The International Course “Human Rights as a Universal Ideal: Global Threats and Challenges concluded last Friday 27. It was organized by the International Center for the Promotion of Human Rights at Villa Ocampo, UNESCO Observatory in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When the CIPDH started the enrolment, more than 300 applicants from almost fifty countries applied. High rank governmental officials and officers from international institutions, civil society organizations, researchers and scholars devoted to human rights issues from 26 different countries were among the 27 participants chosen. During an intensive week, they attended the panels and open classes given by a group of Argentine professors and experts convened by the CIPDH for this first version of the International Course on Human Rights.
On Monday 23, Frederik Vacheron, Director of Villa Ocampo UNESCO Observatory, and Claudio Avruj, National Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism made the opening remarks of the Course. Subsequently, Patricia Tappatá Valdez, Director of the CIPDH, and Roberto Saba, Academic Director of the Course presented the academic program and the methodology for the activities and debates to be held during the following days.
The course addressed human rights as a universal ideal in the global world and its threats and challenges dealing with the main insights of current discussions, highlighting specially the progress and advances made in Argentina and other countries in that regard. Specifically, the seminar opened with a debate about the complexities related to transitional justice and the Argentine experience in the field of memory, truth and justice. The opening panel: “Trials and Transitional Justice: The case of the Trial against the Military Juntas in Argentina from the point of view of its main actors,” was moderated by Tappatá Valdez and its participants were Ricardo Gil Lavedra and León Carlos Arslanian, judges of the Federal Court pursuing that legal process. The way in which Argentina investigated and tried state terrorism crimes was analyzed in great detail in that session. This topic was completed on Wednesday 25 in the panel about “Trials and Transitional Justice, a global perspective,” with the participation of Catalina Smulovitz (Torcuato Di Tella University), Ruti Teitel (New York Law School) and Patricia Tappatá Valdez (CIPDH Director). The panel revisited the Argentine experience to address the different transitional justice strategies and the role played by the universal human rights system and by the regional system for the implementation of these mechanisms. The day finished with an open interview to Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor in the trial to the Military Juntas and former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
The tension between “the global” and “the local or national” approaches prevailed in most of the panels and comments of professors or participants. In the panel about “Human Rights and the Global, Regional and local approach. Regional integration, Global Security and International Protection of Human Rights. Tensions and Challenges,” Santiago Cantón (Secretary of Human Rights of the Province of Buenos Aires) presented three different moments in the human rights field along the last 70 years: rules setting, enforcement of those rules by states and international supervision. Rut Diaminit (Di Tella University) looked into some current processes like Brexit and the securitization which could jeopardize key aspects of democracy. Diamint also warned about the criminalization of migrations and the creation of an “internal foe.” In turn, Tussie elaborated on four theories explaining how the international aspect has impinged on human rights as she expressed her concern about the current retreat of the social-democratic model and the predominance of sovereignism-based preferences and logics questioning fundamental rights such as migration: “There is a struggle to define which regimen is morally superior. In this struggle, human rights are questioned,” the FLACSO professor pointed out.
The gender issue emerged at different points, however, it was addressed specifically by Beatriz Kohen (University of Palermo), Paola Bergallo (Torcuato Di Tella University) and María Fernanda Rodríguez (National Ministry of Justice and Human Rights) in the panel on “Human Rights and Gender. Global Trends and Problems.” The panelists presented the new gender agenda and agreed on the need for managing public resources through development plans and a gender-oriented legal policy.
No doubt, the progress made in human rights in Argentina and the region has been closely associated to human rights activism of the last 30 years. The panel “Global Activism in Human Rights,” explored this evolution on the basis of the stories and experiences shared by Juana Kweitel (CONECTAS, Brazil), Liliana Tojo (CEJIL, United States) and Marcela Perelman (CELS, Argentina).
In the morning of Thursday 26, there were two classes: “The Global Agenda in Human Rights: Relevant Pillars from the United Nations Perspective,” by Christian Courtis from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights; and “Migrants and Refugees: Human mobility from a human rights approach,” by Pablo Ceriani, Vice-Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers. In the afternoon, we dealt with “International Law, International Courts and Supreme Courts,” with the participation of Leonardo Filippini (University of Palermo) and Roberto Saba (University of Buenos Aires and Palermo University).
On Friday 27, we put into practice the discussions and debates taking place over the week, by role-playing a meeting at the UN Human Rights Council. In this exercise, led by Professor Natalia Luterstein, (University of Buenos Aires) there was a discussion agenda with a view to adopting a resolution on the topic in which the participants had to play the role of the Council Member States, of UN specialized agencies and of non-governmental organizations with an interest in the issue.
During the week, we paid a visit to the Park of Memory and to the Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism, located in the northern part of the waterfront in the city of Buenos Aires. They were welcomed by Vera Jarach, Mother of May – Founding Line, and by the directors of the park. Finally, upon closing of the course, the participants visited the Memory and Human Rights Space at the site where the Mechanic School of the Navy (former ESMA) used to be and they were greeted by the Minister of Justice Germán Garavano.
Thus, with the active involvement of personalities from 26 different nations, the international course was held, in agreement with the ideal sustained by Victoria Ocampo that “Interaction between cultures is fruitful provided the characteristics of each cultural group are respected. And I believe this is one of UNESCO’s creeds, as it is mine.”