by Bella Harvey
This summer, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the Forum for Human Rights (“Forum”), which is a legal non-governmental organisation focusing on international human rights litigation and advocacy in Central Europe. The Forum works to ensure that human rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled in accordance with relevant international human rights standards, using litigation and advocacy to promote human rights before national and international courts and domestic and international human rights bodies. It provides support, leads domestic and international litigation and advocacy activities, and is active before the UN human rights bodies, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Committee of Social Rights.
Currently, one of the cases I have been doing research on concerns challenging the immigration detention of children before the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Forum and Organisation for Aid to Refugees have filed a complaint with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) against Czechia, on behalf of a family from Afghanistan who was detained in Czech immigration detention for over a month in 2019. The family argues that by depriving their children of liberty, the Czech authorities had violated the CRC, which has repeatedly found that immigration detention of children is always in violation of the Convention.
This work highlights the crucial role of domestic actors in advancing human rights by moving from the macro-level into a more intimate frame. One of the questions I grappled with while completing my internship was how effective international human rights law is. While the rapid proliferation of international human rights treaties following the institutionalization of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would seemingly suggest a productive trend for their pervasiveness on the world stage, an analysis of states’ commitment to human rights in practice thereinafter will help indicate if this is truly a reality. It is not enough that countries ratify human rights treaties; instead, the actual study of human rights practices is needed to determine whether or not international human rights law is effective in reducing (with the intent of eliminating) human rights violations. Part of what made my internship experience so valuable was getting to see how human rights are incorporated into national practice.