Siri Gloppen (Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen), "In pursuit of international accountability for human rights violations"
In 1969, The Greek Case at the Council of Europe (CoE) marked the start of a radical development in international relations, where international bodies have become central in attempts to hold governments accountable for human rights violations against their own populations. In the 50 years since, pursuit of international accountability for human rights violations has expanded, both in terms of the number of cases, the scope of their reach, the number of international courts and quasi-judicial bodies used as arenas, and the diversity of actors involved.
What was radically new in The Greek case, was that it was brought by member states without a direct national interest at stake, on the basis that the torture and other gross human rights violations committed by the Junta violated the international human rights norms foundational to the CoE Charter and thus a common concern. In the past half-century, the number bodies engaged in securing accountability for human rights violations have proliferated. This has greatly expanded the number of cases and international judgements affecting national legal and political matters. Since 2002 the International Criminal Court has gone one step beyond, holding individual leaders accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity. With a more direct link to The Greek Case, some countries, including Norway have adopted the principle of universal jurisdiction, allowing prosecution in domestic courts for particularly serious human rights violations committed elsewhere by foreign nationals.
The proliferation of international human rights lawfare and jurisprudence is both lauded as a great step forward for human rights enforcement, and severely criticized – also by human rights defenders. The lecture will investigate why this is this so by examining some hotly contested cases, before concluding with some reflections on the future of international human rights lawfare.
The lecture is part of a series hosted by the Danish Institute, the Norwegian Institute, the Netherlands Institute, and the Swedish Institute at Athens in the context of the conference The ‘Greek Case’ in the Council of Europe: A Game Changer for International Law and Human Rights? (Athens, 12–14 December 2019). As a prequel to the conference that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Greece’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe, the lectures engage with the broader issues involved, concerning human rights, European institutions and international law in the past and contemporary times. They will feature leading scholars, journalists, writers and human rights practitioners, among others. All lectures will take place at the Danish Institute at Athens from April to November 2019.