Special Event at University of Cambodia

October 13, 2015

Special Event at University of Cambodia–Honouring Dr. Philipp Rosler, Managing Director, World Economic Forum

UC Philipp RoslerThe University of Cambodia is pleased to announce that we are holding a Special Honorary Doctorate Conferment Ceremony on October 19, 2015 at 6pm at SEATV Studio. We will honor Dr. Philipp Rosler, Managing Director, World Economic Forum with an Honorary Doctorate Degree in International Relations. Dr. Rosler will deliver a keynote address.

Benefactors, Alumni, Friends and Associates of the University of Cambodia are welcome. In order to assist us in our planning for the event, please contact us to register at:

The University of Cambodia

Northbridge Road 
P.O. Box 917 
Sangkat Toek Thla, Khan Sen Sok
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia 12000
Telephone: (855-23) 993-274; 993-275; 993-276
Fax: (855-23) 993-284
E-mails: info@uc.edu.kh; admissions@uc.edu.kh

On Dr. Philipp Rosler


Philipp Rosler

Dr. Philipp Rosler was born in Khang Hung, Soc Trang Province, Vietnam on February 24, 1973. He was adopted by a German couple and brought to Germany at the age of 9 months and was raised by his adoptive father, a career military officer. He lived in Hamburg, Buckeburg and Hanover where he graduated from High School. After training to become a combat medic in the German Defence Force (Bundeswehr), he was accepted to study medicine at Hanover Medical School.

Upon completion of his studies, he continued his education at an Army Hospital in Hamburg. In 2002 he earned his Doctorate in Cardio-Thoracic-Vascular Surgery and left the Army with the rank of Captain (Stabsarzt) in 2003.

Dr Rosler joined the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and its political youth organization, The Young Liberals. He was secretary of the FDP in Lower Saxony from 2000 to 2004 and served as Chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Lower Saxon state assembly from 2003.

From 2001-2006, Dr. Rosler was a member in the regional assembly of Hanover, where he was also Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary group. In 2006, at the state party conference in March, he was elected Chairman of the Lower Saxon FDP . Two years later, Dr. Rosler was confirmed as the Lower Saxon Party Chairman. In 2007, he was re-elected at federal FDP conference, he elected as a member of the party’s executive committee, and in 2008 , Dr. Rosler was made Minister for Economy, Labour and Transport and Deputy Prime Minister of the State of Lower Saxony.

After 2009 German Elections, Dr. Rosler joined Chancellor Angela Merkal’s second cabinet, succeeding Ulla Schmidt as Federal Minister of Health. In this capacity, he proved his mettle by engaging in important issues in the German Healthcare system.

Dr. Rosler continued his meteoric rise in politics. In 2011 he succeeded Rainer Bruderle as Federal Minister of Economics and Technology (May 12) and took over the Chairmanship of his party, Free Democratic Party from Guido Westerwelle (May 13) and became Vice-Chancellor of Germany on May 16, 2011. In his capacity as Minister of Economy and Technology, he played a key strategic role in Angela Merkel’s cabinet, driving forward Germany’s economic agenda.

In 2013, Dr Rosler joined the World Economic Forum (WEF) as Managing Director and Member of its Managing Board, bringing his strong experience in politics, economics and health care to this Davos-based organization.He was Chairman, Board of Trustees, Robert Enke Foundation (2010-2014), Board Member of ZDF Television Board (2012-2013) and a Member of the General Conference of the Central Committee of German Catholics. He is married to a physician Dr. Wiebke Kosler since 2003 and they have twin girls. Grietje and Gesche, born in 2008.

Obama’s Heavy Bet turns sour–Najib Razak is a Racist

September 20, 2015

Obama’s Heavy Bet turns sour–Najib Razak is a Racist

Najib and Obama

THE OBAMA administration has made a heavy bet on the Malaysian government of Najib Razak, whose majority Muslim nation collaborates on several key U.S. national security initiatives: counterterrorism, counterproliferation and balancing against China’s regional ambitions. In December, President Obama invited Mr. Najib to a round of golf during his Hawaiian vacation, a rare show of friendship for a foreign leader.

Since then, however, Mr. Najib has been evolving into an increasingly unseemly pal. In February, the country’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was imprisoned on blatantly trumped-up charges, just under a year after the coalition Mr. Anwar led won the popular vote in national elections. That was the tip of a broader campaign to suppress the opposition; key leaders were indicted under a sedition law that Mr. Najib once promised to repeal, and a leading cartoonist was prosecuted for tweets. Mr. Anwar’s daughter, parliament member Nurul Izzah Anwar, was recently told she was being investigated under an anti-terrorism law.

Nurul Izzah Anwar MPNurul Izzah, MP

Then came the news that close to $700 million had been transferred to personal bank accounts of Mr. Najib before the 2013 election. The Wall Street Journal reported in July that Malaysian investigators believed the money came from companies linked to a troubled state investment fund headed by the prime minister. Mr. Najib responded with a brazen crackdown on those investigating the fund, firing a deputy prime minister and the attorney general and gutting a parliamentary investigative committee. Two newspapers that had been pursuing the scandal were shut down. When the opposition organized a massive protest demonstration last month, authorities banned the movement’s signature yellow color.

Mr. Najib once positioned himself as a reformer who would lead a quasi-authoritarian state to genuine democracy. Now he is trying to consolidate his position by appealing to the worst currents in Malaysian politics: ethnic chauvinism and Islamic fundamentalism. In answer to the opposition, the ruling party, which relies on support from the majority Malay population, staged its own rally in which senior officials crudely attacked the Chinese and Indian minorities. Mr. Najib is meanwhile toying with the idea of allowing Islamic sharia law to be imposed in one province, a key goal of Malaysia’s fundamentalists.

In a visit to Kuala Lumpur last month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he had “raised concerns” with Mr. Najib about freedom of expression and Mr. Anwar’s imprisonment. But mostly the Obama administration is sticking with the sullied prime minister. In July, the State Department delivered a questionable promotion to Malaysia in its human trafficking ratings; Mr. Obama is still scheduled to visit Malaysia for an Asian summit in November. The administration appears to be counting on Mr. Najib to deliver Malaysia’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asian free trade deal that Mr. Obama hopes to make part of his legacy.

Nevertheless Ms. Nurul, who visited Washington this week, had a good question for the administration officials she met: “For all that you are investing in Malaysia, are you getting your money’s worth?” Mr. Najib may cooperate with U.S. intelligence agencies and the trade representative, but his repression and pandering to racists and Muslim extremists risks destroying the foundations of the alliance. The next time Mr. Obama meets his golfing buddy, he ought to make that clear.–The Washington Post Editorial

The Racist NaibReformer or Racist?

Jebatmustdie–Najib can kiss Goodbye to Global Movement of Moderates


After the Prime Minister ditched moderation in his leadership by supporting the racially charged ‘Malay Red Rally’ last Wednesday, he can kiss goodbye to his Global Movement of Moderates. No wonder an MP has called the Prime Minister a hypocrite and a phony.

Dato Jamal Md Yunos,Racist Ikan Bakar Million Ringgit Man

His own division leader, that uninspiring Jamal Yunos of Sungai Besar sees nothing wrong with UMNO members hurling insults such as ‘cina babi’ towards members of the press.

With this kind of loyal yet stupid sycophants propping up Najib Razak’s image, it is no longer a surprise that his leadership is getting rather strenuous and desperate. Not to mention having zero credibility in the eyes of both domestic and international masses.

This kind of unethical leadership, bordering on the belligerent, has rubbed of 1MDB in their business dealings. For the past week, the Wall Street Journal has written two serious exposés on missing billions. The first is a missing USD1.4 billion which was supposedly remitted by 1MDB to IPIC for collateral over the now abandoned power plant partnership between them.

The second was today when it is revealed that another USD993 million was not received by IPIC when 1MDB presumably had paid them in November 2014.

1MDB’s immediate reaction is to criticise WSJ for using confidential information, and for using unidentified sources as informants and also to stand by its audited accounts.

To attack WSJ for using confidential is rather stupid since this strengthen their story that all the information received were indeed credible.To use WSJ’s unidentified sources against them is unwise too since some ministers who had attacked WSJ using the same argument when news of billions went into the Prime Minister’s accounts were proven true. WSJ had provided verified documents as evidence and this had left those sycophantic ministers humiliated and exposed them as nothing more than a mindless stooge of the Prime Minister.

And to say that 1MDB stood by Deloitte’s audit report can be pointless against the allegations since Deloitte could not confirm whether IPIC did receive the amount. Deloitte indeed did not audit IPIC financial accounts.

What they could only do is to send an intercompany confirmation of balances (in the case of debtors or creditors). If the third party company did not return the confirmation form to Deloitte, there is nothing they can do to confirm if the amount tallies or existed.

If the confirmation is pending or left unanswered right before the auditor signed off the accounts, they will only insert this as a note in the audit findings report. Audit findings report is a list of accounting violations or failure in internal controls which are submitted to management of a company. It is not a publicly available report such as the final audit report meant for shareholders and public.

To digress, usually the auditor handling all these inter company confirmations is a junior auditor. At most a senior audit executive. He then will report to the audit field supervisor or a senior in charge, who in turn, reports to an audit manager. An audit manager, will have to sweat through the ordeal of submitting his team audit to the audit partner – the one ultimately signing off the audit report.

Therefore, to say that Deloitte’s audit report is 100% following audit methodology and should be 100% free of fraud is a misdirection altogether.

What 1MDB should have done is to get their former business partner to issue a statement of denial. Is it so difficult for IPIC to issue such statement? To deny altogether what WSJ had published. To clearly show that indeed they have received a total of USD2.4 billions (USD1.4B + USD1B) and it is all recorded in their financial statements.

But IPIC itself under internal investigation of their own. The bosses highly associated with 1MDB, Khadem al Qubassi and Mohamed al Husseiny were removed in April and August respectively.

To cap off this debacle, WSJ had also revealed that Deloitte will not sign 1MDB audit report unless someone would have guaranteed the USD2.32 billion worth of ‘investment’ in the Cayman Islands. These investments were indeed worthless which in they end, on top of needed to be guaranteed, they were also classified as third tier assets in 1MDB’s 2014 accounts.

Enter IPIC, the ever willing partner to the rescue. Otherwise there will be a huge hole in the 1MDB accounts. We wonder what is the price for getting IPIC to guarantee such amount.

That USD2.32 billion could not stand on their own as Deloitte had some problem ascertaining their real value. Furthermore, it is not in the form of cash. The previous auditor, KPMG was sacked precisely because they refuse to sign the accounts over this matter.

The initial amount of money had disappeared during the PetroSaudi – 1MDB joint venture which was terminated in 2010. It was initially a USD1.83 billion of cash which was pumped into PetroSaudi for a period of two years since 2009 under the pretext of loans to PetroSaudi.

This money changed in nature many times and revalued upwards between themselves to the final amount of USD2.32 billion. Ultimately, even the Finance Minister 2 could not answer properly what is the nature of this investment.

In total, there are USD4.23 billion (USD1.83B + USD1.4B + USD1B) suspiciously missing at the moment, amounting to approximately RM16 billion of Malaysian money.

Arul, Lodin and NajibLodin: Where Are You and Your Directors?

We are now getting bits and pieces of information regarding the RM42 billion of loans unaccounted for. And it is sad that the truth came about from third-party and documents from suppressed investigations. We wonder what information the public could have gotten if the investigation teams were not dismantled.Will somebody stand up and be responsible for this financial fiasco?

Human Rights for Foxes and Hedgehogs

June 25, 2015

Human Rights for Foxes and Hedgehogs

by Professor Dr.Antoine Buyse


AntoineBuyseOratie150There are two kinds of thinkers, according to the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin: hedgehogs and foxes.

2. Hedgehogs are those people who try to incorporate everything in the world into one single vision or over-arching truth. By contrast, foxes are people who draw on a wide range of observations, ideas and perspectives. Their thoughts are manifold and they do not try and squeeze reality into one straightjacket. Put in scientific terms: foxes easily jump from one paradigm to another without asserting that any of them represents the final truth. Berlin developed this metaphor by building on a line from the ancient Greek poet Archilochus which runs as follows: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

3. Dante Alighieri, Plato, and Proust are, in Berlin’s view hedgehogs. Aristotle, Montaigne and James Joyce are foxes. Berlin, in his essay The Hedgehog and the Fox, specifically applied the metaphor to the famous Russian novelist Lev Tolstoy, author of the great 19th century novel War and Peace. Tolstoy was, to Berlin, the prime example of a fox who desperately tried to be a hedgehog.

So, you may wonder by now, what does this have to do with human rights? Let me assure you that you have not stepped into a lecture on Greek or Russian literature. Neither will this be a talk about animal rights. Rather, what I propose to do today is to use this metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog to look at the current state of human rights in the world and more specifically, to look at those who study human rights: that strange little tribe called academics.

I will do so by addressing how a number of academic fields have engaged with human rights and their biggest academic support group: the human rights lawyers. I will argue that studying human rights from non-legal perspectives, from different disciplines, is key to acquiring new insights in the legal academic study of human rights. Secondly, but no less importantly, this may lead to progress in the implementation of human rights on the ground, by a better understanding of factors that contribute to or, by contrast, hinder the ways in which people can use their rights to improve their lives.

It is easy to be pessimistic about the state of human rights in the world today. Close to home in the Netherlands, cities are struggling with the legal and practical issues of giving shelter and care to irregular migrants and the decentralization of social services. Discrimination in the police forces, lack of interest for the right to a safe living environment in the earthquake prone North of the country, and an absence of basic human rights knowledge among youngsters are all challenges we face. In Europe, the coming together of the human rights systems of the European Union and the Council of Europe has endured a setback veiled in the shape of an Advisory Opinion.

4. And on a much more worrying global scale, the conflicts that rage across Syria, Iraq and Yemen have caused thousands of deaths. In 2014 war crimes were committed in at least 18 countries. The Mediterranean is turning into a blue graveyard. Freedom of expression and of the press are under pressure in Hungary, Eritrea, Venezuela, Russia and many other places. It is estimated that arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression occurred in over 75% of the world’s states last year. It led Amnesty International to conclude that 2014 was a “devastating year” and an “ultimate low point”.

5 Should we then abandon all hope, as if entering Dante’s Inferno? Well, arguably, in the longer run, the picture does not seem that bleak. The various forms of extreme violence that catch our attention in today’s news reports are not entirely representative. The psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature has argued that history shows a somewhat irregular, yet overall steady decline of violence between human beings.

6 He ascribes this decline to various civilizing and pacification processes of which one is of particular interest for us today. These are the so-called rights revolutions, as Pinker dubs them. Movements for citizens’ rights started in the eighteenth century and gained particular momentum in the second half of the twentieth century. They expanded to rights movements for women, racial and ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, disabled people, and children, and yes, even to animals. One of the key factors enabling this development is a leap of imagination and empathy: the fact that we can imagine how other humans suffer from injustice and that they are in many ways similar to ourselves. This empathy for the other, stretching far beyond people’s own circle of family and friends was nurtured, according to historian Lynn Hunt, by the novel.

7 The eighteenth century saw this new literary genre rise and spread. Novels like Pamela by Richardson and Julie by Rousseau enabled readers on a much wider scale than ever before to empathize with people who were oppressed. It is no coincidence in Hunt’s view that the first declarations of human rights, with the American and French ones as the most famous examples, were created in those very same decades that these novels were read. Although human rights were not, as the title of her book claims, invented in the eighteenth century – the idea is of course much older and the relevance in national and international politics much more recent – Hunt does bring home an important point about human rights. They are imagined. Indeed, just like the country of the Netherlands (which was imagined in this very grand hall a few centuries ago in the Union of Utrecht), but also money, or Mickey Mouse, human rights are figments of our very fertile imaginations, as another historian, Yuval Harari, has put it.

8 This very capacity to imagine things is in his view what distinguishes humans from other animals. Like humans, animals may laugh or even fool each other, but imagining non-existent things is not something a single fox or hedgehog is capable of (at least as far as we humans are aware). This skill of imagination enables us to cooperate, for good or bad, in larger groups. And these products of our imagination have very real consequences in reality – people may kill in the name of their country, buy goods across the globe with their money or build entire theme parks for their favourite cartoon character.

The leap of imagination towards human rights did not happen in one go, however, and faced several setbacks after it flourished in the Enlightenment. The nineteenth century saw a turn towards nationalism which, far into the twentieth century, remained stronger in the West than universalist ideologies, whether they were about civil and political rights or the rights of workers. No wonder then that the first large-scale international rights agreements, in the period between the two World Wars, concerned the protection of national minorities: in many ways these minorities were perceived as a country’s own nationals who had ended up in the wrong state. It was only after the Second World War that the universalist movement came back in full force, even if only for a short time, in the years of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And even then, nationalist prejudice still lingered. The most conspicuous example is that one of the people considered to become a member of the Human Rights Commission, Hersch Lauterpacht, was rejected as an option by the legal advisor of the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom. He stated, and I quote:

“Professor Lauterpacht, although a distinguished and industrious international lawyer, is, when all is said and done, a Jew fairly recently come from Vienna. Emphatically, I think that the representative of His Majesty’s Government on human rights must be a very English Englishman imbued throughout his life and hereditary to the real meaning of human rights as we understand them in this country.” End of quote

9.The drafting of the Universal Declaration itself is a telling example of both cooperation and differences of views between different disciplines. For not only politicians and lawyers were involved, as one may expect. Both philosophers and anthropologists took an interest in the genesis of this key human rights document. This involvement was closely connected with one key question: how to produce a document that truly reflected global values, that could truly be called universal? As the drafters struggled with what to put in the text and what not, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO came to the rescue. It established a Committee on the Theoretical Bases of Human Rights, consisting of mostly philosophers. This group sent out questionnaires across the globe and across cultures asking whether the norms present in human rights could also be found in their own traditions. People ranging from Mohandas Gandhi to Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, responded. To the philosophers’ delight they were able to find a range of common principles across cultures similar to many of the rights the drafters of the Universal Declaration were construing, sufficient at least to justify that a global document could be called universal. Of course, this agreement was only a common denominator and it was agreement mainly on what the norms were, not on their justification. As one philosopher on the UNESCO Committee liked to say: “Yes, we agree about the rights but on condition no one asks us why.”

10 This justification problem, although it did not prevent the creation of the Universal Declaration, has continued to haunt the international human rights movement ever since. The interest of philosophers in human rights has continued to this day, amongst others here in Utrecht by the vibrant research group of our dear colleagues of the Ethics Institute.

Another discipline also took an interest in the Universal Declaration: anthropology. In a statement sent to the Human Rights Commission in 1947, the American Anthropological Association warned that the Declaration should not become a mere reflection of the values of Western Europe and America. Since each human being was not only an island in itself, but a social being functioning in a group and in her or his own culture, a truly universal document should reflect the common elements among these cultures and not, implicitly or explicitly postulate the supremacy of one culture over another. One should, the anthropologists argued, avoid to make human rights part of “the white man’s burden” and thereby blemish it with all the problems of colonialism and imperialism. The anthropologists’ statement has later often been misread as cultural relativism, as opposed to the universality of human rights. But the anthropologists were not claiming that creating a universally valid text was impossible. Rather, they added to the concerns of the philosophers about the ‘why’ of human rights, concerns of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Not all of the norms and values about right and wrong that one may identify are shared across the globe. As the anthropologists put it, “The saint of one epoch would at a later time be confined as a man not fitted to cope with reality.”

11. And the practice or expression of common ideas widely differs across cultures. The anthropological interest in human rights did not limit itself to its cradle, the Universal Declaration. Indeed, in the past decades a large amount of research has been done into how human rights are perceived, talked about, practised and yes, even imagined.

12 Where a stubborn universalist might be a hedgehog trying to fit it all into one system, many anthropologists better resemble the foxes, being very aware of the enormous variety in human rights practice. Thus even an experience I once had in the train is an example of that practice and imagination of human rights: the old couple sitting next to me complained that they were forced to take public transport as their human right to park their car in their city of destination was not guaranteed. In more academic terms, as the anthropologist Mark Goodale put it a few years ago, the meanings of human rights “are constituted most importantly by a range of social actors (…) within the disarticulated practices of everyday life.”

13 And, one may add, anthropologists have also found their way to courtrooms of human rights litigation, and not as suspects or prosecutors, but to study the proceedings and their interaction with the social context in which these cases occur.

The rise of human rights later also spawned interest in other fields of research, from international relations to political science. The work of Risse and Sikkink on norms cascades and of Beth Simmons on how human rights are mobilized are just two of the many examples of theorizing on how both international and national rights can become a force to be reckoned with inside states.

14. As this practice grew in both democracies and countries in transition, research on human rights also increased. A search in Google Scholar shows that in 2014 alone over 45,000 books and articles mentioning the words “human rights” were uploaded.

These are staggering amounts, even for the most optimistic and voracious reader trying to stay up-to-date with the state-of-the-art on the topic.

The developments in different disciplines briefly mentioned here show that many researchers from other fields than law have shown interest in human rights. So, what about the lawyers? The rise of international human rights after World War II meant that apart from constitutional lawyers, legal researchers in the fields of international and European law started to study the issue. Later on, researchers in criminal law and private law joined them. Critical legal studies, feminist, utilitarian, marxist, and other critiques on human rights have all helped to point out and gradually decrease the blind spots of Lady Justice. These critiques have shown, for example, that the initial human rights treaties were too focused on the public rather than the private, and on, for example, torture rather than domestic violence.

Thus, human rights have increased in numbers, pervaded more fields of law, and gained traction in a large number of countries. Their understanding has increased from a negative approach to one in which positive obligations for states are prominently represented, ranging from protection against threats to life to fostering equality, as legal scholar Sandra Fredman has convincingly shown in her work.

15. This broadening of human rights has come at a price, however. The very extension of the number of rights, which we can call human rights proliferation, may have extended protection or at least attention to new groups, but it has also led to criticism that the wide scope of rights is rather a sign of inflation, detracting from a supposed traditional core group of rights which would be more important. Eric Posner, for example, in his recent book with the ominous title The Twilight of Human Rights, argues that the very multiplication of rights will lead to their demise. He contends that attaching a rights label to an increasing number of societal claims is counterproductive. According to Posner, [and I quote]

“the idea of a rigid legal framework will gradually dissolve into a soup of competing and unresolvable claims about which interests deserve human rights protection, which interests do not and how much weight should be placed on each of them.” [end of quote]

16. He contends, moreover, that many of the international human rights protection systems have remained ineffective. Along similar lines, Stephen Hopgood traces the, in his view, fatal problems facing human rights, in his The End times of Human Rights.

17. Human rights are part of the Western liberal tradition and power. The demise of that power, especially of the United States, weakens human rights. Nationalism and religion reflect a resurgence of different values and it is not just rogue states like Syria or North Korea who challenge the human rights system, but also large, emerging powers. If one would follow Posner or Hopgood, one would not even need to consult Nostradamus to believe the end is near.

Indeed power balances in the world are shifting. Indeed the United Nations human rights system is not the most effective legal system the world has ever seen. And indeed the proliferation of rights causes new dilemmas of dealing with competing claims taking the shape of human rights. International human rights are not an iron shield but rather a frail safety net that can break if stretched too far by those trying to attack it. But Posner and Hopgood miss out on a number of crucial points.

18. Even if in international relations the balance of power changes, human rights continue to make inroads in many countries, also less-liberal ones, by way of active courts and justifiability of rights, and human rights education. Even if the global human rights system is not the strongest, several regional ones are relatively effective, including the Strasbourg-Luxembourg twins here in Europe – even if they do not always acknowledge they are close family. As for the increasing number of competing claims, lawyers have long devised and are still devising new and practical ways of dealing with them. And even on those points where these critical authors are partly right about the weaknesses of human rights practice – Posner mentions the lack of empirically-informed approaches – matters should be improved not left to fade into a twilight zone. Put differently, if human rights protection systems are like an ambulance stuck on the road, we should repair the engine, not discard it. Fighting illegal and arbitrary action by states and non-state actors alike is simply too important.

19. What can academic researchers do to engage in these issues and to help and improve matters on the ground without turning into activists themselves? Mixing activism and research where one weakens the other, is indeed a perennial risk for human rights researchers. You may not be surprised that legal research infused by insights from other disciplines is what in my view is necessary. Lawyer-hedgehogs need hedgehogs from other disciplines, and a few foxes amongst themselves, to connect the lot of them. For indeed, the metaphor of the foxes and the hedgehogs of Isaiah Berlin, with which I started this lecture, cannot just be applied to literature and writers, but also to academia.

20. There are researchers who try to incorporate everything they find into one all-encompassing system. And others who apply a variety of methods to critique various models and systems, not particularly bothered by a striving for unity or coherence. This is not simply a contrast between deductive science and inductive, empirical research. Nor is fox science automatically better than hedgehog research or the other way around. Great thinkers can be found among both groups of academic animals. Rather, it has a lot to do with each researcher’s personal preferences.

The metaphor can be applied to legal thinkers too. The famous book A Theory of Justice of John Rawls is an attempt at a coherent whole and could be compared to the work of a hedgehog.

21 Michael Walzer’s Spheres of Justice was partly a reaction to the ideas of Rawls.  Walzer constantly engaged with and criticized the catch-all theories of others and argued that there are no ready-made solutions for just societies. This makes his work more that of a fox. His thinking can be read as a plea for a more complex and layered egalitarianism. Finally, Ronald Dworkin explicitly identified with one animal in his book, Justice for Hedgehogs.

22.In his work, he tried, not always successfully, to argue for a coherent notion of what human dignity would entail. What is important for law, in my view, is to supplement the almost inherent quest for coherence and system-building that lawyers display – a hedgehog endeavor – by an openness to other perspectives, insights and disciplines – to become a bit like foxes when necessary.

23.So what should happen in academia, in research? I am not arguing that other disciplines should start to show some interest for human rights. They have. Nor am I saying that lawyers should finally start going beyond black letter law. Many do, including a great number of colleagues present here today. We need both those who deepen the knowledge deep in the trenches of their specialization and those who build bridges across those very trenches. What I would say, rather, is that we should all become a bit more aware of each other’s work, the lawyers and the non-lawyers. To connect the legal study of human rights more firmly with insights and research on those same rights by other disciplines. By establishing a chair on human rights in a multidisciplinary perspective, Utrecht University shows commitment to this aim of connecting the dots. None of us should lock ourselves up in our own field like pedantic, know-it-all hedgehogs. But most of us researchers also do not have the time and means to become foxes who can easily jump from one disciplinary perspective to another – few are, in other words, like Roald Dahl’s fantastic Mr Fox. Even combining just two disciplines takes years of study. That is why we have to join forces to solve problems that cannot be tackled by one discipline alone. And we can do so through cooperation.

24. Let me give you one example from my own research on how to bring insights from other disciplines to bear on law. This concerns the issue of freedom of expression in relation to violent conflict escalation. Put differently, the question of when do words kill? Freedom of expression is, like most human rights norms, an open norm. But some norms are more open than others. What is seen as acceptable speech widely differs from one society to another and what shocks, offends, or disturbs is different for each individual. Explicit commercials, the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo, or the comments of politicians may all stay within, or cross, the limits of freedom of expression, depending on whom one asks. However, there is one almost universally accepted limitation to free speech and that is speech that incites to or otherwise causes violence. This rarely concerns instances in which someone literally gives orders to shoot, as a commanding officer would shout to a soldier. Most situations do not lead to an easy ‘I know it when I see it’. After all, the links between a specific speech on television, a cartoon in a newspaper, or a radio broadcast on the one hand and the escalation of violence between groups on the other are not always as self-evident as during the Rwandan genocide.

25. Yet, freedom of expression cases in relation to violence do reach courts and are subject to legislation and policy-making. Moreover, most judges may believe that they need to call in an expert when they are dealing with a medical case, but they often see freedom of expression cases as falling within their own area of expertise. A consequence of this has been a somewhat misguided emphasis on utterances of hatred as somehow leading up to violence. It is no coincidence that the legal notion of hate speech has become used so much in the past decades. But is that truly the key to correctly assessing such matters? And if we accept that context somehow matters, which context should judges and policymakers consider?

26. It is here that the open norm of freedom of expression needs some fleshing out, aided by insights from a field in which the escalation of violence has been a core theme of research: conflict studies. As I have argued in my research over the last few years, these insights may contribute to better legal and political decision-making in three different ways.

27. First, conflict researchers have shown that in many violent conflicts between groups, instilling fear, especially a fear of being lethally attacked, has been found to be an important factor in the process leading to violence. Such fear may lead to the acceptance of the use of violence as a legitimate means to solve a perceived inter-group problem.

28. Thus what I have dubbed “fear speech,” expressions aimed at instilling (existential) fear of another group, rather than “hate speech” may be more relevant when assessing violent conflict escalation. Hatred is not irrelevant, but it is not as such the triggering factor. The emphasis of lawyers, including human rights lawyers, on hate speech may thus be an example of looking for a solution to a legal problem in the wrong direction. Secondly, context matters. This is not something lawyers would deny, but they would have to concede that it is not always easy to identify which factors are relevant. In a human rights test of free expression, contextual factors mostly appear in the third leg of the three-pronged test of limitations, as for example in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the test of necessity in a democratic society. It may be clear to anyone that if someone outside on the Dom Square calls for the extinction of all blue-eyed people in Utrecht, it may have little effect. A similar call to violence against religious minorities may, by contrast, be very effective in the midst of a town square in Syria or Iraq today. Again, insights from conflict studies may help to see which factors – the position of the speaker, the medium used, or the exact wording chosen – are truly relevant. Again, a judge may or may not look at the relevant factors. Thirdly, we know that a very good indication for the outbreak of violence is recent earlier violence. While this fact in itself is not very helpful, it does become a tool for analysis if we use framing theory to look at this earlier violence.

29. For indeed, the way in which an earlier incident of violence is framed in the media or through gossip – as an instance of thug violence or as an attack of one ethnic group on another – may pave the way respectively for law enforcement or violent conflict. The chosen wording or imagery in an expression is thus important, as it may explain, justify or motivate violence. Framing theory insights provide useful tools of analysis here.

What this single example of freedom of expression and violence shows is that legal scholarship and practice may be usefully assisted by insights from other bodies of knowledge, if translated and handled with care.

In conclusion, what I propose to do in my own research in the coming years is to try and build and extend the bridges to other disciplines. The example of fear speech is an illustration of this. In this way, I will try to be a fox, bringing in different perspectives whenever that can enrich and further our legal understanding of human rights. On the other hand, part of my work will also remain very much that of the hedgehog looking for consistency of the system, in the more positivist, legal study of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights treaties. Never the twain shall meet? Well, maybe hedgehogs and foxes at times can. Just like Tolstoy was a fox desperately trying to be a hedgehog.

And finally, each of you may now start to wonder whether you are yourself more of a fox or a hedgehog.

The Nobel Lady: The Rohingya Crisis must be handled with care

June 18, 2015

The Nobel Lady: The Rohingya Crisis must be handled with care

by AFP@www.freemalaysiatoday

WASHINGTON: In rare comments on Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslims, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged caution on granting citizenship to minorities, saying the sensitive issue must be addressed “very, very carefully.”

The Nobel LadyThe Nobel Lady

The Myanmar government is reviewing citizenship status and “should go about it very quickly and very transparently and then decide what the next steps in the process should be,” she told The Washington Post.

But in an interview published online late Tuesday, Suu Kyi dodged a direct question on whether the Rohingyas — who have triggered international outcry as they flee the country on rickety boats in their thousands — should be given citizenship.

“The protection of rights of minorities is an issue which should be addressed very, very carefully and as quickly and effectively as possible, and I’m not sure the government is doing enough about it,” she said.

“It is such a sensitive issue, and there are so many racial and religious groups, that whatever we do to one group may have an impact on other groups as well,” she stressed.

“So this is an extremely complex situation, and not something that can be resolved overnight.”

The plight of the Rohingyas, one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, has worsened dramatically since 2012, when communal bloodshed left scores dead and some 140,000 people confined in miserable camps in the Rakhine state.

The violence triggered a wave of deadly anti-Muslim unrest in Myanmar and coincided with rising Buddhist nationalism that has further entrenched animosity toward the minority widely viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In recent months, images of starving, desperate migrants hauled from vessels to Southeast Asian shores have spurred calls for immediate humanitarian action.

But pro-democracy icon and Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi, who became a beacon of hope during decades of house arrest under the military junta, has been accused of failing to speak up for the country’s powerless as she campaigns for elections due in November.

“We have many minorities in this country, and I’m always talking up for the right of minorities and peace and harmony, and for equality,” she told the Post, speaking after a landmark visit to China.

And she insisted in the “the government has not done enough to lessen the tension and to remove sources of the conflict.”

Buddhist hardliners want the estimated 1.3 million Rohingyas expelled from Myanmar.

And neither the government nor opposition parties have shown much appetite to confront communal tensions for fear of alienating Buddhist voters ahead of the polls.

All an illusion?

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party is expected to sweep the elections, but she is barred from the presidency under a constitutional provision excluding those with a foreign spouse or children from the top job.

Suu Kyi, whose husband was British, told the Post she believed “the government is totally opposed to constitutional amendment” that could pave the way to the presidency.

After long being an international pariah due to the military junta, Myanmar has embarked on a series of reforms bringing it back into the diplomatic fold.

“We do worry that the reforms will turn out to be a total illusion, and we think that we need more concrete steps to ensure that the democratization process is what it was meant to be,” Suu Kyi added.

– AFP/www.freemalalaysia.today


China at the Crossroads

June 17, 2015

Elliot School of International Affairs @ The George Washington University, Washington DC:Lecture by Dr. David Shambaugh–China at the Crossroads

Published on May 1, 2015

Professor  Dr.David Shambaugh discusses China’s political future and the reform challenges faced by the ruling Communist party.

CSIS on China

PAS MP debates DYMM Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Speech in Parliament

March 13, 2015

PAS MP debates DYMM Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Speech in Parliament

This is one of the best speeches I have the privilege to listen in recent years. The PAS MP severely criticised Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah’s conduct as DPP in the Anwar Ibrahim’s Case at the Federal Court. He said that Shafee was not truthful about the Federal Court judgement on February 10, 2015 which sent Anwar Ibrahim back to prison.

He asked Shafee to retract his statement labeling Anwar as “a closet homosexual” and for misleading the Malaysian public during the roadshow. Shafee’s conduct before, during and after the case was highlighted as unprecedented and unbecoming as a senior counsel. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s support of the Roadshow by Shafee was also condemned as displaying total ignorance of maqasid sharia.  Finally, please listen to the pedestrian response of the UMNO-BN MP who tried to defend Najib. –Din Merican