Is rape a ‘cultural issue’? – Naturalization of oppression against girls, indigenous women by state justice and indigenous justice

María-Cruz La Chica

El Impenetrable: Paraje Nueva Población, noroeste del Chaco.

In northern Argentina, an indigenous Wichí girl is raped by her stepfather, José Fabián Ruíz, from the time she is six years old (2001) until she is nine years old (2004), at which point she becomes pregnant. The girl is admitted to the hospital because of the risk to her life and the mother separates from her partner. She then went to court to denounce the situation. In her statement she says that she fears that her ex-partner will rape her other daughters. She also states that the Cacique (Roque Miranda, Ruíz’s brother-in-law) has threatened to expel her from the community, which he does shortly thereafter. When the mother returns to ratify the complaint, she changes her statement and denies everything she said before. In addition, the complainant and other members of the community come to demand Ruíz’s release, saying that the whole conflict is a cultural misunderstanding. However, the prosecution goes ahead with the proceedings and the defendant is found guilty. Subsequently, the defense appeals, and the case reaches the Provincial Supreme Court of Salta, which declares the proceedings null and void, with a judge voting against. In its argument, the court states that among the cultural guidelines of the Wichí community is the “privignatic marriage”, according to which a man can have relations with a woman and her daughter. The defendant is prosecuted again, but a new anthropological expertise shows that this practice is neither widespread nor accepted by most members of the community. The defendant is finally convicted in 2016 and is released after serving seven years in prison. 

Most cases of sexual violence experienced by indigenous girls never reach the state justice system, which is why this case is of utmost interest. In the process, the weighing between collective rights to indigenous jurisdiction and individual rights was discussed. However, if we take into account that all international and national legal instruments governing Argentina subordinate collective rights to individual rights, such a discussion should not have taken place. This proves that this case is an example of the patriarchal state justice approach that naturalizes the structural oppression of women and girls in the name of indigenous collective rights. Or in other words, indigenous collective rights serve as a pretext for indigenous and state justice to naturalize and legitimize the oppression of women and girls. 

Would this supposed ‘indigenous custom’ have been naturalized if the victim were a male child? Why is the version of the indigenous culture that the complainant mother has not valid for the experts? Why is the version given by the indigenous men valid?

The situation is much more complex than a mere question of hierarchy of rights. From an intersectional perspective with gender mainstreaming, the girl is living a situation of structural oppression that involves different fronts. If we consider that every oppressed group has a privileged group that benefits from its disadvantage (Young, 2000), we could say that the girl child, a) as an indigenous person, is oppressed by mestizos; b) as a poor person, by the rich; c) as a woman, by men; and d) as a girl child, by adults. All these oppressions, however, are experienced at the same time. The result is a specific form of structural oppression and not a mere juxtaposition of these situations of disadvantage. 

The situation of vulnerability that characterizes the “indigenous, woman and girl” group is not the consequence of the characteristics shared by a group of people, but the consequence of the barriers that society erects in the face of these characteristics. The logic of equality developed by judicial mechanisms prevents them from addressing structural aspects of intersectional discrimination and attend only to some of its consequences (Barranco and Churruca, 2014). 

The situation of structural oppression that the girl and the mother experienced was not addressed, but only one of its effects. But the crime cannot be judged in isolation from its context because it revictimizes the complainants, as in fact happened. The negative consequences that the judicial process could have for them were not taken into account, nor the interpretation that possible or future victims in similar circumstances would make of it. Throughout the judicial process, the victim and the mother were treated as if their situation was resolved with the sentence imposed on the accused. 

In a previously published paper I analyze this case from a critical approach that considers that formal law is insufficient in cases of structural oppression. State justice must incorporate an intersectional perspective and gender mainstreaming when carrying out a judicial process in which the rights of people in vulnerable situations are involved. You can read in this link the full article as well as the recommendations. 


Animal ethics and human rights

Daniel Romero Campoy

People usually argue that animal`s rights recognition would be an attack on human rights. It happens because of three main points: anthropocentrism, speciesism and a misconception of rights. In this brief article I try to explain these arguments. This text is indeed a very short introduction on this issue. I hope the reader feels like wanting to read more about it from these lines. 


Moral anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity. Indeed, there are two approaches. On the one hand, a Kantian ethics holds only Humans and relevant on a moral point of view, because of their autonomy (rational choices) and dignity. So Humans do not have direct duties towards non-human animals. To make animals suffer is not bad in essence but this could come to deteriorate our character respect for other Humans or Humanity. On the other hand, weak anthropocentrism holds we must consider value to nature and other animals too. From this approach, animals matter because they have the capacity to feel pain and pleasure. But their life is not a big issue if they die without suffer. This is called sentiocentrism. This ethics is followed by the animal welfare policies of many countries, including the European Union. However, a weak biocentrism approach maintains that non-human animals have an important moral status because they have subjective experiences, that is, the capacity for consciousness. Of course, not all animals have this capacity. To have it, it`s necessary to possess a central nervous system, that`s why this question is not closed. The capacity of being affected positively or negatively as a subject being is called sentience.  So, once the capacity of feeling suffering or enjoyment is not the only important thing, the life of sentience animals is a big issue. Consequently, we should not kill animals. In addition, Humans can be healthy without consuming any animal products. The British Dietetic Association ( and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics( supports this given scientific evidence, for instance. Veganism is consistent with this idea since it «is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude -as far as is possible and practicable- all forms of exploration and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose» (VeganSociety). So why do we keep eating animals? Maybe because of speciesism.


Some words are especially worthy in order to describe a hidden reality. Although controversial, one of them is speciesism. Richard Ryder coined this term, but Peter Singer  popularized it. We could define speciesism as the prejudice or discrimination (unjustified differential) based on the species. So, this attitude prioritizes the interests of members of a certain animal species over other ones. It is a belief that considers that dogs deserve greater moral consideration than pigs or cows, in spite of all of them are sentience beings. Even they have similar intelligence and social needs. In the field of human rights we argue a lot about compassion, solidarity, vulnerability, domination or oppression. Why not about non-human animals? Because our anthropocentrism criteria block the moral value of other animals. This issue is complex and required a proper explanation, but in summary we believe in a moral criteria which is impartial and arbitrary. Obviously, there are many ways to argue in favor of this moral approach, but I am going to select the two most important ones: 1) humans have special capacities as rationality or dignity, 2) humans have special relations each other to reach pacts or social contracts on how to live in society. On this matter both of them would leave out of moral sphere some people with mental disabilities and human babies. The goal of this article is not to expand on this question, however we could use two important arguments to reject the specisms ones, namely, the argument from species overlap and the argument from relevance, as philosopher Oscar Horta explains very well in some articles (


It is a fact that Law is a mechanism of reinforcement of social habits that maintains the dominance and exploitation for rest of animals. The change of animalist paradigm lies on the rejection of the privileges of certain moral subjects respect to others. Many discriminatory arguments support these privileges over oppressed beings, as we see in relation to feminism, anti-racism or the abolition of slavery. In this point, let’s briefly examine the difference between privileges and rights. 

Rights are based on legitimate claims, whereas privilege is defined as the exemption from an obligation that is granted in an unjustified manner. Also, privilege would be an unfair advantage, a benefit without an acceptable reason. According to this, the exercise of domination and oppression cannot assume rights. Moreover, to use freedom as an example, even John Stuart Mill -illustrious liberal philosopher- did not hold an unconditional freedom: “the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it”. In other words, recognizing non-human animals as non-appropriable does not mean violating the right to property, just as stopping eating animal meat does not break the right to health.


In short, it is urgent to accept the moral status of sentient beings of some animals. For that we must give up our prejudices and arbitrary arguments about it. If we recognize animal rights -as rights to life, integrity and liberty, with clarifications as in human rights-, this does not involve any break to human rights. Because rights are weighted in the case of conflict. To end, if the reader is interesting in this particular issue, I recommend this article I wrote: “Cultural pluralism and the animal question: three cases of conflict”   ( )


Animal Ethics, “Sentience”.

Animal Ethics, “Arguments against speciesism”.

Melina, V.; Craig, W.; and Levin, S. “Position of the Academy of Nutrution and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets”.

Mill, J. S. On liberty. Project Gutenberg.

The British Dietetic Association, “Vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diet: Food Fact Sheet”, 01 jul 2021.

Vegan Society. “Definition of Veganism”.

Analysis of the Speech: an epistemological tool to discover the social reality of the Quilombolas, neglected by the Brazilian legal norm

Monique Fålcao

St. Ursula University


Since the establishment of the Brazilian Republic,1890, the impact of the abolition of slavery, 1888, on interests of ex-slaves has not been problematized either constitutionally or politically. This situation explains the fact that their descendants remained excluded for a very long time from their substantive citizenship. Because of this, land disputes have multiplied throughout the twentieth century.

The Brazilian Constitution 1988 “settled” these conflicts through the recognition of the descendants of slaves as owners of the lands they had occupied for a very long time. The Decree 4887 \ 2003) set the objective criteria for the recognition of communities and their land holdings.

The Anthropological Report is the normative instrument which diagnoses and officially recognizes the community as subject of rights with the aim of territorial delimitation and titling of property, from anthropological conceptions as common origin, historical process, collective memory and diacritical marks.

However, the application of this decree ended up either maintaining the exclusion of the descendants of slaves from their rights or by avoiding questioning specific elements of social reality. Moreover, the defense of the specific interests of these citizens deprived of their citizenship is still based today on racial discrimination which falls under the legal regime of slavery and which today still operates as an institutionalized common sense.

This institutionalized common sense is reprocessed by anthropologists as remaining from a “frozen vision,” being the official legal definition of slaves and quilombos of the days of slavery. As a consequence, the land conflicts which took place before the promulgation of the constitution of Brazil of (Eighty-eight, 1988 were linked one after the other at the end of the Decree of 2003.

Empirically, it is the Sacopã community that is the subject of the research. This community is located in an urban area in one of the richest neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Its story begins 50 years after the abolition of slavery in Brazil with a couple of slave descendants who settle there. It is the Sacopã family. It has since fought against economic and state agents who, not recognizing any legitimacy in it, do everything to expel it.

Methodologically, Discourse Analysis is the tool capable of revealing the hidden and unproblematic elements of social reality. The hypothesis is that the methodological filter imposed by legal positivism does not allow us to detect the silences and violence of the slavery regime, nor the socio-cultural effects resulting from racial discrimination, nor the socio-economic effects of non- execution of inclusion policies for former slaves.

These are the elements which, in the Brazilian past, were hidden by a discourse based on a specific, modern and European epistemology, aimed at colonizing the “New World”. It was the epistemological basis of formal, modern, European, universalist citizenship. Until today, these elements still remain hidden and marginalized by common sense reproduced as an effect of this legal regime applied to slaves. According to the “frozen view” of old, slaves, as the object of law, and quilombos, as illegal collective subjects, were excluded from any kind of citizenship.

ORLANDI (1990), a Brazilian linguist, bases her studies on French ” Discourse Analysis ” and appropriates the theoretical categories “discursive formation” and “interdiscourse”; ideology and subject; Material relations of production and individual experience; with the aim of considering them from a Brazilian historical perspective by referring to the effects of the discourse of European colonization in Brazil.

On the theoretical-linguistic level, it understands the function of the “already-said” as “already-internalized”, as memory which remains present as a rationality. And it is historicity which, in the following theoretical-sociological plan, will compose the materiality of silence or the unspoken as a guarantee of movements of meaning. This conception of silence is developed by Orlandi from his critique of the original conception of silence “as a remainder of language”.

The historical process of the community, single-family, of sustainable production, of collective use of space, which is defined according to daily necessity, customs and traditions established according to experience, without any previously established rule, is today seen as illegal activities in front of the public order standards of urbanization and environmental protection, which arrived in the region from the 70s and still remain today. Likewise, it does not fit the classic definition of individual civil property, which is why the occupied space disrespects the state and the neighborhood and suffers from successive invasions by property speculators.

It is in the “unspoken” field of the legal norm, where imperative norms impose on the community the duty to adapt and to become civilized. The community can choose – in the binary system of traditional law – between remaining in the region by complying with urban planning and environmental protection standards or carrying out its cultural and economic activities in the suburbs or in the favela.

On this point of view, the Report and the Decree reaffirm and reproduce the historical materialities of illegitimacy and illegality of the activities of the community because they are not able to restrict or to compose the social effects of the meaning that the community has. for the Neighborhood, for economic agents and for the State.

From the analytical perspective, property and identity for Sacopã surpass the characterization of identity of the anthropological relationship, of collective memory, common origin, historical process as a diagnosis of a past that becomes present.

Identity and property, for Sacopã, are also formed from the preservation of interests historically denied and delegitimized by “Other” actors and institutions. Not just facts or traditions, but interests, for which the community fights until today on the argument of the realization of constitutional rights or substantive citizenship.

Identity and ownership, for the community, is made up of interests based on experience and need, and is established before or independent of legal provisions. All this inherited, on the one hand, from the days of slavery and the African traditions that were brought there, and, on the other hand, from resistance against the colonial regime.

It is this conflictual movement, this systematic and historical negation of these interests of the community that is silenced by the Decree, by the Anthropological Report and by the incidence of other urban planning and environmental laws which, because of its nature of public order, are political instruments used for the purpose of fixing or expelling the community.

If “the said”, represented by the legal norm, restricts the conflict to the territorial question and attributes to them a solution based on the formalization of civil property law, which awaits the civilizing promises made by traditional law, the “non- dit ”seems to denounce the silence and the historical-social rejection of the real interests of blacks, slaves and quilombos as real social actors or historical subjects.

The theoretical hypothesis to be developed is that the non-fulfillment of material citizenship results from the methodological filter imposed by the current traditional theory of law in Brazil. This discussion can be made from the critical thinking of the epistemology of the South, from the deepening of the historical and sociological critical aspects of the Brazilian reality and from the demand of the black social movements that were brought and discussed at the National Constituent Assembly, but modified because of the positivist constitutional methodological filter and the process of objectification of the categories identity and property in the Decree 4887 \ 2003

Research, Scholarship, and Human Rights: Connecting to Community

Annie Miller

University of Colorado Denver

School of Public Affairs

Communities, citizens, and people drive our passions and efforts in collectively working to advance human rights. As we endeavor to advance the scholarship and grow research agendas seeking to help people, we must remain committed to putting people first. While causal mechanism testing and advances in big data, machine learning, regression techniques and network science enhance our understanding of politics, public safety, society, governance, and policy, we must attend to the notion that our grassroots and community partners deserve a voice in our scholarly agendas. Our fellow global citizens should have access to self-determination and pathways to co-creating knowledge about the topics that most deeply influence their day- to – day existence. Several techniques — participatory action research, narrative policy theory, and decolonization of research – can guide human rights scholars into collaborative research efforts providing voice to lived experiences while co-producing knowledge beyond developed, patriarchal, and marginalizing methods. 

In many ways this is on ongoing conversation about hegemony, power, and power over; contemporary research practices often use languages and techniques designed within systems to perpetuate marginalization and control. As Tuhiwai Smith (2012) asserts, there is a need to “disrupt relationships between researchers (mostly non-indigenous) and researched (indigenous), between a colonizing institution of knowledge and colonized peoples whose own knowledge was subjugated, between academic theories and academic values, between institutions and communities, and between and within indigenous communities themselves (p. x).” Postcolonial and Indigenous research offers centering in ontologies and epistemologies that focus on relationships and connections among people and planet. One key tenet of indigenous methodologies might be named relationality. Relationality, according to Chilisa (2020), “pushes to the center of every research encounter the importance of building relationships with the communities, all stakeholders, and partners honoring the relationship that people have with the land, the living, and the nonliving (p. 10).” The emphasis on relationality in research is essential and perhaps somewhat controversial to those trained in the western schools of positivism and rational choice theory. If our enterprise is in knowledge creation, sharing that knowledge as freely as possible, and in service to advancing human rights, we must spend time understanding and contextualizing the ways in which western colonialism shapes what we often perceive as value-neutral methodologies.

Community-based and participatory action research are a technique that can stand alone or be conducted alongside other forms of analysis. These techniques center and often privilege local knowledge. The general guiding principles of participatory action research include recognition of and attention to power dynamics across communities, embedding practitioners, stakeholders, and those with local lived experience to participate in all aspects of the research design and conduct, and establishing norms of reciprocity and ongoing engagement. These techniques strengthen our conceptions of validity and normalize our roles as educators who support knowledge production for all. These forms of research may challenge us to consider topics, concepts and theories beyond our own disciplinary ways of thinking and being in higher education. The relational nature of Indigenous and postcolonial research should push us across these boundaries if we are to explore and support action for advancing human rights. 

Narrative policy framework and its cousin advocacy coalition framework are techniques, and perhaps epistemologies, that can be adopted to deeply explore the relational. These two frameworks, embedded in the policy process and policy analysis literatures, may apply more broadly in various disciplinary settings as the aim of each is to more fully understand the connection among actors seeking political or policy change. The narrative policy framework is expressly applied to understand the process of meaning making within policy subsystems – uncovering meaning making through discourse among and with local communities enhances our work as human rights scholars. 

This is a call to and for relationality in human rights research. It is a call for more emphasis and training in Indigenous research methods. It is a call for centering the human-ness in human rights research. Most fundamentally this is a call to consider and evaluate how your own research trainings might be shielding you from fully adopting ways of knowing that enhance both trust and truth across the globe. 

Smith, L. T. (2012, Second Ed.). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd..

Chilisa, B. (2020). Indigenous research methodologies. Sage Publications.

How can Animal’s Rights improve Human Rights

Monique Falcão

St Ursula University, Brazil

That is an essay about the benefits offered by Animal’s Rights to Human Rights – HR on XXI century.

One of the most important consequences from II WWW was the world campaign to promote HR as absolute values for States and Civil Societies – quite successful at Occident considering internationals and global normative systems for HR protection. One of its main concrete expression is the promotion of public policies for inclusion for minorities, which has been historically neglected or explored.

On social level, the improvement of HR comes from the dialectics between two sources. First, the social claims for minorities inclusions – which guarantee legitimation for respective public policies. Second, the normative force from law in order to obligate social actors and institutions to accomplish public policies – which guarantee legality and rationality for minorities’ social inclusions.

As result, at medium and long term, it is possible to realize material changes in social representations for those minorities, which improves absolute and rational values of individual rights and solidarity on the respective society. The general hypothesis I would like to discuss is that, historically, the gradual recognition and the inclusion of specific social groups has as main effect the improvement of general and absolute values that bases HR.

As a example, if we make the exercise to resignificate Animal’s Rights as a kind of minority rights, it is possible to recognize the same contributions for HR improvement on social level. Mostly when civil society reveals strong engagement.

There are three legal aspects to be highlighted. i) animals are officially object of law which means they don’t have civil capacity to act in lawsuits, and, by law, the recognition of some rights for some species is the exception, not the rule; ii) animal’s protection is officially justified not as autonomous right, but as part of  “environment protection” on behalf of HR – anthropocentric epistemology; iii) Animal’s Rights are procedurally classified as collective right, so the environmental questions officially should be persecuted in collective lawsuits, proposed by Public Ministry or NGO.

The most innovation decisions for Animal’s Rights come from Judicial Power attending social claims, since 30 years ago, founded on 1988 Brazilian Constitution, in which the aspects I and ii are being reshaped by Jurisprudence in order to recognize the enlargement of animal’s rights. The most part of lawsuits is being proposed by NGO, revealing specific and huge demand from civil society to reduce animal abuse.

As illustration, I present some cases of Animal’s Rights in Brazil, where Judicial Activism has as main role the minority’s rights enforcement in a context of a patriarchal and rural-aristocratic society. I) the interdiction of cook fights, bull fights and dog fights although it’s strong cultural and economic relevance for some social and economic groups; ii) the interdiction to promote euthanasia of healthy animals rescued from abuse or from the streets, historically used as public policy for animal population control are the most relevant decisions.

The Legislative and the Executive powers also takes action to increase social rights for animals, to improve Public Power’s liability to fight animal abuse, and to expand economic actors’ liability for non-contractual damages caused to animals.

Those are the legality aspect prevailing Animal’s Rights over traditional social and economic interests.

Besides, several websites, social networks profiles and press agencies specialized in Animal’s Rights have been increasing and becoming popular on the last years. Population controls and denunciates animal’s abuse on public and private space. The “pet” economic sector is strengthening. Veterinary and Animal’s wellness courses are increasing. Vegan market and cruelty-free brands are replacing old practices with animal suffering. Scientific experiments rationalizes animal use to the minimum possible and reduces its suffering. Animal’s Rights movements become respectable and listened by government and companies. Animal’s Rights become part of company’s compliance programs. 

Those are the legitimacy aspect consolidating the increase of social representation for absolute values of individual rights and solidarity.

Historically, minorities’ rights are being gradually consolidated, on waves of improvement. Equality of gender and race, recognition of special rights for children and aged people, social inclusion for disable people are examples of differences overcame in anthropocentric perspective. It’s also happening for Animal’s Rights.

So, from this point of view, the specific contribution from Animal’s Rights to HR is to expand the spectrum of legality and legitimacy beyond anthropocentric epistemology. Even if Animal’s Rights continue to be founded on anthropocentric perspective, its increasing legitimacy and legality allows us to propose the specific hypothesis that there is special social claim to reduce violence and abuse in absolute terms, improving life and individual rights as a rational value to be applied to all speciesand to be respected by all social groups. For social psychology and recognitions theories, its importance can be studied on solidarity conception enforcement, for instance. It can also be studied as expansion of HR scope and enforcement of HR values towards an ecocentric epistemology, in which the species would have absolute values to be respected, largely than only for human specie.

Disappeared Children, Questions of Conflicting Rights, and the Rights to Truth and a Judicial Remedy

Jeffrey Davis, Professor, UMBC,

Stuart Holton, Sondheim Scholar, UMBC

In March 2016, Irish authorities excavated a mass grave revealing the remains of more than 800 children at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. At another site, Bassborough, a mass grave of more than nine hundred children was uncovered a year later. These homes were created by the Irish government with the Catholic Church to house unwed mothers, while encouraging forced adoption. They operated from the 1920s until 1998. In 2014 the government established the Commission of Investigation to investigate the extent of the abuse inflicted in these homes and in January 2021, it issued its report.  Though the Commission revealed significant evidence of abuse and neglect, and though it recommended several concrete steps to redress those violations, human rights advocates criticized the report for sealing witness testimony and personal identifying information. One advocacy group claimed the Commission destroyed recordings of testimony from 550 witnesses without creating transcripts.    

Uxenu Ablaña was six years old when he was forced into a Catholic run orphanage after Spanish police killed his parents for opposing Franco in the Civil War. Over the next 12 years Uxenu was called a “communist devil,” beaten, and abused. An estimated 31,000 children were taken from their families and placed in state sponsored institutions in Spain between 1945 and 1954. Tens of thousands more were allegedly taken from their mothers at birth and placed with families deemed more in line with the Franco regime’s ideology. American and Canadian officials inflicted similar violations on indigenous children by coercing them into Residential Schools. Here too mass graves have been uncovered.  Argentina implemented mandatory DNA testing to arm people with the tools necessary to reveal the truth about the children disappeared during its dirty war. This raised controversies over the surviving children’s right to privacy. 

When a state takes a child from her family and confines her to an institution, or unlawfully places her with more “socially or politically desirable” parents, the states’ actions attack the foundations of human dignity and identity. The allegations provoke complex and desperately important questions of human rights that are generalizable to numerous areas of the field: 

  • What does human rights law demand of states when confronted with allegations of past (perhaps distant past) violations?  In overcoming impunity, the rights to truth and to a judicial remedy are perhaps the most important but some democracies still refuse to acknowledge these positive obligations.
  • To what extent can private actors be held accountable.  In many of the missing children cases the Catholic Church operated the institutions in question.  
  • Can human rights conflict with one another?  These stories also demand that we conceptualize rights precisely to minimize claims that the assertion of one right infringes on another. We hear claims of conflicting rights from the religious shopkeeper who wishes to deny service to LGBTQ+ customers, or when the radio personality claims the free expression rights to attack a group in his society.  Or when a child – now grown – claims her right to privacy bars the disclosure of her story to biological family members demanding their right to truth. 
  • This heartbreaking controversy brings forth another question; who possesses rights like the right to truth and to a judicial remedy?  When a child is forcibly taken and placed with another family is the biological grandparent entitled to the truth to the same degree as the child himself?  Are they both victims of the same violation?

In her study of the Argentine case, Professor Elizabeth Ludwin King argues that since there is no precedent determining a hierarchy of the rights to truth and privacy, the state may make that determination. On the other hand, in his book, ThePromise of Human Rights, Jamie Mayerfeld suggests that, if the restrictions and obligations of a right are precisely defined, they will rarely conflict. Mayerfeld’s suggestion is instructive in this context. Perhaps we may protect a child’s right to hold the details of her biological origins private if we tailor the biological uncle’s right to truth strictly to the violation he suffered. On the other hand, a child’s right to privacy perhaps should not extend to preventing a biological mother from knowing the identity of a son stolen from her at birth. As Professor Mégret explained in his analysis of Argentina, this raises the issue of how we conceptualize victimhood for certain rights violations. Scholars, courts, and legislators must carefully balance these weighty concerns when outlining the boundaries of these rights.

States undoubtedly have a positive obligation to enforce the rights to truth and to a judicial remedy against state officials and private actors. In O’Keefe v. Ireland (2014) the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the state was liable for sexual abuse committed at church run schools. According to the Court, Ireland fell short of its positive obligation to protect the children in these schools from abuse. The Inter-American Court has also ruled that states have the positive obligation to protect children from abuse, and to investigate allegations of the forced disappearance and illegal placement of missing children. Many of the violations against children and families alleged in these nations involve people and events from the distant past, where all or most who were directly involved have passed away. In these cases, the state still has the obligation to reveal the truth and restore the dignity of the surviving family members and communities. 

The rights to truth and to a judicial remedy must be diligently pursued. Otherwise, as the European Court of Human Rights recently explained, without justice human rights protections would “be ineffective in practice and it would be possible in some cases for agents of the State to abuse the rights of those within their control with virtual impunity.”  





This international Symposium will be hosted by the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland, on 9 and 10 December 2021 (University website:

The COVID-19 pandemia has changed many aspects of human and social life. It proves to be an unprecedented experience. This crisis requires unusual solutions, regulations, and a strong response to limit the disease’s spread and protect societies. However, it could be an excuse to introduce oppressive surveillance and undermine human rights, e.g., political, social, and cultural rights, especially the freedom of expression, the right to privacy. The W.H.O. proclamation of the COVID-19 as pandemic on March 11, 2020, led many countries to declare a state of emergency and grant extraordinary powers to their governments. 

It is expected that during the workshop, the speakers will consider and analyze the impact of COVID-19 on diverse aspects of protection of human rights, in a specific condition of democracy and political rights under lockdown in numerous regions and states, and also the right to health and health-care, equitable access to vaccination, as well as the influence of the health crisis on freedom of expression and media freedom, freedom of movement and privacy.

Due to the pandemic restrictions, the organizers consider all modes of conducting the workshop, i.e., off-line, on-line, and a hybrid version. Each paper-giver will make a 15-minute presentation. Once the panelists have concluded their appearances, the discussant will provide a brief set of oral comments (10-15 minutes). The panel chair will then open the floor to discussion and questions from the audience (45-60 minutes).

This Symposium will be organized in 5 panels, with the following topics: 

a) Democracy and political rights under lockdown

b) The right to health and health-care and equitable access to vaccination during COVID-19 pandemic, 

c) The impact of the health crisis on freedom of expression and media freedom

d) Freedom of movement and privacy in the time of COVID-19 pandemic,

e) Key human rights during COVID-19 pandemic. Impact of COVID-19 on some aspects of human rights.

Each panel will have a Chair and a Discussant. 

Abstracts (up to 400 words) and other information queries should be sent to j

The deadline to send abstracts is 10 October 2021.

The deadline by which to receive complete papers for publication is 31 December 2021.. 

It is envisaged that two or three participants will be offered free hotel accommodation. These participants will be chosen based on the quality of their papers and CVs.