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Working Paper Series

The QUB Human Rights Centre working paper series represents some of the best research conducted by our Master's students through their dissertation. The Human Rights Centre has over 25 years of experience in developing the research skills of Master's students, and the working paper series is an opportunity to showcase some of the innovative and excellent work they produce. The series is edited by Róise Connolly and is published once a year after the grading of the dissertations.

A powerful Retort: Foreign direct liability as an essential mechanism of redress for victims of human rights violations by multinational extractive corporations

Marisa McVey

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 1


The sheer size, power and physical impact of extractive corporations indicate that they must take into account human rights obligations in their host countries. As it stands, soft law initiatives have failed to hold corporations to account or give victims appropriate redress; instead they have focussed more on placating business interests. Increasingly, human rights activists are looking at more creative avenues to fulfil victims’ restorative needs, and foreign direct liability has extended globally in recent years as a means to fill this accountability void. This study contends that the qualities of tort law can provide for a victim-centred alternative to soft law codes by realising the victim’s right to truth, justice and reparations. It will illustrate the future potential of foreign direct liability to be used against extractive MNCs, specifically in the UK and the rest of Europe. This research comes at an extremely significant time in the development of foreign direct liability in Europe, especially with the recent Kiobel decision in the United States. This study was completed in September 2015 and only incorporates relevant developments up to that date. 


Responsibility to be accountable? Lessons from the Srebrenica trials

Steven van de Put

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 2


In 1995, a genocide took place in Srebrenica. Dutch peacekeepers were at the scene, but were unable to stop the Serbian Army. Those surviving the genocide started tort claims against the Dutch government, and were successful, which led to the award of reparations and an official apology by the Dutch ministry of defence. This essay will offer a critical evaluation of these cases from a victims’ rights perspective. Analysing these cases, it can be observed that domestic cases, in general, address victims’ rights better than the traditional international tribunals and courts; there is more engagement with victims, and more possibilities to engage on a ‘ground’ level. It however remains to be seen whether this can also provide a universal solution to the issues in dealing with accountability of peacekeepers. Whereas it does indeed establish a legal precedent, relaying on double control, it cannot be seen as a sustainable solution; not all victims are in a position to press charges against the sending country. This leads this essay to advocate for a change in dealing with peacekeeper accountability issues. It proposes that this might be best done through the establishment of a claims commission, which would be able to deal with claims brought forward by victims. This should take the form of a standing commission, able to hear private law complaints, award reparations and issue verdicts on responsibility.


Exploring Socioeconomic Disparities in the Irish Sentencing System: A Comparative Examination of the Evidence and Suggestions for Further Empirical Research*

*Winner of the best human rights related LLM dissertation 2015

Liam Dempsey

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No.3


The Irish sentencing system has received considerable scholarly attention over the past three decades. The overarching finding stemming from these studies is that Irish sentencing practice is plagued with inconsistencies. However, whilst inconsistencies at the sentencing stage are wholly undesirable, these variations are partly justified owing to the fact that judges are simply availing of the broad sentencing discretion conferred on them through Irish constitutional jurisprudence. Indeed, much more disconcerting is the potential presence of disparities at the sentencing stage based on a certain extra-legal characteristic of the defendant in question (gender, class, race). An ocean of US scholarly literature has been dedicated to the nature and causes of disparities at the sentencing stage. Unfortunately, however, little or no research has been carried out to this effect in an Irish context. This will be the ultimate aim of this paper. Through an in-depth literary and analytical review of this body of literature (from both the US and Ireland), this paper will propose that class-based disparities in the Irish sentencing system is, intuitively, a distinct possibility. Furthermore, assuming that the above assertion holds some weight, it will be argued that implicit socioeconomic bias on the part of the Irish judiciary, as well as class-based systemic issues unique to the Irish sentencing system, both contribute to these disparities. Finally, this paper will outline future avenues of primary research that would add significant empirical weight to the observations made throughout this paper. 


 The Achievement of Invisibility: The Rise and Fall of the Non-Person

Anurag Deb

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 4


In Europe and North America, there is an undeniable discourse on human rights which pertains to espouse values of universality and equal protection for all. However, in practice, and in law, it often transpires that these same values of universality and equal protection do not apply to all. Where the discourse is premised on humanity being the only qualification for the entitlement to and exercise of human rights, historically disadvantaged minorities, such as non-heterosexuals and women, often experience a continual disadvantage in the manner in which they can exercise rights. How is the discourse on human rights governed? How are minorities conducted through this discourse and how are their experiences as minorities coloured by the discourse on human rights? This project will focus on the effect of this discourse on non-heterosexuals and women, to elucidate the manner in which they are granted rights, and how they can exercise these rights.   


 A Critical Review of Media Representation, Police Reporting and Societal Response to Adult Male-on-Male Rape

Melissa Reane Binks 

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 5


Male-on-male rape remains taboo: shrouded in secrecy by victims too ashamed to speak out, and by a public generally unwilling to listen. This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of adult male-on-male rape within the United Kingdom (UK), examining the mass media representation of, the police reporting of, and the specialist service response to adult men who report rape. This thesis ascertained that adult male-on-male rape remains under-researched in the social research discourse, subsequently misrepresented to and misconstrued by the general public. As a consequence, prevailing preconceptions that surround the nature and impact of adult male-on-male rape are resonant within popular mass media representations alongside police service and court representative’s response to male rape complainants, contributing to the under-reporting of this pertinent crime. Further analysis uncovered that the persistent gender-biased representation of rape in the social research and public discourse has led to negligence of specialist service provision dedicated to male rape survivors. This research emphasises the urgent need for the conscious construction of men as victims of rape in mass media representations, police reporting, and specialist service response, achievable through future research that parallels the attentiveness to cases of female rape, concerning the realisms and complexities of adult male-on-male rape in an endeavour to increase the visibility of this prevalent crime.


The Paradox of Punishment:

A Labelling Critique of the Effectiveness of Imprisonment

Aaron Gallagher 

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 6



In India, patriarchal perceptions of women are often the cause of gender-based acts of violence. In light of this, is CEDAW equipped to challenge these deeply entrenched stereotypes of women in Indian society?

Elizabeth McGeown 

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No.7 


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as a women-specific human rights instrument, purports to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women. What remains unclear, however, is whether the Convention is actually able to eliminate harmful stereotypes that are deeply entrenched in society, which in itself is fundamental to eradicating all forms of discrimination against women. The elimination of harmful stereotypes directed at women is vital for putting an end to acts of violence being directed against them. Using India as context, the author will discuss whether the Convention can effectively thwart harmful perceptions of women with the aim of ending violent crimes against women there. In particular, to illustrate the extent of the problem, the author will focus on two particular types of gender-based violence: rape and dowry-related violence. The author recommends what improvements can be made in terms of effectively implementing the Convention in pursuit of the above aim.


Evaluating the Role of the Third Sector in the Provision of Resettlement Services for Prisoners

Shane Bell 

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 8



Time for change in police culture: Putting human rights at the centre of policing

Sara Pastor 

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 9 


Police have the power to both protect and breach human rights. The purpose of international standards for policing is to leverage the positive connections between policing and human rights, and to minimise potential negative clashes between the two concepts (abuse of power, discriminatory treatment, arbitrariness). This can only be achieved by enacting a significant change in police culture. Holding that a human rights-based approach to policing is needed, this thesis argues that in order to have an impact on police behaviour patterns, international standards have to be implemented through comprehensive models aimed at putting human rights at the centre of policing, particularly through training and accountability measures. Through a parallel analysis of how these two elements are implemented in Spain and Northern Ireland, this thesis offers a guide for the identification of shortcomings and good practices in police training and accountability. Noting that a change in police culture faces multiple challenges at different levels, and taking into account the key role of civil society in the process, this thesis also proposes ways forward based on strategies of persuasion and mutual understanding between police and civil society organisations (CSOs), since true change will only come with the conviction of police officers that the protection of human rights is at the core of their job.


Is ‘justice’ ever possible for victims of gender-based violence during armed conflict? A critical reflection of the position of women within international criminal justice

Sonia Benhassine 

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 10


This dissertation examines the extent to which victims of gender-based violence, in armed conflicts, have accessed justice within international criminal law. International criminal justice, much like other legal agencies, has had an incredibly palpable male perspective. However, this dissertation argues that such masculinised conceptions of international criminal justice, have prevented these victims from accessing justice. As one of the main goals of international criminal justice is to end the culture of impunity, failing to address or adequately recognise the severity of these crimes, has ensured that this culture continues with regards to gender-based violence. Charting the evolution of the international community’s recognition of such crimes, from the Nuremburg and Tokyo tribunals, to the tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia and finally the current work of the ICC, this paper provides a detailed analysis of the journey towards gender justice. This analysis highlights the important role women have played in reconceptualising the international community’s perception of sexual and gender-based violence, from an inevitable consequence, to a war crime, crime against humanity and in some instances a form of genocide.


‘Postmodern Parrhesia: Edward Snowden and the Ethics of Political Truth-telling in Modernity’

 Emily Mills

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No. 11


This dissertation offers Foucauldian critique of the 2013 ‘Snowden revelations’ and subsequent polemical debate. It shows how a reconceptualization of these disclosures using the framework of ‘counter-conduct’ enables us to construct Snowden as an ethical truth-telling subject, as opposed to a ‘traitor’ or ‘betrayer’ of his country. By incorporating Foucault’s analyses on the Greek concept ‘parrhesia’, this study aims to illuminate the influential ethics of truth-telling and how this might subscribe to nuance forms of political engagement. Ultimately it is deliberated that, despite the problematized place for truth-telling in modern democratic politics, Snowden’s truth-telling underscored the capacity of personal ethics to facilitate a more robust democratization of the liberal state regime.


The Internet as a Gateway to Freedom: The extent to which access to the Internet should be considered a human right

 Jane O’Hanlon

Postgraduate HRC 2015 Working Paper No.12


Access to the Internet has become a staple of contemporary living.  The so-called ‘digital revolution’ has changed the way we think in terms of information, education, and communication.  As a result, the very concept of individual freedoms and inalienable rights has changed. However, according to the International Telecommunications Unit, currently 40% of the world’s population have access to an Internet connection.  The Internet creates an accessible medium through which rights can be fulfilled.  This paper will focus on the interaction between Internet Access and the right to freedom of expression, with specific reference to access to online content. Access to the Internet furthers the realisation of freedom of expression, however, it can also negatively impact this right and others. This is particularly so in autocratic states where mass media is heavily controlled and online expressions of opinion are becoming increasingly criminalised.  In this sense, the Internet has redefined the parameters of content restriction and censorship.  This paper purports that the current framework for freedom of expression does not wholly protect the use of the Internet.  Furthermore, it is evident, through the use of the Internet in China and Egypt as a tool of oppression, that greater protection is needed.  This paper therefore considers the plausibility of creating a human right to Internet access, as a third generation right.  In lieu of the creation of a right to Internet access this paper also considers the creation of a universal service obligation and the potential regulation of Internet access through international trade law.