Logo of Eiuc

Programme of the cluster on Human Rights Defenders

Human rights defenders play an essential role in the realisation of rights. Not only do they fight for human rights in situations of oppression and abuse; they also act as monitors, drawing attention of the international community to otherwise neglected violations and threats; they assist victims in claiming their rights; and they contribute to holding those in power accountable.

Whether acting individually or as part of an organised group, human rights defenders are often the target of reprisals and may themselves be subject to human rights violations. Their essential work, moreover, is in many contexts systematically hampered by the powers that be. There is in this light an increasing understanding within the international community of the importance of safeguarding and facilitating human rights defenders at national, regional and international level. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations on 9 December 1998 marked a historic achievement in the struggle toward better protection of those at risk for carrying out legitimate human rights activities. It is the first UN instrument that recognises the importance and legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, as well as their need for better protection. Following the adoption of the UN Declaration, a number of initiatives were taken at the international and regional level, such as the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on human rights defenders, the Human Rights Defenders Unit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the European Union Guidelines on human rights defenders. However, despite such achievements much still remains to be done.

The present summer school cluster has a twofold focus. Firstly, it reviews a cross-section of instruments, policies and coordination mechanisms that have been devised to protect and facilitate the work of human rights defenders. This will be done with the involvement of Front Line and/or other major civil society organisations working in this area. Secondly, the cluster explores possibilities for reinforcing the work of human rights defenders through a targeted engagement with international, regional and national human rights mechanisms and operations. Particular attention will be devoted to contexts of imminent threat of human rights violations, notably conflict and post-conflict situations and situations of repressive governance. A final course component will address the involvement of civil society and human rights defenders in transitional justice processes.

A red thread running through the programme will be to highlight and work with the concrete experience of participants, who bring a rich legacy of engagement in complex human rights situations to bear on the programme.

It should be noted, finally, that the cluster on human rights defenders overlaps thematically with other summer school clusters, notably the cluster on gender issues. The organisers will seek to facilitate interaction between the respective participant groups as well as possible cross-listing of specific course components.

Programme of Cluster B: Human Rights Defenders

Cluster Responsibles

George UlrichProf. George Ulrich

Prof. George Ulrich,is the Programme Director of the European Master in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA).

He served as EIUC Secretary General from 2003 to 2009 and as Academic Coordinator / Programme Director of E.MA from 2001-2004. Dr Ulrich is thus intimately familiar with the Venice-based inter-university centre and Master’s programme and is excited to re-join the E.MA and EIUC family.

From 1999-2001 he was Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. He obtained his Ph.D. as well as an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, Canada, and holds the degree of Cand. Mag. in Social Anthropology and History of Ideas from Aarhus University, Denmark.

Among George Ulrich’s current research interests are issues related to the history and philosophy of human rights, human rights diplomacy, human rights and development cooperation, health and human rights, international medical ethics, and ethics for human rights professionals.



Lamya Haji BasharLamya Haji Bashar

Lamya Haji Bashar is a survivor of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS) and has become a spokesperson for women afflicted by IS's campaign of sexual violence. She is a public advocate for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants.

On 3 August 2014, IS slaughtered all the males in the village of Kocho, Haji Bashar's hometown in Sinjar/Iraq. Following the massacre, women and children were enslaved. Haji Bashar was also exploited as a sex slave along with her six sisters. She was sold five times among the militants and was forced to make bombs and suicide vests in Mosul after IS militants executed her brothers and father.

Haji Bashar tried to flee several times before finally escaping in April with the help of her family, who paid local smugglers. On her way over the Kurdish border, and while racing towards Iraq's government-controlled territory with IS militants in pursuit, a landmine exploded, killing two of her acquaintances and leaving her injured and almost blind. Luckily she managed to escape and was eventually sent for medical treatment in Germany, where she was reunited with her surviving siblings. Since her recovery Haji Bashar has been active in raising awareness about the plight of the Yazidi community and continues to help women and children who were victims of IS enslavement and atrocities. 

In December 2016, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Lamya Haji Bashar together with Nadia Murad Basee Taha in recognition of their bravery and courage in the fight against IS atrocities.


Lamya Haji BasharHugo Gabbero

LHugo Gabbero is the Deputy Director of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders at FIDH. Over the past years, he has carried out a number of field missions on the situation of human rights defenders, such as in Bangladesh and Azerbaijan. He also drafted and coordinated a range of thematic and country studies concerning legal frameworks and practical restrictions affecting civil society worldwide, following-up on fact-finding missions, trial observations and advocacy trips. Hugo is in daily contact with human rights defenders from around the world, and is in charge of assistance, capacity-building and mobilisation programmes to support those most at risk. He also regularly interacts with institutional stakeholders dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders, at the global and regional levels. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint FIDH-OMCT partnership, founded in 1997.


Tommaso Mignani Tommaso Mignani

Tommaso has currently almost seven years work experience in managing and coordinating grants-related processes, including in conflict affected countries. He worked for EU institutions and international NGOs in Nepal, Brussels and Colombia and he is knowledgeable of disaster preparedness, humanitarian assistance, rights of indigenous people and gender equality issues. Through his work at ProtectDefenders.eu he is in constant dialogue with Human Rights Defenders and human rights organisations, with a worldwide focus.



Manfred NowakManfred Nowak

Manfred Nowak, Professor of International Law and Human Rights - University of Vienna, and Co-Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann institute of Human Rights (BIM), is the Secretary General at EIUC. Prof. Nowak has also been Head of the interdisciplinary research centre Human Rights at the University of Vienna since 2014, vice chair of the Management Board of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna and Scientific Director of the Vienna Master of Arts in Human Rights, University of Vienna, since 2012.

Manfred Nowak was United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture from 2004 to 2010. From 2000 to 2007 Prof. Manfred Nowak was the EMA Chairperson - EMA was awarded the 2006 UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education (Honourable Mention).


Stephan ParmentierStephan Parmentier

Stephan Parmentier studied law, political science and sociology at the universities of Ghent and Leuven (Belgium) and sociology and conflict resolution at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (U.S.A.). He currently teaches sociology of crime, law, and human rights at the Faculty of Law of the University of Leuven and previously served as the Academic Secretary of the Faculty of Law (2002-2005) and Head of the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology (2005-2009). He is a Board member of the Centre for Global Governance Studies at the University of Leuven and a member of the Leuven Mediation Platform. He is also in charge of international relations in criminology at Leuven University and in July 2010 was elected Secretary-General of the International Society for Criminology (re-elected in August 2014). Furthermore, he is on the Advisory Board of the Oxford Centre of Criminology and the International Centre for Transitional Justice (New York).

All over the globe he has served as a visiting professor (Oñati, San José, Sydney, Tilburg, Tokyo, and Venice), visiting scholar (Oxford, Stellenbosch, Sydney, Rome, and Harvard 2018) and guest lecturer in the fields of human rights, justice and peace, criminology and socio-legal studies. Stephan Parmentier is the founder and co-general editor of the international book Series on Transitional Justice (Intersentia Publishers, Cambridge/Antwerp), and editor of the Restorative Justice International Journal (Routledge, Abingdon). He co-founded and co-directs the Flemish Interuniversity Research Network on Law and Development and co-organises the summer course on Human Rights for Development. He also serves as a referee to the ERC funding schemes of the European Union, and several national and international research foundations.

Over the past quarter century he has been an advisor and consultant to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Belgian Minister of the Interior, the Belgian Federal Police, the King Baudouin Foundation, and Amnesty International. His research interests include political crimes and transitional justice, human rights and migration, and restorative justice and peacebuilding. Between 1999 and 2002 he served as the vice-president of the Flemish section of Amnesty International.


Javier Roura BlancoJavier Roura Blanco

Communication and Reporting Officer at the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism - ProtectDefenders.eu

Javier has nearly seven years experience in communication and advocacy on human rights, transitional justice and international development projects, also in post-conflict areas and developing countries. He worked for international organisations, public institutions and NGOs at the international level in Morocco, Bosnia, Croatia, Spain and Belgium, and is experienced in institutional and digital communication, public advocacy and campaigning and project management and monitoring. At ProtectDefenders.eu, he coordinates and implements the communication and advocacy actions of the EU Human Rights Defenders mechanism.


Javier Roura BlancoPietro Sullo

Dr. Pietro Sullo is currently a research associate at the Leuven Institute of Criminology, KU Leuven, Belgium. His main areas of expertise include international human rights law, transitional justice, international criminal law, constitutional transitions and international refugee law. After earning his Ph.D. at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa Dr. Sullo has worked at the Max-Planck-Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg as a senior researcher in the Sudan Team and as a coordinator of the International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and  (IMPRS REMEP). Dr. Sullo was the Director of the European Master's Programme in Human Rights and Democratization (E.MA) in Venice from 2013 to 2015. He has also worked for international NGOs and as a consultant in the field of international human rights law and transitional justice for  the Libyan Constitution Drafting Assembly. In 2016 he has finalized a study on the implementation of the EU Dublin III Regulation for the United Nations High  Commissioner for Refugees, Regional representation for Western Europe. Dr. Sullo has produced an extensive body of publications in the field of human rights law and transitional justice published in peer review journals and edited books.


© 2001 - 2017 EIUC - European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation. CF 94054110278 P. IVA 03493180271.
EIUC Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  News  |  Global Campus  |  Frame  |  Alumni