International Human Rights News: Weekly Roundup

By Luiza Drummond Veado and Cecilia Grillo

Each week students at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre prepare an overview of the past week’s human rights related news stories from around the world.

  • Global

Infographics: Inequality in Numbers – Sur

UN expert calls for concerted action to guarantee rights for persons with disabilities – UN News Center

Record Number of Journalists Jailed in 2016, Press Advocacy Group Says – The New York Times

UNHCR Issues Guidelines on Refugee Status of Those Fleeing Conflict – International Justice Resource Center

UN’s new expert on sexual orientation and gender identity faces yet another attempt to halt work – International Service for Human Rights

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Harnessing Big Data for Patient Empowerment: an Interview with Dr Nathan Lea

By Carmel Williams

Although Dr Nathan Lea’s professional career focuses on the role and governance of information systems and technology in health, his motivation and passion for the somewhat geeky field comes from personal experience. Diagnosed at the age of five as having diabetes, Nathan has seen the technology to monitor and manage blood sugar levels progress from slow, cumbersome and managed largely by health professionals, to being far more patient-centred and friendly, faster and digitised. Patients now send their measures of blood-sugars to their doctors, not the other way, and doctors are now faced with asking patients to minimise the flood of results. It’s hard to cope with the amount of data they are being sent.

This is an example of patient empowerment, and for Nathan, it illustrates what information technology, and big data, can do in health. Health informatics, (a discipline that involves the capture, communication and use of data and clinical knowledge to support health professionals and health systems) is a field that dates back not just decades, but Nathan points out the earliest medical records are found on papyrus. However, it is only at the individual level that health records and information go back thousands of years; in the last few decades health information has incorporated computer science, to become health informatics.

Now, with the addition of big data into health informatics, it is possible to crunch massive amounts of data, enabling the delivery of improved individual care when and where it is needed. Big data is the collection of data at massive population scale, massively detailed scale, that in and of itself requires new techniques for storage and for asking queries of it.

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To combat right-wing populism, we need to reclaim human rights

By Ruth Lister & Paul Hunt

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Compass.

Human rights are central to understanding – and arresting – the rise in right-wing populism. Farage, Trump, Le Pen and their fellow travellers gain strength from the poverty, inequality and unfairness experienced by millions of working and middle class families. Their experience is sometimes laced with prejudice and intolerance. This perfect human rights storm demands an urgent human rights response. But, if this response is to succeed, human rights need to be refreshed for modern times and understood as important to us all. Continue reading

International Human Rights News: Weekly Roundup


By Luiza Drummond Veado and Cecilia Grillo

Each week students at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre prepare an overview of the past week’s human rights related news stories from around the world.


The Human Rights Centre blog marked Human Rights Day (10 December 2016) with a blog post from the director of the Human Rights Centre, Lorna McGregor, who discussed why we must reclaim human rights.

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Reclaiming Human Rights

By Lorna McGregor

Today we mark International Human Rights Day. In the UK, as globally, it has been a bad year for human rights. The rise in overt racism, xenophobia and intolerance is the clearest illustration of this. Where ‘human rights’ have received airtime, they have often been portrayed negatively. This is illustrated by years of pushback on the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act and a wider caricaturing of human rights with reductive stories of human rights being about cats and speeding laws.

The dominance of these stories risks the characterisation of human rights as ‘part of the problem’ as a set of partial or parochial concerns – or worse – redundant. In this context, however, human rights could not be more important. Moving into 2017, it is critical that we become much more effective than we have been at pushing back against the pushback on human rights. We must assert why human rights matter, and why they are more essential now than ever before.

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SOGI Mandate Passes Third Committee Hurdle

Co-authored by the following members of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex: Munira Ali, Acting Project Officer; Lorna McGregor, Director; Daragh Murray, Blog Editor; Patricia Palacios Zuloaga, Director, Human Rights Centre Clinic; Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair; Clara Sandoval, Acting Director (2017); Ahmed Shaheed, Deputy Director.

Editors Note: This blog originally appeared on EJIL:Talk! This post also follows on from a previous post: ‘What is the Future of the SOGI Mandate and What Does it Mean for the UN Human Rights Council?’

On 21 November 2016, the Third Committee of the General Assembly (GA) voted to uphold the United Nations mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in a very closely fought vote. The decision represents a major stepping stone for the promotion of LGBTI rights, and provides much-needed reassurance regarding the ability of the Human Rights Council (HRC) – and the broader UN machinery – to adequately combat international human rights challenges.

Two main points of contention emerged during discussions leading up to, and during the day of the vote: 1) whether there is a legal basis for the mandate (the substantive argument); and 2) whether the GA has the power to override decisions made by the HRC (the procedural argument). It was the latter argument that generated the most discussion, and will therefore be the main focus of this post.

This post will begin with an analysis of what exactly happened on the day of the vote, and will be followed by an exploration of the two main arguments. The post will end with a discussion on what this vote could mean both in the short-term and long-term. Continue reading

Using Technology to Facilitate Human Rights Work

Editor’s note: This post forms part of a larger series addressing key issues related to human rights, technology & big data. 

New data streams present great opportunities. They are revolutionising how we work every day.  Improved Internet and mobile phone connections have changed how we order a taxi, how we book a hotel, how we watch television.  It has also changed opportunities in how we communicate with the world.  Scenes of nearly every global event are written about, filmed or photographed thanks to the smartphone in the pocket of a witness to events and posted to a social media site. From sports events to elections, from celebrations to disasters. News reports and images from every news event now incorporate some element of social media – be these the pictures that launch the story (think of the shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police in the United States in July 2016), be these the first pictures of a major news story (the terrorist attack in Nice, France or the attempted coup in Turkey) or reactions to ongoing news stories.

While social media has revolutionised news gathering and storytelling, it has also opened enormous possibilities for monitoring human rights violations and humanitarian crises.  In January 2016, Amnesty International launched a report into mass graves found in Burundi based on satellite imagery backed up with social media eyewitness reports on the ground and traditional interviews.  Human Rights Watch has used content sourced from social media to highlight potential human rights abuses around the shooting of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh in January 2015. WITNESS trained and encouraged activists in Rio de Janeiro to film potential human rights abuses in the run up to the summer Olympics in Brazil’s second largest city. Continue reading