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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sir Nigel Rodley meets with Human Rights Program, Students

On October 6, 2015, the Human Rights Program, joined by David Weissbrodt of the law school and students of the graduate minor in Human Rights, met for a luncheon discussion with Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, a human rights lawyer, scholar, and activist.

An early advisor to Amnesty International, Sir Nigel Rodley has been an influential contributor to the global human rights movement of the second half of the 20th century. Within the framework of the United Nations, he served as both the Special Rapporteur on torture (1993-2001) and as a Member of the Human Rights Committee beginning in 2001. He is also the President of the International Commission of Jurists. He has also served in an academic capacity, having formerly taught at Dalhousie University, the New School for Social Research in New York, and the London School of Economics. Currently, he is the Professor of Law and Chair of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex.


Professor Rodley spoke informally with students from an array of disciplines including law, social work, history, and nursing fields, offering insights on the development of a human rights framework in a global context. Citing his experiences working in the United Nations, he recounted the ways in which topics surrounding human rights moved from a secondary, perfunctory status in interstate and transnational relations to a leading role in shaping not only the ways in which states relate to one another but also the domestic policies and efforts within nations. As he noted, human rights have seen major advancements as an international standard to which governments and their officials can be held accountable for their actions. As such, in his time an activist throughout this important norm-building phase in international human rights, Professor Rodley was able to provide the participants with a unique context for understanding the groundwork on which current human rights efforts and movements are based.

Question topics ranged from transitional justice to his thoughts on the proliferation of Special Rapporteurs and the impact of the broadening presence and accountability on state participants in the international human rights discourse. He addressed his own longevity in the field, speaking candidly on how he has sustained his "faith" in the process. Responding to a question regarding the conflict in El Salvador, Professor Rodley reflected on a growing trend of ambiguity in state involvement in human rights violations, and how transnational actors perceive accountability in this context. 

We thank Sir Nigel Rodley for his contributions to the study and promotion of human rights, and we are grateful for his time at the University of Minnesota.