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Regular version of the site

Human Rights: European View and Russian Practice

In June this year, the international school ‘Integrating Europe through Human Rights: comparing the exercise of basic freedoms’ took place at the HSE. The event was a joint initiative between the HSE and the University of Bologna and organized by the HSE Department of Public Policy.

The unique character of the school was demonstrated, on one hand, by the list of its participants, and on the other, by its topics. The HSE brought together students from leading international universities, such as the University of Bologna (UniBo), University of Oxford, King’s College London, and the University of London. The school participants included people from France, Greece, Great Britain, Germany, USE, Italy, Romania, Norway, Belgium, Serbia, Kirgizstan and Belorussia. The age range of the students was also remarkable: from 18 to 65. For example, the youngest participant was Francois Vanherck (Belgium), student of the King’s College London Law Department, and the oldest was Gillian Wigglesworth (Great Britain), Doctor of Law, lawyer and human rights activist with a great deal of experience and former lecturer at Universities of Oxford and London. In addition to lawyers, the participants also included political scientists, sociologists, economists, historians and managers.

The school’s international character was also shown by the fact that it was organized by two partner European universities: HSE and UniBo, which have intensively developed academic and research collaboration under a cooperation agreement signed in 2009. But while in the past the cooperation included mainly academic student and teachers’ exchanges between the two institutions, this school has become the first joint educational and academic event produced by the partners. The universities’ academic councils approved the school’s programme, the list of lecturers, as well as the educational and methodical materials, including a reader, as well as compiling the international jury who conducted the final examination. Success in the exam brought 3 ECTS to the school participants.

The list of teachers for the school was formed on an equal basis: three representatives from the HSE as well as from UniBo. The classes were held by professors Lucia Serena Rossi, Marco Balboni, Eduard Yagodnik and Nina Belyaeva, head of the HSE Department of Public Policy, as well associate professor at this department Dmitry Zaytsev and Dmitry Makarov, leading expert in freedom of assembly at the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Youth Human Rights Movement.

As for the topic of the school, this was determined by the relevance of human rights issues in Europe and particularly Russian practices for their solution. The students listened to a course of lectures on the following topics: ‘European standards and new amendments to Russian legislation on meetings and demonstrations’, ‘Academic freedoms, right to education and freedom of expression’, ‘The accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights; Reform of ECHR’, ‘Civil protests and respect of human rights: challenges in times of crisis’, and ‘Freedom of Assembly — European standards and Russian practices’. In addition to that, at the beginning of the school the participants were divided into small groups, each of which carried out a comparative analysis of one of the aspects of implementing the right for freedom of assembly from the Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly developed by the OSCE. The results of the studies were presented during the final examination. For example, one of the presentations was dedicated to implementing the freedom of assembly by the LGBT community in both Great Britain and Russia, and another one to political manifestations in Italy and Russia. According to the jury’s evaluation, participants ‘demonstrated a high research level of the presented results and the ability to carry out in-depth comparisons between practices of implementation of civil freedoms in European countries, particularly in the sphere of regulation and realization of the freedom of peaceful assembly’.

The classes took place not only within the HSE. The school participants made several educational visits to the offices of leading Russian human rights organizations. For example, during the visit to the Memorial Society, students had an opportunity to talk to Alexander Cherkasov, member of its management board, and to get information on the history of the dissident movement in Russia, formation of the civil society, and the reasons for its rises and falls, straight from the source. During the visit to the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest NGO in Russia, the school participants met Nina Tagankinf, executive director, and took part in a discussion on the development of the concept of human rights in the USSR and its role in international relations, as well as hearing about contemporary everyday work by human rights activists in Russia. Finally, the students visited the Sakharov Museum and Public Center where they discussed, among other issues, Russia’s role in the observance of human rights in the modern world. And since the time frame of the school coincided with the peak of civil activity in Russia, many school participants after the classes had an opportunity to watch the implementation of the right for freedom of assembly directly in the centre of Moscow.

It is notable that all main expenses for the school organization were covered by fees from participants, so that the school has totally paid for itself. ‘The successful work of the school and the participation of a large number of international students demonstrates their interest in studying at the HSE, and particularly in the master’s programmes’, Nina Belyaeva believes.

‘For example, over 20 international students have already applied for English-language education in the two-year international programme on Political Analysis and Public Policy implemented by the Department of Public Policy’, she continued. ‘And they come from the most prestigious European and American universities. And starting from the next year we are launching a double degree PhD programme with the UniBo. A postgraduate student will have two academic supervisors, but will carry out one research project. The thesis itself will be interdisciplinary. In Bologna the research will be carried out on the basis of the EU Law Institute, and at the HSE, on the basis of the Department of Public Policy.’

In order to receive a double degree, the postgraduate students will have to carry out their research for at least half a year in the University of Bologna (the total time period of the PhD programme is 3 years). But this is not all. ‘They shall have to present a project progress report to the Bologna commission of 10 professors’, Nina Belyaeva explained, ‘And the  same interim report will be defended by Italian PhD students who come to the HSE postgraduate programme. And the final viva voce process will consist of two stages: a Russian ‘candidate of science’ degree will be approved in the RF Higher Attestation Commission, and about at the same time – possibly a little earlier or later – this research will have to be defended in English at the University of Bologna’.

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