Despite the shift from authoritarian to democratic or semi-democratic forms of government in Asia, human rights abuses are rife. Although Asian states have ratified a large number of international human rights conventions, the violation of human rights and unequal application of and access to the law are common across the region. Citizens and migrants face arbitrary detention, torture, disappearance and death at the hands of state, para-state, and other actors. In this course, we will study the types of human rights prevalent in Asia today and ask what institutional, political and social structures allow for their persistence. We will ask what types of abuses occur despite the efforts of governments to eliminate them and what types are encouraged through government inaction, or tacit or explicit encouragement or abuse. Yet simultaneous to our study of rights violations, we will also study new the new strategies of redress that have emerged, including the growth of human rights organisations and transitional justice processes and the development of linkages between international and local organisations. Topics and countries emphasised will vary from year to year, but will include East, South, and Southeast Asia.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the broad landscape of human rights across Asia.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the field of human rights studies and its relationship to advocacy.
3. Use different materials – including academic analysis, testimony and other accounts by survivors of human rights violations, legal and other state documents, advocacy and campaign materials – to examine and synthesise similarities and differences in human rights violation, protection, and consolidation across time and national boundaries.
4. Develop diverse writing skills and be able to compose the following: case summary, op-ed, proposal for further research or advocacy.
Class presentation: 750 words 10% (LOs 1, 2, 3)
Class blog entries: 750 words 20% (LOs 1, 2, 3)
Mid-term essay: 1500 words 25% (LOs 1-4)
Final proposal: 2000 words 40% (LOs 1-4)
Participation: 5% (LOs 1-3)
In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle.
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Workload3 contact hours per week
Approximately 60 pages of reading per week
Regular participation in class discussion
Regular entries on the class Wattle site
Requisite and Incompatibility
- Emergency Powers in Asia: Exploring the Limits of Legality, edited by Victor Vridar Ramraj and Arun K. Thiruvengadam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
- Living Silence: Burma Under Military Rule, by Christina Fink (London: Zed Press, 2001).
- Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, by Alfred W. McCoy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009).
- Online U.N. documents, such as reports by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Detentions
- Online reports of nongovernmental organizations working around issues of human rights and law in Southeast Asia, including the Asian Human Rights Commission, Forum Asia, and the Asian Federation for Free Elections
- Online documents of the trials of former Khmer Rouge, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
Preliminary ReadingOnline sources on current human rights issues and conditions in Asia.
Cheesman, Nick. Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar's Courts Make Law and Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Chapter 4.
Cheesman, Nick, and Basil Fernando. "Why Asian Legal Institutions Fail to Protect the Human Rights of the Vulnerable.". In the Routledge Handbook of Human Rights in Asia. Edited by Fernand de Varennes, and Christie May Gardiner. London: Routledge, 2016, forthcoming.
Crouch, Melissa. "Asian Legal Transplants and Rule of Law Reform: National Human Rights Commission in Myanmar and Indonesia." Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 5.2 (2013): 146-77.
D'Costa, Bina, Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia, New York: Routledge, 2011 [selections].
Davies, Mathew. "States of compliance?: Global human rights treaties and ASEAN member states", Journal of Human Rights. 13.4 (2014): 414-33.
Goodale, Mark, ed. Human Rights at the Crossroads. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 [selections].
Haberkorn, Tyrell. “Dispossessing Law: arbitrary detention and human rights in southern Thailand.” In Accumulating Security, Securing Accumulation: Everyday Practices of Violence. Edited by Gayatri Menon, Shelley Feldman, and Charles Geisler. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011. 122-37.
Haberkorn, Tyrell. "When Torture Is a Duty: The Murder of Imam Yapa Kaseng and the Challenge of Accountability in Thailand." Asian Studies Review 39.1 (2015): 53–68.
Haugen, Gary, and Victor Boutros. "The new mandate for human rights." International Justice Mission, 2010?
Heryanto, Ariel. State terrorism and political identity in Indonesia. London & New York: Routledge, 2006 [selections].
Hopgood, Stephen. The Endtimes of Human Rights. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013 [selections].
Islam, Md. Shariful, ed. Human Rights and Governance in Bangladesh. Hong Kong: Asian Legal Resource Centre, 2013. [selections]
Kalhan, Anil , et al. "Colonial continuities: Human rights, terrorism, and security laws in India." Columbia Journal of Asian Law 20.1 (2006): 93-234.
Kennedy, David. ‘The international human rights movement: Part of the problem?” Harvard Human Rights Journal 15 (2002): 101-125.
Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. "Refugees, Abductees, 'Returnees': Human Rights in Japan-North Korea Relation"', in Sonia Ryang ed. North Korea: Toward a Better Understanding, Langham: Lexington Books, 2009. 131-157.
Moyn, Samuel. The last utopia: Human rights in history. Cambridge, MA & London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010 [selections].
Nasu, Hitoshi, and Ben Saul, eds. Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region: Towards Institution Building. Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2011 [selections].
Peerenboom, Randall. "Assessing human rights in China: Why the double standard?" Cornell International Law Journal 38 (2005): 71-172.
Wahyuningrum, Yuyun. “Indonesia and the Universal Periodic Review: Negotiating Rights.” In Human Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: Rituals and Ritualism. Edited by Hilary Charlesworth and Emma Larking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 256-74.
Plus, a range of primary source materials, including reports of UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies, and government submissions, non-governmental groups' documentation, indices, and critiques of source materials.
Assumed KnowledgeRecommended courses include:
ASIA2049 Politics and Society in Contemporary Korea
ASIA2026 The Politics of China
ASIA2070 Democracy in Southeast Asia
ASIA2163 Religion and Politics in South Asia
ASIA2516 Indonesia: Politics, Society and Development
HIST2238 Human Rights in History
INTR2028 Regionalism, Rights and Order in Southeast Asia
POLS2113 Human Rights
POLS3028 Researching and Writing Human Rights
SOCY2061 Contemporary Chinese Society
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