Law students, fresh law graduates, and junior lawyers from the MENA region recently participated in a regional human rights summer course in Lebanon.
The 12-day course stems from a cooperation between RWI, Beirut Arab University’s Human Rights Centre (BAU-HRC), the University of Jordan, and Birzeit of Palestine, as well as the University of Algiers I.
It is believed that through this activity, participants will have enhanced their knowledge on international human rights standards and their applicability in national contexts.
Thirty-five participants representing Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Palestine and Tunisia took part in the summer course.
Human rights summer course now very specialized
Dr. Omar Hoori, the head of the Human Rights Center at BAU, says what distinguishes this course is that it has become a specialized one.
He says: We are not merely defining and introducing human rights and general related issues. We directed the topic towards a vibrant one which is lacking in the region. Particularly it came in the form to be content-heavy, and aimed at professional development and capacity building of young law students and young law practitioners.
“We are becoming experienced at targeting and selecting exceptional and motivated participants. This year, the group is of a distinguished quality and have a very high level of interest in the discussed topics. Additionally, they are more advanced academically (4th year, masters, and PhD candidates and junior level lawyers).
“This specialized summer course is at the beginning of its road. Of course this is only its second year as a specialized course, in the previous years it discussed general topics. This means that there is room for improvement in terms of curriculum, the planning of the material, possibly maybe providing a manual or guide for students to use while learning and studying. The desired outcome of the course in the first year was that they learn about in-depth legal topics related to human rights. This year we felt that there is room to provide even more.
“We currently have a network of alumni. What I want us to do now is to benefit from this network by having them visit, connect, and network with us and with each other. These alumni attended the same course and experienced it. Even if they attended in different years, they have shared memories of the course and what it offers. This is why it would be good to make use of this opportunity, especially that some of our alumni are working in the UN and significant NGOs. This gives value to the course so that we can improve what we are providing to these students.
“Our lecturers are essential to our network. The development of Arabic materials and curriculums on human rights is a major issue. We have researchers and law teachers interested in these topics. The publications that we want to produce might involve these teachers and students as we assess who is of an appropriate level to join the process. Thus, we have different ways in which we can come up with new ideas through this course.
“The duration of this course is another important topic. We started with a week, then three weeks, then we moved to a period of twelve days and settled on that period. I think that is an appropriate period for a student leaving to another country to a dorm setting. Yet, there is no reason not to design a follow-up meeting to this course in certain countries.
“We could plan follow-ups in countries that are easy to reach and attainable for students from different countries. We could meet in North Africa to connect with the Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan students and invite some of the students from the Middle East to join us for example. Then we could recreate the follow-up in another country like Jordan for example. In this case, these events would act as a continuation of the course and its activities.
“We generated a large number of ideas and we can still come up with more. What I’m hoping for is for us to create a base of Arab researchers on a unified level of awareness and understanding of human rights. This obviously needs follow-up and maintenance. We need to maintain the ideas that we generated during the course in order to preserve them and preserve what was learnt through the summer course to encourage continuous learning and development.”
Satisified students at human rights summer course
Ibtisam, a student from Morocco who is doing a LMM in International Law, says the course provided the participants with the methodology to mainstream human rights conventions within the application and interpretation of the national legislation.
“This course inspired me to lecture BA student on the same methodology, which I found very beneficial to maintain a just rule of law in our countries,” says Ibtisam. In addition, I also benefitted from interacting with students from different countries in the MENA region to learn which countries ratified the human rights conventions in order to compare and associate this among the national legislations, and analyse the differences and their impacts.”
Ibtisam said the participants were at a high level of education and intellect. And she said while she had attended human rights courses in a number of developed countries, this was the first time she had attended a course on such a topic in an Arab country with fellow Arab students. She was anxious before attending, yet she was surprised that the course covered these topics even more in-depth than the other courses she attended and that the students discussed the topic in a rich and intellectual manner.
Another student, Jumanah from Palestine, said the biggest benefit of the course was learning about the legislation and real practices of the legislation in other Arab countries. She wishes that there would be a chance to create a newsletter or booklet based on the material discussed in the course in order for others who were not lucky enough to attend to reap some of its benefits. “My favourite thing about the course was learning the methods of applying international conventions because this is an area that we in one way or another lack in the region,” she said.
And Israa from Egypt was very fond of the idea of learning about legislation from a practical point of view and listening to participants from different countries about the application of the legislations in their countries, not just theoretical knowledge. “I think the course provided an introduction for future regional networking among the participants who represent the MENA region to develop future coordination in the application of human rights concepts and conventions in our countries,” said Israa.