan's National Human Rights Commission
Date: 13-17 January 2013
Location: Khartoum, Sudan
Unit: Short Courses and Training
Core staff: Agnes Flues
Training team: Mervat Rishmawi, HRLC Fellow; Randa Siniora, Executive Director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Palestine; Ziad Abdel Tawab, Deputy Director, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Funder: British Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan
A five-day training programme was delivered to members of Sudan's National Human Rights Commission with a focus on the roles and responsibilities of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and its relationship with civil society, government actors and the media. The training programme was delivered by an expert training team from the Arab region with practical knowledge and experience of NHRIs.
Ten commissioners, including the Chairperson and her Deputy, participated in the training. Approximately 25 representatives from civil society organisations joined one of the sessions, dedicated to Working with Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations.
Training sessions addressed the following themes through interactive discussion and group exercises:
- Role, tasks and responsibilities of a NHRI and the Paris Principles
- Being a Commissioner: independence, competence, neutrality and impartiality
- Principles and best practices for handling complaints
- Principles and best practices for interventions and mediations
- Working with Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations
- Building Effective Relationships with Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations
- Human Rights Information Gathering, Monitoring and Documentation
- Principles of Separation of Powers and role of a NHRI
- Working with State actors – Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary
- Effective Use of Media
- Promoting human rights knowledge in wider society
The British Ambassador, Dr Peter Tibber, formally opened the training programme at a press conference. While in Khartoum, the training team engaged throughout the week with a wide range of stakeholders:
- Randa Siniora delivered two lectures to students at Ahfad University for Women on How Palestine Deals with Women’s Rights and the University of Khartoum on The Role of NHRIs.
- Mervat Rishmawi met with the Advisory Council for Human Rights – the government body that coordinates all human rights policy – discussing how to mainstream human rights in government. Mervat also gave an interview to Omdurman television network on the aims and objectives of the training; part of one training session was recorded and both featured in a special programme on the Commission
- Ziad Abdel Tawab met with members of an NGO that monitors human rights in South Sudan and discussed methodologies when preparing UPR submissions.
During the joint session with civil society, the Commissioners and civil society representatives discussed mutual expectations and areas of collaboration and developed a ten-point list of common objectives.
Following completion of the training, the Sudan's National Human Rights Commission benefited from a six month mentoring scheme with the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine.
The Dublin Process on the Strengthening of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body System
Dates: 2009 - 2012
Location: Nottingham, Dublin, Geneva, New York
Unit: United Nations and Capacity Building
Core staff: Professor Michael O'Flaherty, Agnes Flues
Funder: Government of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights Unit
The Human Rights Law Centre has participated prominently in the debate on reform of the UN human rights treaty machinery.
In 2009 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for a newly invigorated policy-level process of reflection and action on treaty body strengthening. In September 2009 HRLC Co-Chair Professor Michael O'Flaherty initiated a reflection process on next steps for reform, with the participation of current and former members of treaty bodies, all acting in a personal capacity. This process led to the Dublin expert meeting (18-19 November 2009), following which the experts issued The Dublin Statement on the Process of Strengthening of the UN Human Rights Treaty Body System.
The Statement was later presented at the UN Office in Geneva (26 January 2010) and in New York (18 May 2010). A trail of initiatives and reactions was triggered by the Dublin Statement. In total, 19 consultations by stakeholders took place between 2010 and 2012, for NHRIs, NGOs, treaty body experts, State Parties, academics, UN entities and specialised agents.
In November 2011, stakeholders reconvened in Dublin and issued the Dublin II Outcome Document. The Outcome Document takes into consideration the results of the reflection process since the inception of the Dublin Process in 2009 and provides a clear overview of the proposals and recommendations that emerged from all stakeholders who have engaged with the process. In June 2012, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, published a report entitled Strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty body system.
Our projects have been supported by a wide number of bodies, including: