Colin Harvey is a Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), where he is the Director of the Human Rights Centre at QUB; a fellow of the QUB George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice; and a former Head of the Law School. He was a former commissioner on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. In such capacity, Prof Harvey has engaged actively in the public sphere and has contributed to central debates on human rights protection, Brexit and Irish reunification.
Over the last few years, Prof Harvey has become the subject of attacks on social media and in sections of the press. Different commentators have questioned Prof Harvey’s integrity and actions as an academic and some individuals on social media have posted threatening content. Prof Harvey has had to take security precautions as a consequence.[i]
Several politicians have contacted Queen’s University Belfast as his employer to complain about his work and to constrain his public engagement. These interventions challenge the institutional autonomy of universities which is a condition for academic freedom. [ii]
The overall effect of these social media posts, press commentary and political interventions creates a threatening and chilling atmosphere for academic work and free expression. This is especially concerning in the context of Northern Ireland where, in the past, efforts to delegitimise professional lawyers and human rights defenders have been the prelude to violence.
A number of reputable groups have catalogued these interferences with academic freedom. Recently, this has included the annual report by Scholars at Risk (SAR)[iii] and a SAR podcast.[iv] Calls for protections for both Prof Harvey and for academic freedom were also raised by Amnesty International[v]; and in a letter to the UK government by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.[vi]
We welcome Queen’s University Belfast’s statement of support for Prof Harvey,[vii] and that of the Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University branches of the University and College Union.[viii]
We, at SAR-Ireland, express our solidarity with Prof Harvey and his family, and condemn efforts to constrain his academic freedom and to interfere in institutional autonomy.
On Saturday 12 November 2022 Universities Ireland hosted the eleventh annual Decade of Centenaries conference in The Great Hall in Queen’s University Belfast.
On the day, as well as the keynote address there were three panel discussions focusing on Crisis, Division and Violence. The popular History Blitz made a return and it was a pleasure to welcome everyone again for a very enjoyable day!
Scholars at Risk Ireland stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and with people around the world, including in Russia, in condemning the ongoing acts of aggression against the Ukrainian people and territory by the agents and armed forces of the Russian Federation.
Read full statement from Scholar at Risk Executive Director, Rob Quinn, endorsed by the following SAR sections and partner networks:
Universities Ireland strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all territorial occupations in contravention of international law.
The people of the island of Ireland are steadfast supporters of democracy and the protection of human rights. The universities of the island contribute to this by championing freedom of speech, academic freedom, respect for peoples, respect for democratically constituted governments, and international cooperation and the end of all unlawful occupations.
We maintain these values in peace and now in war.
Universities Ireland and all those we represent express our unwavering support and solidarity with all institutions, employees, and students within the higher education sector in Ukraine.
Our message is directed not at the people of Russia, many of whom have demonstrated against this war on their Ukrainian neighbours, but at the Putin regime. We support all Russian institutions of higher education that promote peace, conflict resolution, collaboration, and unequivocally oppose the acts of war in Ukraine.
On Saturday 6 November 2021 at 10.00am Universities Ireland are hosing the tenth annual Decade of Centenaries conference and its online iteration of the series. This year’s conference explores the themes of Truce, Treaty, Consolidation of Northern Ireland and Partition & Socio-Economic Dimensions
This year’s Universities Ireland Conference takes place online on Saturday 6 November from 10.00am. The conference will explore the themes of Truce, Treaty, Partition and its Implications & Socio Economic Dimensions.
We have a great line up of speakers so don’t miss out on this free event. Please register at the link below:
Urgent appeal to European Governments and EU Institutions: Take Action for Afghanistan’s scholars, researchers, and civil society actors We, the undersigned higher education associations, networks, and leaders in the field of scholar protection, urge European governments and EU institutions to take immediate action to secure the lives and careers of Afghanistan’s scholars, students, and civil society actors. Many of the undersigned organisations are leaders in the field of provision of support to researchers and scholars at risk. These include the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR), the PAUSE programme in France, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Council for At-Risk Academics and the IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund who arrange temporary positions at higher education institutions around the world for those who are unable to work safely in their home countries. European higher education institutions are at the forefront of these efforts: over the past two years, 80% of positions of safe haven arranged by SAR were in Europe. Organisations supporting at-risk scholars are racing to offer assistance to researchers, scholars and civil society actors in Afghanistan who, at this moment, are desperately seeking ways to safety. For the better part of the past twenty years these scholars and civil society actors in Afghanistan have fought for a new, rights-respecting, forward-looking, knowledge-based Afghanistan. Many have worked for or in partnership with EU institutions, NATO partners, European governments and other international and civil society organisations. Hundreds travelled to Europe to seek an education and returned to their homeland, dedicated to values of openness tolerance and free expression. These are not the values of the Taliban, so their lives are now at risk. Timely government action can still make an enormous difference. We implore you to act on their behalf now.
Specifically, we seek immediate action from European Governments and EU institutions to: • Continue evacuation flights for as long as possible so as to include scholars, students, and civil society actors who have supported the forward-looking, pluralist vision of Afghanistan that the EU, European governments, NATO partners and other international and civil society organisations embraced. Do not end flights until all are safely out who wish to leave the country. • Increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection, including researchers, scholars, and civil society actors. Ensure international protection is provided to current Afghan protection applicants through an expedited process, and prioritise and expedite family reunification applications. • Create expedited complementary legal pathways for candidates who demonstrate an existing host institution, job, or sponsor, including for families, that would facilitate their arrival and earliest adjustment. Many European higher education institutions are ready to host scholars in temporary positions; capture that opportunity by expediting the processing of individuals for whom they are ready to step forward, and providing logistical support. • Waive any intent-to-return and home residency requirements that may apply to visa applications for Afghan scholars and researchers for the foreseeable future. Barring full waiver, issue authoritative guidance to consular and border officials supporting a determination of satisfaction of the intent to return by showing a willingness to return in the absence of the Taliban, or a credible, durable and rebuttable demonstration that the individual would be able to return and live safely under the Taliban. • Establish a dedicated EU fellowship scheme for researchers and scholars at risk, including scholars, students, and civil society actors from Afghanistan, especially women and ethnic and religious minorities, to undertake fellowships, lectureships, researcher positions, or temporary academic positions at European higher education institutions. See the EU-funded Inspireurope project recommendation for a dedicated scheme here. Some funds for such streams might be redirected from existing funds budgeted for Afghanistan programming, but which may not be possible to expend under the current conditions. Nevertheless, new funds will be required to meet the most urgent needs. • Establish dedicated national fellowships for researchers and scholars at risk, including scholars, students, and civil society actors from Afghanistan, similar to existing national fellowship programmes run by the PAUSE programme in France and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Philipp Schwartz Initiative in Germany. The window in which to take these steps, save lives, and redeem some measure of Europe’s investment in Afghanistan’s future is rapidly closing. Your urgent intervention is needed to mobilize the relevant departments and agencies. The eroding situation in Afghanistan poses a threat not only to the lives of our colleagues still in Afghanistan, but to the future of that country. The moral leadership of the European Union including its commitment to human rights, rule-of-law, and multilateralism, is needed now more than ever, and it is imperative to see those commitments put into practice at this time of crisis. The European higher education community is ready to do its part, but we need your help. If we move quickly, we can go a long way towards mitigating the worst of the threats and demonstrate continuing commitment to the future of Afghanistan and its people.
Endorsing Organisations: Academic Freedom and Internationalisation Working Group Academics for Peace, Germany ALLEA- All European Academies Alexander von Humboldt Foundation BirAraDa Association Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) Central European University Coimbra Group Compostela Group of Universities Council for European Studies Czech Rectors’ Conference German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) European Association for International Education (EAIE) European Students Union (ESU) European University Association (EUA) EASA – European Association of Social Anthropologists Euroscience Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) Gerda Henkel Foundation Global Campus of Human Rights German Rectors Conference (HRK) Global Student Forum IIE -SRF Europe Inspireurope: Initiative to Promote, Integrate and Support Researchers at Risk International Migration Research Network (IMISCOE) Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) Marie Curie Alumni Association Magna Charta Observatory PAUSE Scholars at Risk Network SAR Denmark SAR Europe SAR Finland SAR Germany SAR Greece SAR Italy SAR Ireland SAR Norway SAR Slovakia SAR Sweden SAR Switzerland Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences swissuniversities The Guild Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative of the Open Society University Network UAF UNICA Universities Austria Universities Ireland
For more information and further action: − Media inquiries contact: Sinead O’Gorman, Scholars at Risk Europe, email@example.com − Add your organisation or network’s endorsement: Joel Hanisek, Scholars at Risk Europe, firstname.lastname@example.org − For higher education institutions: If your institution is willing to host at-risk individuals from Afghanistan, please complete the survey at https://bit.ly/3kjPv9S
Scholars at Risk is an international network of over 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries, including over 350 in Europe, whose core mission is to protect threatened scholars and intellectuals, principally by arranging temporary positions at network-member institutions for those who are unable to work safely in their home countries. Over the last 20 years our network has assisted over 1500 threatened scholars, students, and practitioners. SAR’s European office, based in Ireland, supports and coordinates activities of SAR sections in 12 European countries. SAR partners, notably the PAUSE programme in France, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Council for At-Risk Academics and the IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund, all leaders in the field of support to scholars, have also arranged positions for hundreds of scholars at European higher education institutions. For information visit www.scholarsarisk.org
EmTech Europe, in partnership with the MIT Technology Review, will be staged virtually in Belfast on 1-2 July. The organisers have set aside 50 Bright Future tickets for students at Irish universities who have the ability but not the financial means to participate in the conference. The Bright Future Ticket, allowing access to all conference sessions across both days will cost just €10 – one thirtieth of the normal price. You can apply for a Bright Future ticket online.
Speakers at EmTech Europe include Kenneth Chief, co-founder of Moderna, author of The Trillion Dollar Shift Marga Hoek, and Nicole Egan, co-founder of Darktrace while themes include A Healthy Future, A Sustainable Future and An Intelligent Future.
In the contemporary moment, academic freedom in places near and far faces threats from various directions – from authoritarian regimes, exigencies of war and occupation, and intolerant state and non-state actors, to profit-maximisation models and audit cultures in the realms of education. What are the means that we can muster for safeguarding academic freedom and the conditions for critical thinking in these turbulent times? How can it be legitimised as a right that transcends international boundaries? How can it be asserted when it is threatened in relatively oblique ways? We are expecting that our speakers will draw on their first-hand experiences as well as their research to address these themes.