Search for courses or information

Current News
Johanna Herman and Olga Martin-Ortega co-authored a chapter with Chandra Lekha Sriram for the book Rethinking Peacebuilding: The quest for just peace in the Middle East and the Western Balkans. This book is the culmination of a three year EU FP VII project where the CHRC was part of a consortium of seven institutions and coordinated by Lund University. The chapter is called "Beyond Justice versus Peace: Transitional Justice and Peacebuilding Strategies".

The book presents new theoretical and conceptual perspectives on the problematique of building just and durable peace.

Linking peace and justice has sparked lively debates about the dilemmas and trade-offs in several contemporary peace processes. Despite the fact that justice and peace are commonly referred to there is surprisingly little research and few conceptualizations of the interplay between the two.

This edited volume is the result of three years of collaborative research and draws upon insights from such disciplines as peace and conflict, international law, political science and international relations. It contains policy-relevant knowledge about effective peacebuilding strategies, as well as an in-depth analysis of the contemporary peace processes in the Middle East and the Western Balkans. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical approaches, the work makes an original contribution to the growing literature on peacebuilding.

This book will be of much interest to students of peacebuilding, peace and conflict studies, Middle Eastern Politics, European Politics and IR/Security Studies. It is available to order from the Routledge website.

The first meeting of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) Interest Group on Business and Human Rights will take place in Valencia on Thursday 13th September.  The participants to the workshop will will discuss some of the current issues involved in research on the topic. Members of the Group will present their latest research on private banking, conflict minerals, private military and security companies, human trafficking, child exploitation and environmental litigation (see programme below). The development of the UN Guiding Principles and the work of the UN Working Group will feature high among the topics of discussion. The program is available here.

The Group will also take this opportunity to have its first meeting as a group. The Interest Group is chaired by Marta Requejo, Olga Martin-Ortega and Freya Beatens. We welcome all the members of the Group and all of those attending the ESIL Biannual Conference in Valencia to come and be part of this exciting initiative. For all of you who are not still members of the Group and will be interested in joining us, please do not hesitate to contact Marta Requejo (marta.requejo@usc.es).

This new MA programme offers an advanced and comprehensive understanding of the relationship between conflict, displacement and human insecurity. Distinctive features of the programme are its focus on conflict and displacement, its people-centred approach, and its emphasis on human security that combines both human rights and human development. The MA approaches development as an important security strategy and considers displacement a measure of human security. For more information please see the programme website.
Johanna Herman, Research Fellow at the Centre and Ian Patel, former Research Assistant for the project Local Voices in internationalized justice? The experience of civil parties at the ECCC, have co-authored a blog post for the Huffington Post UK. In particular, this article "Scratching the Surface of Kony 2012: Making Victims Matter" contrasts the connectedness of the global commentariat, social media movements, and the international legal community with the isolation of the victims on whose behalf they operate. To illustrate this, the article provides a short narrative of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia, which reveals the underside of international justice, its machinations and poor accommodation of the victims themselves.
Michael Phillips, member of the Centre on Human Rights in Conflict and Lecturer in the School of Law and Social Sciences, has been awarded an Early Career Research Accelerator Grant by UEL to fund research on the comparative contribution of Christian churches and social movements towards transitional justice initiatives in Spain and Australia. The grant will fund interview and archival research in Spain in July 2012. The research builds on doctoral research completed by Michael in Australia.
Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, this project is led by Johanna Herman, who is a Research Fellow at the Centre on Human Rights in Conflict, School of Law and Social Sciences, University of East London. For the first time at an internationalised tribunal, victims of mass atrocity crimes can act as civil parties. The participation of victims at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, known formally as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), is part of a growing recognition of the importance of victims' rights and involvement in international criminal justice. This project engages directly with the rise of victim participation by examining the specific experiences, expectations and understanding of civil parties in the ECCC. In doing so, it also engages with the circumstances and exigencies that the ECCC has faced in its unprecedented treatment of victims.

Although there have been a number of large-scale quantitative surveys undertaken amongst civil parties, this research focuses on a smaller number of participants and employs a qualitative methodology. This is in order to consider more closely the motivations and concerns of civil parties themselves. Ms. Herman visited Cambodia in October and December 2011 and carried out interviews with representatives of the ECCC, lawyers and NGO staff. The main focus of the research was on 24 interviews with civil parties and complainants from 5 different provinces: Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampot and Pursat.

Together with the project's research assistant Ian Patel, Ms. Herman carried out thematic analysis of this data. The data was coded before being arranged into specific themes and sub-themes relating variously to civil parties' reactive attitudes to participation, their opinions about the court's work, and technical understanding of its proceedings. This data analysis was conducted non-prescriptively - that is to say, no pre-defined set of constructs was imposed on the data. Rather, the narratives of civil parties themselves were interpreted at their word. The emphases that civil parties themselves gave to certain experiences and expectations regarding the ECCC were actively reproduced by this project's research. In this way, the research remains faithful to the aim of providing insight into the personal experiences of civil parties.

The overarching themes are: Meaningful Justice; Collective vs Individual Reparations; Values of being a Civil Party; Emotional consequences of application and participation; Challenges from limited time and resources; and Understanding and perception of civil parties regarding the trial and participation.

Ms. Herman presented the initial findings of the project at the 14th International Symposium World Society of Victimology in The Hague on Monday 21 May. A policy paper with recommendations from the project will be published later this year and Ms. Herman will give a seminar as part of the Centre's seminar series in December 2012.

For further information or to be kept updated on the project outputs please email Johanna Herman.

On Wednesday 18th April 2012, Elizabeth Stokes, Senior Lecturer, School of Law and Social Sciences, University of East London gave a seminar on "Nuts, Sluts and Perverts: conflict and challenges in the domestication of Human Rights law". The podcast is available here and the presentation is also available.
John Strawson, Director of the CHRC and Barry Collins a member of the CHRC, have jointly edited the latest issue of the International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies (Vol.5, No. 3 [2012) on the theme of Iraq and Human Rights. In their editorial they argue,

There is no doubt the Arab spring has transformed the Middle East. This special issue of our journal on Iraq and Human Rights reads like a hinge between two phases of history. Part of this hinge connects modern Iraq to its antecedents rooted in the British Mandate, the Cold War (the Baghdad Pact and the 1958 Revolution) and authoritarian regimes. The other part of the hinge points to the democratic future that the Arab spring promises. However, in order for this promise to be fulfilled Iraq will need to extricate itself from the sickly oil that the United States and Britain have poured over the hinge through the disastrous years of the sanctions regime from 1991 and the calamity of war and occupation in 2003.

The contents of the issue include:

Bill Bowring, "Minority rights in post-war Iraq: An impending catastrophe"

Eric Herring, "Variegated neo-liberalism, human development and resistance: Iraq in a global context"

Susan C Breau and Rachel Joyce, "Identifying and recording every casualty of armed conflict"

David Keane and Joshua Castellino, "Transcending sectarianism through minority rights in Iraq"

Barry Collins, "Human rights imperialism: Extra-territorial jurisdiction and the Al Skeini case"

The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is published by Intellect in print and and can also be accessed electronically here.

Dr. Martin-Ortega is currently Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Rural Childhood at Perth College, University of The Highlands, Scotland. Dr. Martin-Ortega and Professor Rebecca M.M. Wallace, the Director of the Centre, have worked together for years on the field of international law and human rights. They have co-authored academic works and continue to share research interests in the framework of the institutional collaboration between the two research centres. Find out more information >

Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega and Dr. Rosana Alija-Fernandez presented the paper "Where is my grandfather? Impunity and Memory in Spain" at the Interdisciplinary Conference on "Violence, Memory and Human Rights" at the University of South Florida, USA (31 January-3 February 2012). The Conference explored issues related to memory, reconciliation and justice after mass atrocity. Olga and Rosana's paper dealt with the Spanish process of recovery of historical memory. Spanish transition from dictatorship is often referred to as a model of democratic transition. The peaceful and relatively blood-free transformation was done at the expense of the rights of the victims of one side of the war and the brutal repression of the dictatorship. The process was based on amnesty, limited reparation and rehabilitation and a “not now” response to victims demands. Overall: impunity. A real process of transitional justice did not begin until the third generation of Spaniards started looking for their dead relatives. This process is characterised by the impossibility to access justice through courts, private opening of mass graves in the search for victims and “historical memory,” understood as “private memory,” based on the right of victims’ relatives to rebuild their own story and identity. This paper analysed the measures undertaken to rehabilitate and provide reparations for the victims of the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship. It argued that the fact that the third generation has freed itself from the guilt and fear imposed by the repression in the dictatorship has allowed for a process which is now unstoppable. It debates whether the focus on memory helps victims achieve justice, in the different ways these may be understood by them. Finally it reflected on the impact that this process is having in a country which struggles to find its identity and reconcile with itself.

For more information on the Conference click here.

The CHRC launches its 2012 Seminar Series with the lecture by Prof. Ruth Abril Stoffels, Universidad CEU-Cardenal Herrera, Valencia (Spain) on "Women, armed conflicts and peace operations: victims, actors and agents".

The seminar will take place on Wednesday 25th January, 3.30-5pm at Room 110, Duncan House, University of East London, Stratford Hight Street, E15 2JB.

All welcome!

The latest chapter authored by Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman has now been published. The CHRC members are the authors of "Hybrid Tribunals: Interaction and Resistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cambodia" in the book edited by Oliver P. Richmond and Audra Mitchel, Hybrid Forms of Peace: From Everyday Agency to Post-Liberalism (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011). For more information on the book click here.
Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega and Iva Vukusic (Sense News Agency) have written a piece for the blog, International Law Note pad on "Lack of critical voices as the ICTY examines its global legacy."
Dr. Martin-Ortega was invited to participate in a one day conference on Prosecuting War Crimes: Lessons and Legacies at the War Crimes Studies Department in KCL. The conference bought together academics and practitioners on the field. Dr. Martin-Ortega presented her research on the War Crimes Chambers of the State Court in Bosnia, staking stock of its six years of trial work and drawing some lessons for international criminal justice. This research is supported by the British Academy Small Grant (SG100735) The role of hybrid courts in the institutional and substantive development of international criminal justice. A study of the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The recently formed Interest Group on Business and Human Rights of the European Society of International Law has elected its Board Members: Dr. Marta Requejo, from the University of Santiago, Dr. Freya Baetens, from the University of Leiden and Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega. They are working on the planning and organisation of the future events and research of the Group. The latter activity of the Group can be accessed here.
Over the past few decades scholars and practitioners have debated about whether, in countries emerging from violent conflict, justice should be sacrificed or delayed for the sake of peace, or should be promoted even if it is in the short term destabilising. In many countries emerging from conflict, processes of accountability or transitional justice processes, operate almost simultaneously alongside processes of peace-building such as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants, reform of the security sector and rule of law promotion, in the immediate aftermath of conflict. These processes can also include internationalised criminal tribunals, which have mixed national– international staff. While scholarship has increasingly focused on the engagement between transitional justice and peacebuilding processes in the relatively near term, far less has examined the role of processes of accountability that follow conflict termination by a significant period of time, justice delayed.

This article draws on our recent fieldwork in Lebanon, Bosnia and Cambodia. We examine three internationalised criminal tribunals developed some 15 years after the termination of conflict in countries that experienced three very different types of conflict, conflict resolution and peacebuilding or reconstruction in these three countries. We find that despite claims made by advocates for such institutions, such tribunals may only have limited impact on longer term peace-building and that the effects of flawed peace-building activities affect the operating environment of the tribunals.

The article is accessible online: Chandra L. Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman "Justice Delayed? Internationalised Tribunals and Peace-Building in Lebanon, Bosnia and Cambodia", Conflict, Security and Development, vol. 19 (3), pp. 335-356.

The Centre on Human Rights in Conflict is pleased to announce that its Research Fellow, Johanna Herman, has been awarded a small grant by the Nuffield Foundation. The grant is for a one year project called "Local voices in internationalised justice? The experience of civil parties at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal." The project aims to evaluate the experience of victims within the Tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). For the first time at an internationalised tribunal, victims of mass atrocity crimes can act as civil parties. In this capacity they are recognised as parties to the proceedings and can seek reparations. This development is part of a growing recognition towards the importance of the participation of victims. The research will focus on the experience of civil parties and the consideration given to their needs by the ECCC. It will consider whether the process has met their expectations and resulted in meaningful interaction or if it is more of a limited engagement. It will reflect on the needs and priorities of victims compared with the specific and defined role available within trial proceedings. For further information please contact Johanna Herman.
Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman are the authors of a new publication on the impact of hybrid tribunals in peacebuilding and transitional justice. The chapter is part of the Internatioal Centre for Transitional Justice book "Contested Transitions: Dilemmas of Transitional Justice in Colombia and Comparative Experience" edited by Michael Reed and Amanda Lyons. Olga and Johanna's chapter offer a comparative analysis of the recent experiences of the War Crimes Chambers of the State Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. This work is based on the authors' field work in Bosnia and Cambodia 2009 in the framework of the EU Project "Building a Just and Durable Peace by Piece".

The book is available in English and Spanish to download.

From 03 March 2011 - 05 March 2011, the 2nd Biennial War Crimes conference, an initiative between SOLON, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and the Centre for Contemporary British History, was held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. It explored themes surrounding responses to war crimes – past, present and future –, considering the roles of the judiciary, national and international actors. Papers presented at this conference considered questions such as whether the history of such prosecutions indicate that they should simply expose/reveal or whether they should always punish; what is the role of mediation in the interests of revelations of ‘truth’, and what impact can strategies for reconciliation have. Dr Olga Martin-Ortega presented a paper on The War Crimes Chambers of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina: some lessons for international criminal justice while Johanna Herman’s paper was on Problems and Promise: Civil Society, Victim Participation and the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia.
For more information, please go to the conference page.
John Strawson Reader in Law at the University of East London and Middle East specialist told BBC Radio Essex that the news of Mubarak's resignation and assumption of the power by the High Army Council was the culmination of slow motion coup that began three weeks ago. This was a victory for the mass popular demonstrations but in the absence of coherent opposition movement or unified leadership the army was forced to act. The prospect for democracy now rest on how the army will conduct the next critical months - in particular the organizing of credible free elections by the autumn. The developments in Egypt will have had a massive impact on the rest of the Arab world and all eyes will now be on Cairo. For the West there will be some concerns about the eventual outcome and this should intensify efforts of pressure Israel and help the Palestinians towards the creation of a democratic Palestinian State. The Egyptians have opened a new door on Middle Eastern history.
Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega is part of the project “The responsibility of Spanish transnational corporations with regards to human rights: towards a general framework for public policy”, coordinated by Dr. Carmen Marquez Carrasco, University of Sevilla (Spain), and financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology.  The three years project aims at analysing the complex discussion surrounding the responsibility of transnational corporations with regard to the respect of human rights in the specific context of Spain, in light of the increasingly important role that Spanish TNCs play in the global economy, and of ongoing processes involving Spanish authorities, civil society, and corporate actors themselves.
Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega will work closely with the other partners of the project which include colleagues from University of Sevilla, Antwerp University, European Inter–University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC); Universidad Catolica Pontificia de Peru, University of Toronto, Maastricht University and Universidad of Girona (Spain).
John Strawson, Interim Director of the Centre was recently interviewed by Lauren Booth on Press TV about his book Partitioning Palestine: Legal fundamentalism in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. You can view the interview here.

Partitioning Palestine focuses on three key moments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the League of Nations Mandate, the United Nations partition plan and the Oslo agreements. None of these documents are neutral but, rather, encode a variety of meanings. The book traces the way in which these legal narratives have both shaped national identity and sharpened the conflict. John Strawson argues that a committed attachment to the belief in legal justice has hampered the search for a settlement. Law, far from offering conflict resolution, has reinforced the trenches from which Palestinians and Israelis confront one another. The book is available from the Pluto Press website.

War, Conflict, and Human Rights: Theory and Practice co-authored by the former director of the CHRC, Chandra Lekha Sriram, and two Centre staff members, Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman, has been reviewed in the November issue of Human Rights Quarterly.  For the full text of the review please click here.
We are sad to learn of the death of our International Advisory Group member, Ellen L Lutz the international human rights scholar, lawyer and activist. She made an irreplaceable contribution to human rights through her writing, academic positions and campaigning, most recently as director of Cultural Survival. We send our condolences to her family and friends.
Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega and Dr. Rosa Ana Alija-Fernandez have published a new opinion piece on the American Society of International Law Accountability Newsletter. Click here to access it.
Johanna Herman has written the fifth policy paper in the CHRC series titled "Reaching for Justice: The participation of victims at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia". This research was funded by the Promising Researcher grant, awarded by the Graduate School at the University of East London. For further information on the CHRC policy paper series, please see the publications page.
The policy paper, "A breakthrough in justice? Accountability for post-election violence in Kenya," is authored by Professor Chandra Lekha Sriram of the Centre and Professor Stephen Brown of the University of Ottawa.  Professor Sriram's research was supported by the Nuffield Foundation; Professor Brown's research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. For the CHRC policy papers series click here.
The CHRC is pleased to announce that Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega has been awarded a British Academy Small Grant on: The role of hybrid courts in the institutional and substantive development of international criminal justice. A study of the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The project will study the role of hybrid international criminal courts in the institutional, substantive and procedural development of international criminal justice. It will focus on the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For information about the project click here.

Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman have co-edited the forthcoming volume from Routledge, Peacebuilding and Rule of Law in Africa: Just Peace? This book explores the expanding international efforts to promote rule of law in countries emerging from violent conflict.

With a focus on Africa, the authors critically examines the impact of these activities in relation to liberal peacebuilding, rule of law institutions, and the range of non-state providers of justice and security. They also assess the virtues and limitations of rule of law reform efforts, and policy alternatives. It brings together expert scholars and practitioners from politics, law, anthropology and conflict studies, and features detailed case studies on Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Further information and an order form is available here.

Olga Martin-Ortega, Senior Research Fellow of the CHRC, and Rosa Ana Alija Fernandez, of the University of Barcelona, argue that Argentina should exercise universal jurisdiction over claims brought by victims of the Franco regime in Spain in the Jurist.
Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega and Johanna Herman have published a working paper on "Hybrid Tribunals & the Rule of Law. Notes from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Cambodia". This working paper is written as part of the EU framework VII project "Just and Durable peace by piece".

The paper is in the Human Security Gateway database and was featured in the Human Security Research Report Highlights for July 2010.

The United States Institute of Peace Annual grant competition has awarded a grant to the CHRC in support of its "Transitional justice as peacebuilding" project. The project will examine the potential role and limitations of transitional justice as an element of peacebuilding. If properly designed and implemented the inclusion of transitional justice elements in peacebuilding process may help ensure attention both to victims' rights and the reintegration of ex-combatants and victimizers while promoting reconciliation and stability. The collaboration will examine many current processes which incorporate transitional justice activities into peacebuilding processes.
On Monday 12 April 2010 the CHRC hosted a lecture by Radhika Coomaraswamy , the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict. Ms Coomaraswamy explained what the UN definition for armed conflict meant, the role of the Security Council and the peacekeepers and the importance of action plans and dialogue with the UN and parties accused of grave violations against children.

UEL’s Professor Chandra Lekha Sriram, who is the Director of the Centre on Human Rights in Conflict said: “The visit of Ms. Coomaraswamy to the Centre and the School of Law is an exciting and important one, as the work of her office reflects so many of the concerns of the Centre on Human Rights and Conflict with regards to the protection of human rights during and in the wake of violent conflict.

Her speech shows our commitment to develop research in these areas, but also to inform important policy debates and bring those debates to our university community.”

Lecture handout 

Audio recording

Senior Research Fellow at the CHRC, Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega has written a chapter on "Business Under Fire: Transnational Corporations and Human Rights in Conflict Zones" for the recently published volume International Law and Armed Conflict Challenges in the 21st Century, eds. Noëlle Quénivet and Shilan Shah-Davis.
We are pleased to announce that Chandra Lekha Sriram and Johanna Herman's article is now in print.  "DDR and transitional justice: bridging the divide?" was published in the December 2009 issue of Conflict, Security & Development.
Back To Top