Following on from our successful conference last month ‘Women and Poverty: A Human Rights Approach’ in Rwanda last month, the Oxford Human Rights Hub continues to forge sustainable partnerships in East Africa.
At the invitation of Dr Francois Xavier Kalinda, acting Dean of the University of Rwanda, OxHRH Director, Professor Sandra Fredman visited the University of Rwanda in Butare following the conference in order to met with students and faculty members from the law faculty. She gave a talked to a packed classroom of more than 100 law students on the role of human rights law as an external framework of accountability for legislatures, contrasting Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa’s use of law with constitutional democracy, and spoke about about the ways in which law could be used to achieve social change. Professor Fredman was deeply impressed by the level of engagement from the student audience, who raised important questions ranging from challenging points about cultural pluralism, sexual orientation, abortion, euthanasia – to the difference between good constitutions on paper and real implementation, to the role of human rights law in conflict situations and its relationship with international humanitarian law.
Professor Fredman also spoke to student and faculty members about the legal aid and social justice initiatives carried out by the University of Rwanda. She says “I was hugely impressed with their legal aid clinic. Although they only have 25 faculty members, they run a legal aid clinic for local people every Thursday afternoon, staffed by 10 third year students working in pairs who deal with 20 cases a session. They have three co-ordinators from among the faculty and all members of the faculty supervise cases depending on their expertise. Clients are given advice at the session, and if it needs to go further and funding is available, the clinic will fund legal representation. The students’ high level of engagement with human rights law stems from their exposure in their clinical work.”
The Oxford Human Rights Hub and the Oxford Faculty of Law are currently drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Rwanda to facilitate an ongoing institutional partnership between the two institutions. It is hoped that this partnership will build on the momentum instigated by the Oxford Human Right Hub and the University of Oxford’s recent visit to Rwanda in order to deliver mutually supporting knowledge, personnel and resource exchanges between the two institutions.