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Human Rights Research Center of Renmin University of China Invited Professors from Harvard University to Successfully Hold A Lecture on Human Rights

On May 16th, 2018, Human Rights Research Center of Renmin University of China invited Professor Kathryn Sikkink, Professor Douglas A. Johnson from Harvard University to give a lecture. The lecture was presided over by Professor He Jiahong. Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska, the former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, Professor Han Dayuan, director of Human Rights Research Center of Renmin University of China, Dr Cui Fengming, director of Harvard Law School¡¯s Disabled People Chinese Program, Professor Qu Xiangfei from Institute of International Law of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, associate professor Jiang Dong and assistant professor Xiong Bingwan from Renmin Law School and graduate students also attended the lecture.

Professor Kathryn Sikkink first gave a lecture on the topic "Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century", which was first published by Prof. Sikkink in 2017 by Princeton University Press. The two main parts of the book are the legitimacy and validity of human rights.

Professor Sikkink focused on the first part, the legitimacy of human rights, starting by analyzing different scholars¡¯ debate about the origins of the human rights. She pointed out directly that what they had discussed was international human rights protection rather than national and the human rights discussed included civic rights, political rights, economic, social and cultural rights stipulated by Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights conventions. Prof. Sikkink then came to the conclusion that the origins of human rights are more diverse than we imagine, and it is through the diversified struggle that it gained legitimacy.

The second part of the book focuses on the validity of international human rights, the effectiveness of human rights law, human rights institutions and human rights campaigns. Why is it so difficult to measure the effectiveness of human rights law and human rights policies? What are the effective and ineffective ways to promote human rights? The above questions are also discussed in the book. Due to the limited time, the lecture did not go into depth on this topic.

Professor Douglas A. Johnson focused on the topic "The Costs and Consequences of The Bush Administration Decision to Use Torture". The topic is one of the results of a study conducted by Prof. Johnson on the victims of torture. The topic of the study is "Did ¡®Enhanced Interrogation¡¯ Save Lives¡±.

Prof. Johnson started with the text on the prohibition of torture. As early as 1689, the British Bill of Rights has made it clear that excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and extraordinary punishments should not be imposed. The 1st clause of Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT for short), which came into force in 1987, has defined the elements that constitute torture.

Prof. Johnson then asked questions based on a questionnaire on CIA¡¯s approach of using torture, such as whether the CIA's approach was effective and whether the CIA had the legitimacy to torture terrorist suspects to obtain information. Prof. Johnson also indicated several opinions supporting torture: 1. Torture is unethical but sometimes legal; 2. Torture is illegal but sometimes ethical; 3. Torture is both ethical and legal. On the contrary, the anti-torture opinions are as follows: 1. Torture is both unethical and illegal; 2. Accurate information cannot be collected before the use of torture; 3. Even if it seems useful in the short term, it will lead to the enemies¡¯ counterattack in the long run.

Since the Sept. 11th terrorist attack, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has investigated CIA¡¯s torture and other abuses imposed on untried prisoners and formed a report on torture.

These questionnaires and analysis have prompted us to think about the costs and consequences of American¡¯s torture against terrorists. Prof. Johnson noted that the costs and consequences would affect the reputation of U.S. military operations, the collection of intelligence, the U.S.¡¯s diplomatic objections and its international image.

In the Q&A session, the two professors answered questions about the political nature of human rights and the reason why the U.S. did not join the International Criminal Court.

In the end of the lecture, Professor Han Dayuan presented monuments and gifts to the two professors on behalf of the Human Rights Research Center.

We sincerely thank Prof. Kathryn Sikkink, Prof. Douglas A. Johnson for the wonderful lecture, also the teachers and students for the participation and support.

(Editor: Qu Yinsheng)

 
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