Auckland ‘natural home’ for human rights centre

04 April 2012

Ashworth2

The New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice at the Auckland Law School has been launched in the presence of many of the country’s top judges and an eminent British academic.

The Chief Justice and many other judges attended a reception at Old Government House on 29 March followed by a standing-room only lecture.

Practitioners, staff and large numbers of students joined them in hearing Professor Andrew Ashworth, Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford University, talk about “Human rights, judges and politicians: Recent controversies in the UK and Europe”.

Professor Ashworth has an international reputation for his work in criminal law, sentencing, criminal justice and human rights. He was in this country as the NZ Law Foundation Distinguished Visiting Fellow for 2012 and his public lecture on a highly pertinent theme officially launched the Centre.

Welcoming guests to the lecture and introducing Professor Ashworth, the Dean of Law at Auckland, Dr Andrew Stockley, said the Centre’s establishment was “an important milestone for the Law School” as well as “a statement about the importance we place on human rights law”.

“Human rights law is incredibly important for many of our compulsory courses and a whole range of our elective courses. We have a significant number of staff members teaching, researching and publishing in these areas.”

Last year 180 students had taken part in the Law School’s Equal Justice Programme, volunteering their time to provide free legal assistance in partnership with community groups and the legal profession. Students were also involved in making submissions and conducting research on human rights issues, and helping with human rights events.

Alumni were involved in a whole raft of human rights activities, whether working in the prosecutor’s department of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The Auckland Law School is a natural home for a human rights law centre,” said Dr Stockley. “We are absolutely delighted that with the University’s support we have been able to establish the NZ Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice.”

The Centre planned to further enhance the teaching of human rights law, including through a clinical programme to enable more students to work directly on human rights cases. It would carry out more research into human rights matters, including by way of publications, conferences and seminars, and attracting more postgraduate and doctoral students.

“The Centre will be looking to make a difference, whether through policy advocacy on human rights matters, giving advice to non-government organisations, assisting with submissions to UN reporting bodies and taking part in human rights litigation,” said Dr Stockley.

“It is right and proper for this University, New Zealand’s leading research university, and for this Law School, recently ranked as one of the world’s top 20 law schools in the prestigious QS World University rankings, to consider human rights law, policy and practice as being of fundamental importance.”

The Dean paid particular thanks to Justice Lyn Stevens who had contributed greatly to the establishment of the Centre and to Andrew Butler and Bob Kirkness who had also given considerable assistance.

Senior lecturer Kris Gledhill, whose practice as a London barrister included a large amount of human rights law, is the Centre’s inaugural Director. Chris Mahony, who has been completing his doctorate at Oxford and has worked as a consultant to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and for the Special Court of Sierra Leone and as a consultant for the International Centre for Transnational Justice, is Deputy Director.