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09-10-2012

UCC students debate and vote

Students of international human rights law at University College Cork debated and voted on the nominees for the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on Tuesday 9 October.  The event took place in the Moot Court room in the UCC Faculty of Law.

In conjunction with the European Parliament Office in Ireland, students of international human rights law at University College Cork debated and voted on the nominees for the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on Tuesday 9 October, thus drawing attention to the individual human rights issues to which the prize related.  The event took place in the Moot Court room in the UCC Faculty of Law and this was the first time in which such an event had taken place in UCC.

As part of the event, each of the initial list of nominees who had been submitted to the Parliament by political groups or 40 MEPS was represented by the students, who each gave a short presentation, and argued the case for the award to be given to "their" nominee.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened for debate with discussion on the merits of specific nominees, and on the criteria for their selection, and with questions being posed to each team.

The audience was then asked to vote on which of the nominees to recommend for the 2012 Sakharov Prize.

The results of this vote by secret ballot was as follows:

  • Nasrin Sotoudeh & Jafar Panahi, two Iranian human rights campaigners
  • Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Déogratias Mushayidi and Bernard Ntaganda, three Rwandan opposition representatives
  • Ales Bialiatski, a human rights defender from Belarus
  • Joseph Francis (Pakistan), founder of the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement
  • Pussy Riot, a Russian punk group (represented by Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina)

The two Iranian human rights campaigners Nasrin Sotoudeh & Jafar Panahi were thus chosen as the 2012 winner of the vote by the UCC students, with the 3 Rwandan nominees as the runners-up.

The students taking part in the debate were all following an LLM Course on International Human Rights Law. The team of students successfully putting the case for the winning Iranian candidates were Eugenia McLaughlin, Kevin O'Leary, Sarah Jane Corbett, Kate Nystedt and Kathryn Walker.

The organiser of the event was Dug Cubie, in conjunction with Francis Jacobs of the European Parliament Information Office in Ireland, and with the support of Professor Siobhán Mullally.

Before the event Francis Jacobs spoke about the purpose of the Sakharov prize and outlined the follow-up that would be given to the event, and, in particular, transmission of the report to MEPs, including Irish MEPs and to the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights.  

Following the end of the debate, many of the participating students commented on how beneficial they found the process of researching and presenting the case for one of the nominees for the Sakharov Prize, and it is hoped that this could become an annual event within UCC for students.

The students and Faculty conveyed their thanks to the European Parliament Office in Ireland for facilitating a stimulating debate on five worthy candidates for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012.