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Assessing the Impact of Urgent Measures in Protecting At-Risk Detainees in Latin-America (IMPACTUM)", is a large-scale research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and hosted at Ghent University (Belgium). The project is directed by Prof Dr Clara Burbano Herrera (PI) and aims to examine the diverse impacts of urgent measures adopted by international human rights bodies to protect persons deprived of liberty in six Latin-American countries. 


The project proposes a study of UMs that: 1) considers the context in which UMs are enforced and how they are applied on the ground; 2) assesses the impacts of UMs on detainees, legal and institutional systems and on (inter)national actors; 3) discusses their strengths and limitations; and 4) analyses their wider learning effects. This project combines research methods including desk research with (qualitative) empirical research methods. 

IMPACTUM aims to develop a critical normative impact framework useful to provide a deeper theoretical analysis, as well as insight into how to formulate UMs to maximise their practical protective effects. IMPACTUM will thus uncover and present new knowledge on emerging issues with UMs that are currently unaddressed in academia and in practice.


The research is made possible thanks to funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

(Grant Agreement 101044852)

Research Team

So far, only the Principal investigator is known. This is Prof Dr Clara Burbano Herrera. However, five researchers will soon be recruited. Experts in their fields, they will bring to IMPACTUM an array of perspectives and experiences.


The team will consist of core members with background in law, political science and criminology. 

IMPACTUM requires a broader understanding than is offered by a single discipline. International human rights law offers insight into the legal and human rights aspects of the topic, while criminology provides insights into society’s reaction to crime and detainees and real-world experience of the criminal justice system. The study of politics, policy-making and implementation will complement these perspectives and provide a richer contextual understanding of how UMs work on the ground.

The combination of academic backgrounds will enable us to conduct a truly interdisciplinary study and to forge a new way of looking at UMs, drawing on the strengths of the various group members to ensure creative and solution-oriented thinking (McConnell/Smith 2018). 

The host institution is Ghent University, and all team members will be affiliated with the Programme for Studies on Human Rights in Context, within the Human Rights Centre and the Department of European, Public and International Law of the Faculty of Law and Criminology.

Team Meeting
Working Together
Analytical Framework 


The framework for the analysis of UMs will include the measurement of direct and observable effects of UMs (direct impact) as well as indirect or transformative effects (indirect impact) that may manifest over the short-, medium-, and long-term (Gloppen 2009; Rodríguez/Rodríguez 2010; Bogdandy et al 2010 / 2014 / 2017 / 2019; Burbano Herrera / Haeck 2019; Engstrom 2019).

The team will assess the impact of UMs at various levels: At the level of

  • power-relations;

  • discourses and ideas;

  • at the institutional level;

  • stimulating positive changes and overcoming barriers 

Case Selection

The country case study selection process was conducted on the basis of which were most similar in type. This will permit us to gain a contextual, in-depth, and comprehensive understanding of how UMs are applied in countries with significant institutional, legal, and political commonalities.


The core country case studies that IMPACTUM will examine are: 

  • Colombia

  • Peru

  • Ecuador

  • Guatemala

  • El Salvador

  • Nicaragua

The Advisory Board

The Interdisciplinary International Advisory Board (IIAB) is composed of scholars, judges,  members of international HRs bodies, and members of HRs NGOs with diverse backgrounds and experience at the international, regional, and local level. They provide substantive individual and collective guidance throughout the project, and selected board members act (along with the PI) as co-supervisors of the PhD students.

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