A (Very Brief) Human Rights Assessment of the Transpacific Partnership

On 5 November, States Parties finally released the actual text of the Transpacific Partnership (the TPP), a “next-generation” trade and investment agreement that will bind together 12 countries. The agreement primarily lowers trade barriers, but it also regulates the relationship between the state and foreign businesses from the other states parties.

By Dr. Tara Van Ho. You can follow Tara on twitter: @TaraVanHo

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Why Europe does not have a refugee crisis

Putting to one side the question of just how many people arriving in Europe would constitute a crisis given the resources that are available in this region, especially after having regard to the numbers that cross into and remain in states in Africa and south-east Asia, this article is focusing on ‘Europe’, ‘refugees’ and the search for solutions.

By Geoff Gilbert, Professor of Law, School of Law & Human Rights Centre, University of Essex.

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The Impact of enhanced corporate transparency

Human rights reporting by companies has become a hot topic in the business and human rights world, particularly with the passage of an EU Directive making it mandatory for certain large companies to report on their human rights impacts as part of their annual reporting. The Directive requires companies to provide a description of their human rights policy, the main human rights risks they face, including those arising from business relationships, how these risks are managed and the due diligence processes they employ to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse impacts. Corporate groups should disclose the relevant information on a group-wide basis. The Directive is yet to be implemented by EU member states, but some large corporate groups, such as Unilever, Nestle and Ericsson, who fall within the scope of the Directive, have taken a pro-active approach to human rights reporting and endorsed the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework.

By Dr. Anil Yilmaz Vastardis. You can follow Anil on twitter: @anil_yv.

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Unilever’s Business & Human Rights Report is a Lesson for All

Last week, Unilever released the first Human Rights Report using a UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework developed byShift Project, which is a business and human rights specialty group, and Mazars Group, which is engaged in auditing and transparency. It is worth noting that Shift is largely made up of individuals who worked for John Ruggie, the former UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on business and human rights, while he was developing the 2008 UN Framework on business and human rights and the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (several of those have much longer proper titles, but I’m on a word limit), but has not yet been endorsed by the UN Working Group.

By Dr. Tara Van Ho. You can follow Tara on twitter: @TaraVanHo Continue reading

The Aftermath of Charleston: the Confederate Flag and a Right to Being Dixie?

In their response to the utterly premediated and brutal murder of nine African-Americans at prayer in Charleston, South Carolina gun lobby spokesmen repeated the formulaic mantra that the best way to avoid such catastrophes is not to restrict homicidal racists’ legal right to bear arms, but to ensure that their victims have unrestricted access to guns also: the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, after all, had the temerity to ban guns amongst the congregation. The massacre of the nine Christians in Charleston will not, I fear, serve as the catalyst for establishing some form of sanity within US gun culture and the constitutional protection it enjoys. It has, however, provoked a surprising and potentially highly significant campaign, which is singling out the confederate flag as a symbol of racism and hatred. People from across different political, racial and social groupings are openly calling upon the removal of the flag from various public sites; from outside the state capitol building of South Carolina to car registration plates across several Southern states. Items bearing the flag’s distinctive image have even been removed from the shelves of large retailers.  The confederate flag is being culturally and politically re-branded. Not everyone thinks that this is a good thing. Some even argue that the campaign to render the flag socially and culturally taboo amounts to a violation of their rights.

By Dr. Andrew Fagan, University of Essex.

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The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: What do the international drug control treaties say about ‘most serious crimes’?

By Dr Rick Lines. Rick s the Executive Director of Harm Reduction International, and a Visiting Fellow at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex. He is Chair of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy. You can follow him on twitter: @LinesRick

The recent mass executions of drug offenders in Indonesia have rekindled international debate on the death penalty for drug offences. A key flashpoint of this debate is whether drug crimes are of a sufficient severity to be capital crimes.

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How much protection do the new UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners offer LGBTI detainees?

By Eka Iakobishvili. Eka has worked as a human rights analyst and adviser for number of INGOS and IGOs, such as PRI, HRI, EHRN and UNODC. She was part of the Essex Expert Group meetings that worked on the SMRs in 2012-3, and was part of the NGO discussion at the 13th Crime Congress in Qatar, in April 2015. You can follow her on twitter: @Eka_ia

On 18-22 May, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will adopt new and updated UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs). The SMRs were endorsed at the 13th Crime Congress in Qatar last month and it is expected that the UN General Assembly will adopt the rules by the end of 2015. Continue reading

Nepal Earthquake: Fears that relief efforts could exasperate poor political record

By Rebecca Cordell. Rebecca is a Quantitative Human Rights PhD student in the Department of Government. Her doctoral research focuses on CIA rendition, secret detention and torture post-9/11. You can follow her on twitter: @RebeccaCordell

At 11:56am last Saturday a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal causing widespread devastation. This was the strongest earthquake to hit the Himalayan region in over 80 years and it was followed by a series of tremors and aftershocks that weresignificant earthquakes in their own right (at a magnitude of 6.6 and 6.7).  Over 5,500 people are known to have died – a number that is expected to grow significantly over the coming weeks as relief efforts continue.  Current estimates indicate that over 100,000 people have been made homeless. These individuals are currently without adequate access to shelter, clean water, sanitation or food; raising the risk of an epidemic.

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Lethal Autonomous Robots and the Dehumanization of War

Over the last week several newspapers around the world have highlighted the second round of meetings in Geneva, under the supervision of the Convention on Certain Convention Weapons CCW, regarding the legal future of so-called Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARs). For some, who argue that LARs can be more ethical than human soldiers this new technology represents the future of warfare (R. Arkin). For others, LARs are ‘killer robots’ that should be subject to a prohibition similar to that applicable to Blinding Lasers Weapons, which were prohibited by Protocol IV to the CCW (Human Rights Watch; Article 36).

By Afonso Seixas-Nunes, SJ.

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Operationalizing Human Rights in the Business Context

By Tara Van Ho. Tara Van Ho is a post-doctoral research fellow with the INTRALaw Centre at the University of Aarhus’s Department of Law, and a project associate with the Essex Business & Human Rights Project here at Essex. She was formerly a corporate lawyer and now provides human rights research, trainings, and consultancies for NGOs, states, and IGOs. You can follow her on twitter: @TaraVanHo

In a resource-rich Southeast Asian country, a foreign corporation laid an oil pipeline on the outskirts of a town. The assumption by the corporation and the state was that their chosen location for the pipeline wouldn’t cause a disruption to nearby houses and was therefore fine from a human rights perspective. What they didn’t know was that the chosen location required the destruction of trees considered sacred to the local population, a minority ethnic group with specific local traditions. Continue reading