International Human Rights Lawyer shares extraordinary career with NCL students

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The Human Rights Chair of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights paid a visit to New College Lanarkshire to share his experiences with students.

Organised by the Faculty of Business, Social Science and Sport, Professor Nils Melzer visited the College’s Coatbridge Campus to offer unique insights into his extraordinary career to an audience of over 100 staff and students as well as digitally to students from social science, law, computing and social care.

Currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as a Professor in International Law at the University of Glasgow, Professor Melzer delivered a lecture on the Prohibition of Torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. He covered topics including the definition of torture, obligations of states, international anti-torture mechanisms and the current priorities of the UN.

Throughout the presentation, the award-winning author called upon a number of experiences throughout his vast career – including from during his time as Legal Adviser for International Committee of the Red Cross, Research Director of the Swiss Competence Centre on Human Right and has represented civil society in the Steering Committee of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers to name a few.

His visit comes the week before the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which will start on February 24 at London’s Woolwich Crown Court. Professor Melzer shared his experiences of dealing with the case and other instances when his expertise has been called upon for advice in relation to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, the use of force in military, police and counter-terrorism operations, the regulation of private security service providers and the use of cyber operations, autonomous robots and other new weapons technologies.

The lecture was opened by Dr. Robert Allan, Assistant Head of Faculty for Business, Social Science and Sport, who organised the event. He said: “It is a great honour to welcome a highly important global figure such as Professor Melzer to New College Lanarkshire to share his profound expertise in human rights with us.

“Those in attendance and those who tuned in online benefitted greatly from his lecture, which put human rights laws into context, as he provided credible examples which meant the audience were highly engaged.

“I’d like to thank Professor Melzer for coming along to the College today and inspiring our students to use their work and studies to be a force for good in the world.

“I’d also like to thank those who helped organise and make the event possible, including the dedicated staff in the Faculty of Business, Social Science and Sport. Our Sound Production students and Film & TV students also assisted on the day to ensure live streaming and recording of the event, while some of our Social Science students manned registration for the popular lecture.

“We look forward to working together with Professor Melzer in the future.”

Principal and CEO of New College Lanarkshire, Professor Christopher Moore, attended the lecture and gave the vote of thanks. He presented Professor Melzer with a NCL Quaich, saying: “Professor Melzer delivered an extraordinary lecture that provided a vivid and compelling accounting of his work for the UN.

“In his work, Nils has been bold in terms of scope, rigorous in the methodologies that he deploys and he is fair and compassion in the conclusions that he makes. His visit to New College Lanarkshire was, without doubt, an important and significant moment.”

Following the lecture, students had the opportunity to question Professor Melzer on the topics covered as well as on his career, with one student asking about how he chose human rights as a career path, to which he answered: “It’s always been in my character to intervene, and fight for fairness. Even since I was age four and witnessed another child being picked on, I knew I couldn’t be a bystander in my life. I am diplomatic by nature and hate injustice. I didn’t choose this career to be a hero, I just identify with victims and aim to help.”

New College Lanarkshire offers a range of courses in Law and Social Science and applications are now open for August 2020. For more information, visit: https://www.nclanarkshire.ac.uk/courses/social-sciences

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