Armin Tufo, a second year student at the Department of International Relations and European Studies, participated in a week-long Human Rights Defenders School between July 15 and July 20, 2019 in the Anton Monastery in Perast, Montenegro, organized by Civil Rights Defenders, an international organization aimed at advancing human rights throughout the world.
Civil Rights Defenders organize an annual summer school about human rights that offers young activists, i.e. current or future human rights defenders, an “opportunity to learn from experts and gain practical experience on human rights issues impacting the Western Balkans,” according to the Human Rights Defenders School website.
Human rights defenders are activists that are aware of available human rights mechanisms, monitor and report human rights violations, help victims of human rights violations use their rights, advocate for human rights protection, and campaign to expand and strengthen human rights protections. In short, they defend human rights.
Specific topics discussed included the current human rights situation in the Western Balkans with a special focus on problems related to the discrimination of disadvantaged groups, the EU, UN, and Council of Europe human rights mechanisms, advocacy opportunities at local, national, and international levels, and human rights communications and campaigning.
“Participating in the Human Rights Defenders School this summer will enable me to further use this knowledge in future courses related to human rights and human rights mechanisms and to impart it onto others, as well as implement it in a more local context,” Tufo commented.
Prominent lecturers include Nurcan Baysal, an author and activist who deals with the human rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey, Ben Leather, who deals with potential and actual government and business abuse of the rights and security of environmental activists, and Tommaso Nodari, who is Civil Rights Defenders’ program officer in Brussels.
Through the lectures, participants of the Human Rights Defenders School listen to personal stories of various guest speakers, learned what their organizations to do defend human rights in their own contexts, were able to interact with them to extract as much useful knowledge and information as possible, and were introduced to human rights theoretical frameworks.
“What this School did, and what few others do, is gather youth from the entire region and connect us in a way that our differences didn’t matter and what mattered was our joint dedication to and passion for human rights and doing whatever we could to defend human rights, individually and collectively,” Tufo added.
“With this knowledge and new contacts,” Tufo continued, “I plan on contributing to my community, mainly through my university education and my involvement in the non-governmental sector, potentially with local officials, and in cooperation with my enlarged network of like-minded people I met during the Human Rights Defenders School.”
Tufo is one of the most successful students at the Department of International Relations and European Studies and we are proud of his accomplishments, both curricular and extracurricular. We are glad to have supported Tufo in participating in this project and other ambitions. We are very proud of our Armin Tufo.