Research

Our research vision is to conduct studies on the promotion, advancement, and respect of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. We reflect on how international human rights bodies function, and how to inspire better interaction between domestic and international law within its wider social and political context.
 

Along with international human rights bodies, our research is conducted with a focus on states characterised by deep-rooted social exclusion and inequality, high levels of violence, and weak institutions. Main features of the research include a comprehensive approach to public law and the high value placed on comparative law. The research is grounded in theory, and is often based on extensive fieldwork.

Our research goals reflect the Ghent University slogan 'Dare to Think', and we approach the research with a drive for lifelong learning. The research programme aspires to provide a critical space in academia for creating and sharing knowledge based on rigorous scientific research. In that sense, we see ourselves as scholars working in three spheres: research, research-led teaching, and service within and beyond Ghent University.

 

The programme is embedded within the Faculty of Law and Criminology and the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University.

'Dare to Think'

Research Topics

The research programme addresses the following research topics:

  • the functions and structure of international human rights bodies; 

  • the functions and structure of national institutions;

  • the interaction between international human rights bodies and national institutions.

Over the course of the research programme, we grapple with important questions. These include some of the following:

  • How do international courts work?

  • What mechanisms are in place to allow better dialogue between international courts and national institutions?

  • What is the relationship between international and national courts?

  • What is the relationship between legislative, executive, judiciary, and other actors at the domestic level? How does that relationship affect compliance with international decisions, such as judgments and urgent measures?

  • What factors ensure that international decisions are complied with?

  • What is the greater impact of judgments?

  • How are jurisdictional conflicts between international courts resolved?

  • What renders some international courts more legitimate than others?

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The Functions and Structure of International Human Rights Bodies

We examine the evolution of different human rights systems, international human rights courts, and quasi-judicial organs. In particular, we look at their decision-making processes as well as the way they are financed, organised, and managed. Our research focuses on factors related to the international level. These include: the perceived legal status of the decision adopted by international adjudicators; the extent of state and civil society involvement in the proceedings; the style and formulation of remedial orders; and, finally, the degree to which follow-up by the international organs influences the state compliance with, and impact of, international decisions.

 

We perform a close examination of concrete decisions (i.e. judgments, urgent measures, reports, decisions), taking into consideration the types of rights found to have been violated, the scale of the violation, and the types of obligations resting upon the state. These obligations may include: providing reparations, including payment of financial satisfaction; providing symbolic redress by acknowledging state responsibility and honouring the victims; holding perpetrators to account and reopening domestic trials; changing the laws and practices to ensure that similar violations do not happen in the future; and taking individual measures aimed at providing a remedy to the victim, and considering the political or financial costs of the remedy. From a comparative perspective, we aim to identify across-the-board similarities, differences, problems, and solutions. 

National Institutions and their Interaction with International Human Rights Bodies

 

Our research line understands that a cooperative relationship between the international and national levels is necessary for the evolution of the international human rights systems and, in particular, for their impact. The way in which international courts interact with national institutions is essential to define the objectives that the diverse systems can achieve. A fruitful collaboration between the two levels of protection of rights is essential for increasing the standards in the regions. The democratic principle of the rule of law and the protection of human rights is examined, as well as concepts of legitimate and effective institutions, both at the national and the international level.

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Collaborations

The Programme further contributes toward capacity-strengthening and cross-disciplinary collaboration within international and national research networks and centres.

At international level:

  • International Human Rights Reports, coordinated by Prof D Harris (University of Nottingham, United       Kingdom);

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  • Inter-American Human Rights Network (IAHRN), coordinated by Prof P Engström (University College       London, United Kingdom); financially supported by the Leverhulme Trust;

  • International Scientific Research Network 'Extraterritorial Human Rights Obligations in Practice', coordinated by Prof W Vandenhole; (University of Antwerp, Belgium); financially supported by the Flanders Research Foundation (FWO);

  • Ius Constitutionale Commune in the Americas Programme (ICCAL), led by Prof A von Bogdandy and Prof M Morales Antoniazzi (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany);

  • European and Inter-American Human Rights Network, coordinated by Prof L Zwaak (Utrecht University, the Netherlands); financially supported by the European Union.

At Ghent University:

  • Central and South America Platform (CESAM), where Prof Haeck is the representative for the Faculty of Law and Criminology;

  • Centre for the Social Study of Migration and Refugees (CESSMIR);

  • Commission for Development Cooperation;

  • Ghent Centre for Global Studies (Interdisciplinary Research Centre);

  • Human Rights Centre (HRC), co-founded by Prof Haeck;

  • Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute (GRILII);

  • Scholars at Risk Network.

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