Students Staff

19 February 2010

Queen presents award for human rights

The Vice-Chancellor with Human Rights Centre staff and students at Buckingham Palace

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh presented an award to the University today for its work in advancing human rights across the globe.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize medal at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

The award recognises the University’s pioneering role in ‘advancing the legal and broader practice of international human rights’. Essex boasts the longest-established postgraduate degree in international human rights law in the UK, which was one of the first in the world, established in 1983 in the then Department of Law (now School of Law).

The University’s Human Rights Centre, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, has since trained more than 1,500 students from more than 100 countries. They work for international organisations such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and in non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Centre graduates also work in the field to safeguard human rights in conflict-torn countries including Bosnia, Kosovo, Nepal and Sudan.

Five human rights students were among the Essex party introduced to the Queen: Miranda Forth (studying for LLB Law and Human Rights); Sajjad Iqbal (MA Human Rights and Cultural Diversity); Benicia Magno (MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights); Kuong Chhang Ly and Nozima Medeubayeva (both studying LLM International Human Rights Law).

Miranda Forth said: 'It was an honour to see the Human Rights Centre get such well-deserved recognition. The staff of the Centre are an inspiration, they devote so much time to the advancement of human rights but always find time to encourage students and facilitate their development. The Centre feels like a family and I'm proud to be a part of it.'

Human Rights Centre Director Professor John Packer and the longest-serving member Professor Françoise Hampson also represented the University. The Centre’s staff are drawn from a dozen different University departments and have served in key UN positions including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, senior adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, member of the UN Human Rights Committee, and independent expert member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Essex’s strength in human rights practice, and in areas of democracy and governance, has prompted the University to develop plans to establish a new flagship Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, which will extend the University’s engagement with organisations working on the achievement of rights for all people both in the UK and overseas.

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