Posted by: manavsatija | February 15, 2012

The International Commission of Jurists and life in Geneva!

Hello all, my name is Manav Satija, I am currently interning at the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. I am rather late in making this first post so there is much to tell, but I will try to keep it brief!

I arrived in Geneva on 14 December 2011 and immediately started work the next day. Luckily for me everyone here was quite sympathetic to my  jet-lag and were very welcoming. The warmth continuously shown by my colleagues since that day  provides a stark contrast to the otherwise freezing weather of Switzerland in winter! Here at the ICJ (not to be confused with the other ICJ – we have been around longer!) I am working  in the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights programme – while ESCR has long been an area of interest, at least academically, I must admit I never thought working in this area would prove as rewarding as it has been so far.

My work so far has been divided among long-term research projects and a number of short-term projects. One such long term project is conducting research and compiling case-law from international bodies and tribunals, regional bodies and domestic Courts and institutions in relation to Article 7 of the ICESR. Article 7 relates to the right to work and rights at work. Although a number of these rights are covered by other instruments such as the ILO Conventions, there has been little case-law and commentary in relation to the specific standards set out in the ICESR. The research I am conducting in this area will be used for the ICJ’s submission to the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights when they prepare a General Comment on Article 7.

Other long-term research projects include the compilation of principles, standards and case-law, at the international, regional and domestic levels in relation to ‘common good / public interest’ type justifications for forced evictions, property appropriation and development based projects based on natural resources. This topic is particularly fascinating as it highlights the role of development in human rights and vice versa, and the place of human rights standards in the global economy.

When I expressed a particular interest in issues surrounding human rights, corporate social responsibility and development, I was offered the chance to work with the Business and Human Rights team in an intervention in a case in Argentina relating to concessions granted to a mining company to exploit traditional tribal lands. This case is currently before the Argentinean Supreme Court as a class action by representatives of 30 tribes from the region, and we are currently exploring the possibility of seeking an  order from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In addition to these ongoing research projects I have been busy preparing for the 19th session of the Human Rights Council. The HRC (beginning next week) will run for several weeks. It seems this usually is a period of controlled chaos for most NGOs in Europe and especially in Geneva, as NGOs contribute to the process in a myriad of ways. As for the ESCR Programme, we are running a side-event to the HRC on the 5th of March which will officially launch the new Maastricht Principles on the Extraterritorial Obligations of States in relation to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Principles have been under development for 2 years, and provide an important statement in relation to the issue of extraterritorial obligations of states specifically in relation to ESC rights. Five experts will be speaking at the event on different topics such as the development of the principles, where the principles sit in relation to other existing International Law principles and how the principles will affect the work of UN bodies and mechanisms. Additionally we have lawyers from Argentina and Uganda attending who will reflect on particular cases they were involved in to demonstrate how the principles could be used in human rights advocacy in the future.

So far my experience here has been amazing. Not only am I working on interesting issues but the staff and other interns here at the ICJ are awesome. Everyone is incredibly diligent and dedicated in what they do but also know how to have fun once work is finished! The one thing however, that I don’t think I will ever really get used to is the weather! Snowing and -10 degrees is the average these days…. I have never missed the Australian summer so much!!!

I still have 3 months to go, so stay tuned – more tales to come!!!

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