Human Rights at Queen's
The Human Rights Centre at Queen’s University, Belfast was established in 1990 to provide a focus for research and education on human rights. The goal of the Centre, originally given the unwieldy title of ‘Centre for Comparative and International Human Rights Law’, was to help raise the profile of the human rights expertise of various academics in the Queen’s Law Faculty (as it was then). The Faculty had established a Masters in Human Rights Law in 1988, one of the first in the UK, and the fact that it was being offered in Belfast, a city which had had more than its fair share of human rights issues to cope with during the previous decades, made the Masters attractive to a wide range of people. Leading lights in various local organisations signed up for it, including a former Ombudsman, a current chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission and a future Chief Coroner for Northern Ireland. Professor Tom Hadden was a key player in both the Masters and the Centre, as was Stephen Livingstone, then a relatively junior lecturer.
In the 1990s the Centre acted as a hub around which interested academics and students could organise events, collaborate in research and promote the values inherent in human rights. It shortened its name, linked up with other human rights centres in Ireland and Britain (especially the centre in NUI Galway) and sent representatives to meetings of the International Association of Human Rights Institutes. Various grants were won and several members of staff and students liaised with local NGOs in trying to ensure that the peace settlement in Northern Ireland was based squarely on a human rights foundation. After the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in 1998 the Centre intensified its research activities and the Masters programme attracted even more students than before, especially from abroad. Many people who are now senior police officers, judges, politicians and human rights activists are alumni of the programme and contributed greatly to the Centre’s activities while at Queen’s.
Today, the Human Rights Centre, based in the School of Law, continues to support the promotion and protection of human rights in the local and global community. The HRC is privileged to draw on the work of a strong team of academics and postgraduate scholars who are nationally and internationally recognised for their work on human rights. Key areas of research interest and expertise include civil liberties, migration, gender and sexual violence, international criminal law, transitional justice, amnesty laws, reparations, victims and ex-combatants, health and human rights, business and human rights and climate change and environmental justice amongst others.
Members of the human rights centre are active in many different areas – leading and contributing to national and international research projects, publishing academic works, teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students in the School of Law, and engaging in knowledge transfer activities, including undertaking responses and consultations for civil society, governmental and international organisations. The HRC also organises a lively seminar series bringing internationally respected academics and practitioners to Queen’s throughout the year.
Keeping in Touch
For more details on the work of the Human Rights Centre or to get involved check out our social media sites, news and events feed or contact the Director Dr. Cheryl Lawther below.
More information on individual members of the Human Rights Centre can be found on our membership page.