Securing Freedom of Expression through UN Human Rights Mechanisms

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Smita Shah has recently organised and run a workshop Securing Freedom of Expression through UN Human Rights Mechanisms, as a part of the Price Media Law Moot Court at Oxford University, where she had been asked to participate as a panel judge.

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Law Students, lawyers, academics and judges - all experts in media law and freedom of expression - converged on Oxford to debate and argue the tension between public safety and the boundaries of freedom of expression for the 2013 Moot Court.

Teams came from the Americas, Eastern Europe, South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East, having successfully navigated regional rounds. As an adjunct to the fierce debating, Smita ran a workshop on how to use the United Nations human rights mechanisms practically to secure and defend freedom of expression.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350"]Smita Shah leading Price Media Law Moot Court workshop Smita Shah leading Price Media Law Moot Court workshop[/caption]

Speakers included:

  • Dr Nazila Ghanea, University Lecturer in Human Rights at Oxford University and an expert on freedom of religion and expression, who set the international legal framework
  • Nani Jansen, Senior Legal Counsel at Media Legal Defence Initiative, with case studies that MLDI have taken to the UN mechanisms
  • Smita Shah, who spoke about how to use the mechanisms practically, what evidence is required and ethics, and who worked through the case study

Smita said "It was a natural complement to the moot court; these students are our future human rights lawyers and you've already got their interest in freedom of expression with the moot court. It makes sense then to demonstrate how lawyers really use the United Nations human rights mechanisms to defend and secure freedom of expression, encourage them to take their interest to the next level and contemplate practice by planting the kernel of the idea."

The participants were given a case study based on a real blogger imprisoned incommunicado in Vietnam whose case was taken to the UN by MLDI. Participants were asked to work through the information provided, consider what was missing and then attempt to draft their own letter to the UN Special Procedures mechanisms. The workshop was attended by student participants of the moot court, a Judge from the African Court of Human Rights and a representative from the Office of the High Commissioner from Human Rights. The feedback to the case study and workshop was extremely positive.

Resources from the workshop can be downloaded here:

Those looking for a model answer and trainer's materials should email Smita.

Smita Shah is a member of the Garden Court International, and of the Garden Court Family Team.


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