Working Groups


In order to strengthen the cooperation among the members of the School and give a new impetus to the work of the School working groups were created. Each working group will count approximately 15 members, coming from all walks of academic life within the School, i.e. both junior and senior researchers. Working groups may also include outsiders, as long as its members believe that this will be beneficial to the work of the group.

Organisation and facilities

Each working group will have a chair and a secretary who are responsible for the activities of the group.

The members of the working group are entirely free to use this organizational format as they see fit. They can use it to exchange ideas and information and to set up joint research activities. The members of the working group can meet physically or virtually as they see fit.

The School's website will support the activities of the working groups by offering a searchable database containing the research interests of all members and the possibility to use a forum to keep the members informed. The working groups will be able to make use of meeting facilities in Utrecht at no costs. In their activities the working groups will be assisted where necessary by the research officer.


The working groups have only one duty, i.e. to proide each year an overview of activities (a brief survey of past activities and future plans) to the Board.

The position of a working group on a certain issue does not represent the official position of the School of Human Rights Research; only the board of the School can issue such statements.

State of affairs

Currently, the following working groups are active:

  • International Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Universalism and Cultural Relativism
  • Human Rights, International Relations and Implementation
  • Human Rights and Sustainable Development
  • African Human Rights and Good Governance Network
  • The ESCR Working Group
  • Courts and Human Rights
  • Minority Rights
  • The European Court of Human Rights Reflection Group
  • The Human Rights Committee Reflection Group



International criminal law and procedure

Established in 2009, the Working Group International Criminal Justice and Human Rights (WG ICJ-HR) is co-chaired by Brianne McGonigle Leyh and Masha Fedorova. It meets several times a year for the dual purposes of enhancing academic exchange/peer review and building and sustaining a professional network. Activities of the Working Group include presenting working papers, debating relevant topics and sharing experiences from field-research trips and conferences.

All members are free to propose a subject for discussion or presentation. The Working Group meets three times per year, with meeting locations rotating amongst members' respective universities. The close of each meeting is followed by informal drinks.

Chair: Brianne McGonigle Leyh

Secretary: Masha Fedorova


Universalism and Cultural Relativism

Human rights are presented as universal aspirations. Outside the West, the universality of human rights is however met with skepticism. Especially in Asia and Africa it is argued that human rights tend to mirror Western thought, leaving not enough room for African and Asian national and regional particularities as well as their historical, cultural and religious backgrounds. In addition, some African and Asian commentators consider the promotion of human rights by the West in the rest of the world as a new form of Western imperialism. They argue that their local values can form an equal contribution to the development of human rights. Western critics however respond that these regional values are often used as an excuse for the countries’ poor human rights record.

The Working Group addresses the relation between the universality of human rights and cultural relativism and tries to find a ‘third way’ in the debate. In doing so, it investigates how African and Asian values and perspectives can play a role in the protection and promotion of human rights, rather than considering these contexts as an obstacle in human rights protection. The aim of the Working Group is to keep an open dialogue in which Western and non-Western views are equally respected. This may mean that some human rights as known by us today will have to be adjusted.

This Working Group, which is set up jointly with CERES, brings together members of the School for Human Rights and CERES, as well as other interested participants. The meetings, which are held three to four times a year, form a platform for invited (international) speakers and its members (who come from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America) to share their research and views.

Chair: Tom Zwart

Secretary: Byung Sook de Vries


Persons interested in participating in this Working Group are invited to contact Byung Sook de Vries (


Human Rights, International Relations and Implementation

The  Working Group on Human Rights, International Relations and Implementation was established in December 2009. The aim of this working group is to combine theories and insights in foreign policy studies, international relations theory, government/governance studies, political science, history, diplomacy and law, and to analyze the making and implementation of human rights in the field of international relations. In the discussions the emphasis is put on the broader context in which human rights are applied, thereby touching upon considerations of politics, polity and policy. Both the impact and the effect of the international human rights law regime on the domestic level, as well as the influence of states on international human rights law and implementation are studied. Besides states and international organizations, the role of civil society (including National Human Rights Institutes and Non Governmental Organizations) and the media are considered.

Key areas of study are: 1) the UN Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review and the UN Treaty bodies 2) the external relations of the EU and the gap between internal and external EU decision-making 3) the ministry of Foreign Affairs as both a policymaker and a coordination platform for the line ministries as well as the domestic implementation of ‘global’ and European jurisprudence and recommendations in the Netherlands (in comparison) 

The secretariat of the working group aims for at least three meetings a year, in three different settings. The first meeting discusses academic work in progress by both junior and senior members. The second meeting, discusses  methodological issues such as measuring influence, impact, efforts, effectiveness and compliance, and the underlying assumptions of human rights researchers. The third meeting discusses current policy themes in a roundtable setting with foreign policy officials, NGOs and other stakeholders.

Chair: René Rouwette

Secretary: Jasper Krommendijk


Human Rights and (Sustainable) Development

The Working Group on Human Rights and (Sustainable) Development meets on average twice a year to present on-going research and to exchange on challenges and opportunities.

Close cooperation has been established with the Law and Development Research Group of the University of Antwerp Law Research School (Belgium), with which joint meetings are held. In the near future, this cooperation will be extended to the in May 2011 (to be) established Flemish Research Network on Law and Development (Law & Dev).

Chair: Wouter Vandenhole, professor of human rights and holder of UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights, Law and Development Research Group, University of Antwerp Law Research School

Secretary: Marie-José van der Heijden, lecturer, Utrecht University


Africa Working Group

Chairperson - Shamiso Zinzombe, PhD Candidate, Institute of Health Policy and Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Secretary - Ingrid Roestenburg

The Africa Working Group was initiated by Sharlene Ramllal a lecturer and PhD Candidate at the University of Rhodes in Grahamstown, South Africa together with Professor Tom Zwart. The main goal of the group is the creation of the Africa Human Rights and Good Governance network for which its is envisioned that it will serve a much needed function similar to that of the European Public Law Network.

The AWG meets once every quarter per year and carries out a number of activities. Among them a focus group on Zimbabwe and another that examines the link between the ICC and the AU. For the latter a Seminar is planned for late 2011 or early 2012. Ingrid Roestenburg and Professor Tom Zwart are leading the preparations for the Seminar. From time to time the AWG also invites guest lecturers to speak on issues topical to Africa Ms Wendy Nefdt Director of Epilepsy South Africa and a PhD Candidate at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa is a recent example.


ESCR Working Group

Chairperson – Vacant[1]

Secretary – Shamiso Zinzombe, PhD Candidate, Institute of Health Policy and Management,  Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Was formed on 29 September 2010 following a Seminar on the Right to Health at Erasmus Rotterdam University as such the Group is still new. The main goal of the ESCR Group is the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights in academic and non academic settings.

To achieve that goal the ESCR has divided itself into a number of focus areas which include Justiciability, Norm Setting and Interpretation, Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups and Health, Food and Housing. Some of the activities the ESCR has set for itself to achieve the main goal include the development of webpage, Seminars and the development of a Winter School Programme on ESCR Rights. On 21 November 2012 a Seminar will take place at the T.M.C. Asser Institute, entitled "Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Vehicles for Social Justice?", for more information and programme click here. The preparations for the Seminar are being led by Gustavo Arosemena a PhD Candidate from the University of Maastricht with the assistance of Shamiso Zinzombe. Preparations for a Winter School Programme on ESCR are being led by Andre den Exter with the assistance of Shamiso Zinzombe.


European Court of Human Rights Reflection Group

The School of Human Rights Research has taken the initiative to start a new working group within the framework of the school: the Reflection Group on

the European Court of Human Rights.

The aim of this working group is to analyze and discuss developments in the functioning of the European Convention and Court of Human Rights .

The working group will study structural developments such as the work load of the

Strasbourg Court, the methods of interpretation used by the Court, the methods of fact finding, the interaction between the Court and other human rights mechanisms within the Council of Europe and the implementation of ECHR-judgments. Also individual decisions or judgments of the Court may be discussed from different perspectives. Indeed, the forum of the Research School offers the opportunity to bring together researchers from different disciplines and with different views on the

way the Strasbourg Court is dealing with cases.

Membership of the working group is open to both senior and junior researchers of the School. However, the aim of the working group is not only to bring together members from the academic community, but also practitioners from within the administration and the judiciary to reflect on the functioning of the Strasbourg Court. As many of you will be aware, the legitimacy of ECHR judgments is increasingly being challenged. Reports by political think tanks, newspaper articles by legal scholars and statements by government officials throughout Europe declare the Court to be an “expansionist” and “virtually unaccountable” supra-national bureaucracy.

Although several of these views are ill-based, they indicate the way in which an increasing number of policy-makers is perceiving the activities and position of the Strasbourg Court. All the more reason to arrange meetings in order mingle the academic human rights community with these policy-makers for an exchange of ideas and perceptions on the ECHR.

One of the activities of the Reflection Group will be a yearly D+D (Dinner +

Discussion) with the Dutch ECHR judge: Prof. Egbert Myjer.

Dr. Jan-Peter Loof of Leiden University will act as president of the ECHR

Reflection Group. Members of the School that are interested in participating

are invited to contact him (


Human Rights Committee Working Group of the Netherlands School of Human Rights Research

The Working Group was set up at the start of 2011 to support Professor Cees Flinterman in his position on the Human Rights Committee. Its members come from a variety of career stages and academic and professional backgrounds. The intention is that the Working Group is a forum in which Professor Flinterman can discuss ideas and points of law raised during the sessions in Geneva. It is intended to provide Professor Flinterman with an opportunity to share his experiences on the Human Rights Committee on a confidential basis and invite comments and input from its members. The Working Group meets three times a year after the three sessions of the Human Rights Committee.

Chair: Tom Zwart

Secretary: Katharine Fortin


[1] Maite san Giorgi was the first Chairperson of the ESCR working group and she resigned at the start of the year to focus on her final year of her PhD. A new Chair shall be appointed at the next meeting.