Tuesday 30 November 2010

Wikileaks and Human Rights

The revelations in leaked documents may be helpful to human rights advocates, but there is also some danger. In the United States, the major human rights NGOs have highlighted the threat that may be posed to activists who provide information in confidence to diplomats. If their identities are revealed, their activity may be compromised and they may be put in physical danger. Click here.

Monday 29 November 2010

Stevens on Death Penalty

Justice John Paul Stevens, who recently retired from the United States Supreme Court, has written a review of David Garland’s book, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition, in the current issue of the New York Review of Books. The review has attracted media comment in the New York Times. The year he joined the Court, in 1996, Stevens voted to reinstate the death penalty after it had been suspended in Furman v. Georgia. As he prepared to leave the Court, he announced that he had become an abolitionist.
Thanks to Megan Fairlie.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Enforced Disappearance Convention to Enter into Force in December

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance has now received the requisite number of ratifications, and will enter into force on 23 December 2010. This week Iraq became the twentieth State to ratify the Convention, in accordance with article 39(1). It becomes the ninth of the principal United Nations treaties in the area of human rights.
Article 2 of the Convention defines ‘enforced disappearance’: ‘For the purposes of this Convention, "enforced disappearance" is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.’ The abductions and rendition flights practiced by the Bush administration as part of the ‘war on terror’, and with the complicity of other governments, would appear to meet the definition. The widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity (art. 5), a provision that essentially echoes the text of article 7 of the Rome Statute.
The Convention contains a number of provisions concerning cooperation and mutual legal assistance in the prosecution of the enforced disappearances. It does not, however, contain a clause prohibiting amnesty; this had been proposed during the drafting of the Convention but was dropped because of a failure to obtain sufficient support from the States participating in the negotiations. This suggests that claims that amnesties are prohibited by international law may be slightly exaggerated. There is a gap between wishful thinking and reality in this area.
The following twenty States have ratified the Convention: Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain and Uruguay.
The Convention provides for the establishment of a monitoring body, to be known as the Committee on Enforced Disappearance. The ten members of the Committee are to be elected from among nationals of the States parties.

Rosette Muzigo-Morrison

One of our doctoral students, Rosette Muzigo-Morrison, has been awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame, in the United States. Rosette will deliver the Kroc Institute's Distinguished Alumni Lecture in February of 2011.
Rosette works at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where she has been employed since the mid-1990s. She is based at the Appeals Chamber in The Hague.
Congratulations, Rosette.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Sean MacBride Interview

Here's a 1983 interview with Sean MacBride by John Pilger, One of the founders of Amnesty International and a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, MacBride is a major figure in international human rights and in twentieth century Ireland. As foreign minister, from 1948 to 1951, he participated in the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights. The fascinating interview is about 30 minutes long. MacBride talks about his boyhood, as an IRA soldier, and moves to such topics as the Vietnam War, nuclear disarmament and the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Thanks to Joe Powderly.

Nuremberg 1945-2005

In November 2008, I spoke from the judges' tribune in
Courtroom 600 to an international conference.
This week marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trial. It took place in Courtroom 600 of Nuremberg's Palace of Justice, still standing after the city around it had been virtually destroyed by bombing. The Courtroom has been in continuous use since the trial, first for a series of American Military Tribunal trials on thematic war crimes issues, and then as a working courtroom of the German justice system. This week, it was transformed into a museum, called the Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse, which is open to visitors.
Films of the trial itself are available on the website of the Robert Jackson Centre. Also of great interest is the recent film by Sandra Schulberg, which is a restoration of a post-war documentary on the trial produced by her father and her uncle that was shown in Germany. A few years ago, Christian Delage produced a fine film based upon the footage shot by John Ford during the trial: Nuremberg, The Nazis Facing Their Crimes.
The trial proceedings were published in English (as well as in French, German and Russian), in a 42 volume compilation, now available in pdf here.

Implementation of Decisions by International and Regional Human Rights Bodies

The Open Society Justice Initiative has published a study on the 'crisis' in implementation of international and regional human rights bodies. It looks at the European, Inter-American and African regional systems, and at the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Bemba Trial Blog

The third trial at the International Criminal Court, of Jean-Pierre Bemba, began earlier this week. The Open Society Institute is hosting a blog dedicated to the trial, where regular updates are promised. The actual decisions, transcripts and so on can all be found on the Court's own website. Click here.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Photos of the Tenth Anniversary Dinner at the Irish Centre for Human Rights

Fiana Gantheret and Julia Schutze
David Norris, Anne Kenny and Des Kenny
Vinodh Jaichand, Millie Jaichand and Jérémie Gilbert
Penelope Soteriou, Maria Varaki, Kiki Varaki and Leila Sadat

Orna Joyce, Roja Fazaeli, Andrea Breslin and Gioia Greco

 Jim Browne, Michael D. Higgins and myself
Stephanie Judge, Hilde Laeremans, Aoife Maguire and Anne-Marie McNulty

Éamonn Mac Aodha, Kathleen Cavanaugh and myself 

Michelle Farrell and Helen McDermott

Bukunola Coker and Marvline Ducheine
Ildikó Erdei and Michael Henry

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

John Ruggie, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on business and human rights, yesterday issued his Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Hariri Investigation

Rumours continue that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will issue an indictment soon. Meanwhile, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has produced a detailed and provocative report on the investigation, full of what appears to be insider information. Click here.
Thanks to Bill Sundhu.

Monday 22 November 2010

Tenth Anniversary of Irish Centre for Human Rights

From left, David Scheffer, David Norris and Doug Cassel.
Over the past weekend, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Actually, it has its origins in the early 1980s, with Kevin Boyle and Mary Robinson, who launched a unit at the National University of Ireland, Galway in response to a general appeal from the Council of Europe. Both Kevin and Mary send video messages to the gala dinner we held here on Friday evening.
The two main events were the dinner and a conference on the theme of 'New Rights, Forgotten Rights'. Keynote speakers were Prof. Andrew Clapham, who addressed questions relating to the spread of human rights to non-state entities, and Prof. Leila Sadat, who spoke on draft Convention on Crimes Against Humanity.
Friday's gala dinner was a wonderful celebration, hosted by the exuberant Senator David Norris. It was fabulously organised by Yvonne McDermott, one of our doctoral students. There were nearly 200 people in attendance, many of them former students who travelled great distances to be back in Galway and to share in the infectious spirit of the Centre.
The highlight of the dinner was a remote skype meeting with Shawan Jabarin, graduate of the 2004-5 LLM class and now the director of El Haq, the very distinguished Palestinian NGO. The Israeli government would not let Shawan travel to Galway to receive an award from the Centre. As always, Shawan inspired us enormously with his courage, his modesty and his warmth.
There were many honoured guests and long-time friends of the Centre in attendance, including Judge Daniel Nsereko of the International Criminal Court, Prof. Emmanuel Decaux of the Université de Paris II, Prof. David Scheffer of Northwestern University, Prof. Joshua Castellino and Dr Nadia Bernaz from Middlesex University, and Prof. Doug Cassel of the Notre Dame Centre for Civil and Human Rights. We were piped in for dinner by Don Ferencz. The President of NUI Galway, Jim Browne, made a wonderful opening speech. Music was provided by Orna Joyce and Rick Lines, both of them students currently enrolled in our programmes.
We should get a full report and guest list together with photographs of the event up on the Centre's website in the coming days.

Friday 19 November 2010

Maria Varaki Defends PhD on 'Interests of Justice'

From left, myself, Maria Varaki, Dr Ray Murphy and Prof. Rob Cryer.
Maria Varaki successfully defended her PhD thesis this morning entitled: 'The Interests of Justice. The Quest for Fine Balance at the International Criminal Court'. The external examiner was Prof. Rob Cryer of the University of Birmingham. The internal examiner was Dr Ray Murphy. Maria is now working as a 'visiting professional' in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Congratulations, Maria.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Shawan Jabarin Denied Right to Travel to Galway

Tomorrow, we begin two days of events to mark the tenth anniversary of activities of the Irish Centre for Human Rights. One of our honoured guests was to be Shawan Jabarin, the director of the Palestinian NGO Al Haq. Shawan completed our LLM programme some years ago, and we will honour him at a banquet tomorrow as a distinguished graduate. Alas, Israel will not allow Shawan the right to travel. Yesterday, the Israeli embassy in Dublin - cloaked by diplomatic immunity - issued a nasty statement accusing him of terrorism, based upon secret evidence allegedly presented to courts in Israel but which Shawan has never seen and cannot contest.
The Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin, responded today in the Dail (one of the houses of the Irish Parliament) to a question about Shawan:

                                                                        Question No. 13

Parliamentary Question - Dept Details

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the case of Shawan Jabarin, the director of the human rights agency Al-Haq who is a graduate of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway and who hopes to travel to an anniversary event for this centre in Galway but at present will not be in a position to do so due to the travel ban imposed by the Israeli State; if efforts will be made in order to assist his passage; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Jack Wall.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 18th November, 2010.

Ref No:   43161/10     Lottery:   12                                                                             


Shawan Jabarin is the Director of Al-Haq, an important and respected Palestinian human rights organisation which is supported by Irish Aid. Through our Mission in Ramallah my Department has regular contacts with Al Haq and with Mr. Jabarin personally.

He has been consistently refused permission to leave Palestine since June 2006, when he returned from a fellowship at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. Ireland and other EU partners have made representations to allow him to travel to human rights events in Europe, but without success. The Israeli authorities have insisted that they have serious security concerns in relation to Mr. Jabarin, and this view has been upheld by Israeli courts, although the evidence on which it was based has remained secret.

On this occasion Mr. Jabarin has been refused permission to travel to the tenth anniversary event of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, which takes place tomorrow, and I understand he intends to participate by video link. We will continue to urge that he be allowed to travel and represent human rights concerns in Palestine.

Isabella Rae's Doctorate on the Right to Food

From left, Joshua Castellino, Asbjørn Eide, Isabella Rae, myself and Vinodh Jaichand.
Isabella Rae today successfully defended her doctoral thesis on the Right to Food. The external examiner was Prof. Asbjørn Eide of the University of Oslo, one of the world's great human rights authorities, with special expertise in this area. The thesis was supervised by Dr. Vinodh Jaichand and by Prof. Joshua Castellino, who is now an adjunct professor at the Irish Centre as well as head of school of the School of Law at the University of Middlesex, in London. Congratulations, Isabella.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law

The Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law, edited by Dr Nadia Bernaz of the University of Middlesex and by myself, was published a few days ago. Many leading practitioners, academics and judges, as well as a number of 'rising stars' in the field, have contributed.
Here are the contents:

Contents: 1. Introduction, William Schabas and Nadia Bernaz Part 1: Historical and Institutional Framework 2. Trial at Nuremberg, Guénaël Mettraux 3. The TokyoTrial, Neil Boister 4. The Trials of Eichann, Barbie & Finta, Joe Powderly 5. The Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunals: Launching a New Era of Accountability, Michael P. Scharf and Margaux Day 6. The International Criminal Court, David Scheffer 7. Hybrid Tribunals, Fidelma Donlon Part 2: The Crimes 8. Genocide, Paola Gaeta 9. Crimes against humanity, Margaret M. deGuzman 10. War crimes, Anthony Cullen 11. Aggression, Nicolaos Strapatsas 12. Terrorism as an International Crime, Fiona De Londras 13. Drug Crimes and Money Laundering, Robert Cryer Part 3: The Practice of International Tribunals 14. Understanding the Complexities of International Criminal Tribunal Jurisdiction, Leila Sadat 15. Admissibility in International Criminal Law, Mohamed M. El Zeidy 16. Defences to International Crimes, Shane Darcy 17. Participation in Crimes in the Jurisprudence of the ICTY and ICTR, Mohamed Elewa Badar 18. International Criminal Procedures: Trial and Appeal Procedures, Hakan Friman 19. Sentencing and Penalties, Nadia Bernaz 20. State Cooperation and Transfers, Judge Kimberley Prost 21. Evidence, Nancy Combs Part 4: Key Issues in International Criminal Law 22. The Rise and Fall of Universal Jurisdiction, Luc Reydams 23. Immunities, Rémy Prouvèze 24. Truth Commission, Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm 25. State responsibility and International Crimes, Eric Wyler and León Castellanos-Jankiewicz 26. International Criminal Law and Victims’ Rights, Carla Ferstman 27 Amnesties, Louise Mallinder 28. International Criminal Law and Human Rights, Thomas Margueritte 29. Conclusion, William Schabas and Nadia Bernaz
This should be a very useful addition to bookshelves of those who work in the field. For non-specialists who only need one book on the subject, it may be just the right thing. And it should be a very good teaching text.
Many thanks to all of our contributors.

Some announcements

The International Institute for Human Rights, in Strasbourg, is recruiting a research assistant. Here is the application.
The International Bar Association is holding an expert panel on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, on 30 November. Here is the programme.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Jeopardy?

Barbara Crossette has an article in The Nation on recent developments at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia. Click here.

More on Kampala

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which is an umbrella organizations for hundreds of NGOs that support the Court, has issued a very detailed, useful review of the Kampala Conference. Click here.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Kampala Conference

The International Bar Association has published a special issue of its bulletin EQ Equality of Arms Review on the Kampala Review Conference of the International Criminal Court.

Success for Death Penalty Resolution in General Assembly

On 11 November, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment. This is the third such resolution since 2007. Each time it has been put to the General Assembly, the vote gets stronger.

2007    Yes 99 No 52  Abstain 33
2008    Yes 105 No 48  Abstain 31
2010    Yes 107 No 38  Abstain 37

Over the course of these three resolutions, four states have switched their votes from No to Yes (Congo, Maldives, Mongolia, Tajikistan) and five have switched from Abstain to Yes (Bhutan, Madagascar, Nauru, Palau, Togo). Two have switched from Abstain to No (Chad, Swaziland). No state has switched from Yes to No. Eleven states have switched their votes from No to Abstain (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Comoros, Jordan, Malawi, Mauritania, Nigeria, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Thailand) while one has switched from Yes to Abstain (Namibia). The Solomon Islands abstained in 2007, voted No in 2008 and abstained this year.
There may be some slight changes when the final vote is taken in the Plenary General Assembly in late December.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

First Judgment of Appeals Chamber at Special Tribunal for Lebanon

We now have a first judgment by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The world of international criminal law takes notice not only because it is an initial sign of life at the latest of the international tribunals, but because the judgment is signed by the great jurist Antonio Cassese.
Issued earlier today, the judgment addresses issues of jurisdiction of the Tribunal and the existence and scope of inherent powers.
Thanks to Maria Varaki.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Persons with Mental Health Problems, Intellectual Disabilities and the Right to Vote

The right to political participation of persons with mental health problems and persons with intellectual disabilities is the subject of a report  by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. FRA Director, Morten Kjærum said: “The right to vote is a fundamental right of all EU citizens, including persons with disabilities. Some EU Member States should therefore adapt their laws so that persons with mental health problems and persons with intellectual disabilities who wish to vote can do so. These individuals should be able to participate in society as other citizens do. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities sends a clear message: it is not persons with disabilities who need to change to fit society, but society itself, which must adapt to the needs of persons with disabilities. ”

US Universal Periodic Review

For a good account of the Universal Periodic Review of the United States, see this article by Christina Cerna and David Stewart in ASIL Insight.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Omar Khadr

Proceedings against Omar Khadr now seem to have ended, with a verdict by a military jury in Guantanamo condemning this ‘child soldier’ to forty years’ imprisonment. This would mean he would finish his sentence at the age of 64 for a ‘crime’ committed at the age of fifteen. Even the prosecutor had only asked for twenty five years. However, unknown to the jury, Khadr, who is Canadian, had made a deal when he pleaded guilty; an agreement to serve only eight years in addition to time already served, and to be returned to Canada after a year to serve the remainder of his sentence. He’ll be back in Canada before Conrad Black!
Khadr was captured by United States forces in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was aged fifteen. His crime was killing an American soldier. I have never understood why it is a crime to kill an American soldier on a foreign battlefield. American soldiers don’t go to jail when they kill Afghans (or Canadians) on the battlefield, even in their own country? Would a United States court have convicted an American soldier for killing Omar Khadr in Afghanistan, instead of the other way around?
The Harper government in Canada refused to demand that Khadr be repatriated. It has been successfully challenged on this before the Federal Court, but has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Other governments with foreign nationals in Guantanamo, like Australia and Britain, have sought and obtained repatriation years ago.
On Friday, the United States legal advisor Harold Koh told the United Nations Human Rights Council that the Guantanamo detention centre would be closed, but that plans to do this were taking longer than expected for a variety of unconvincing reasons. Two years ago Harold spoke in Dublin at a lecture of the Royal Irish Academy where I was the respondent, and he proposed the immediate closing of Guantanamo as a priority for the new Obama administration. He told the Council on Friday that there are still 172 detainees, which is down from 242. In other words, they have reduced the Guantanamo detainee population by not quite 30% in slightly less than two years, at an average of about 3.3 prisoners every month. At that rate, it will take the Americans until about February of 2014 to empty the place, and that’s assuming Sarah Palin isn’t elected in 2012.
If their goal is to reduce the prison population at Guantanamo, there’s no good reason why they couldn’t release Khadr – who has already spent eight years in detention - immediately.
Thanks to John Reynolds.

Human Development Index

The United Nations Development Programme issued its annual Human Development Report a few days ago. The first report appeared in 1990. The core of the report is the ‘Human Development Index’, which is an attempt to put a number on factors such as education, health care, literacy, life expectancy and so on.
As Amartya Sen explains in his introduction, the concept of a Human Development Index was explicitly devised to respond to Gross National Product as a measurement of the ‘wealth’ of nations. As such, it addresses many of the issues associated with economic, social and cultural rights. Sen admits that ‘the HDI, which proved very popular in public discussion, has a crudeness that is somewhat similar to that of the GNP’.
Helen Clark, the head of UNDP, explains in the introduction:
This Report shows significant progress by most countries in most areas, with the poorest countries often showing the largest gains. While perhaps not a surprise to statisticians, it was far from universally assumed four decades ago that most low-income nations would make the strong strides forward that the record now shows in health, education and (to a lesser extent) income. Not all the trends are positive, as we know too well. Sadly, several countries have moved backwards in absolute HDI achievement since the 1990 Report. These countries offer lessons on the devastating impact of conflict, the AIDS epidemic and economic and political mismanagement. Most suffered from more than one if not all these factors.
The most recent report looks at 135 countries (with 92% of the world’s population) over the 1970-2010 period, and notes that only three of them, Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe, actually declined. The biggest growth has been, perhaps predictably, in China, Indonesia and South Korea, but more surprisingly also in Nepal, Oman and Tunisia. Three countries moved up more than ten places in the latest report: Azerbaijan, up 16 to 67, Timor Leste, up 11 to 120 and Iran, up 10 to 70.
Closer to home, I see that Ireland held on to fifth place, one behind the United States, and far ahead of the United Kingdom, which was down four at 25. I suppose the calculations were made before the Irish Tiger died. At the head of the class, once again, is Norway.
The majority of the top performers in terms of their overall improvement would not make the ‘A list’ in terms of human rights standards. Perhaps this only shows that in our general assessment of human rights performance we are too focused on civil and political rights. Here are the top ten in terms of improvement: Oman, China, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Lao PDR, Tunisia, South Korea, Algeria, Morocco. The Human Development Index also measures ‘non-income Human Development’. Here is the top ten by that standard: Oman, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Iran, Ethiopia, South Korea, Indonesia. Most of these states continue to implement the death penalty; only a few of them are members of the International Criminal Court; many are not stellar examples of democratic governance, or of women’s equality; I doubt that any of them allows same sex marriage. The UNDP report concedes, in one of the chapters, that Good things don’t always come together’.
The report contains a special index on gender equality, which is derived from statistics concerning maternal mortality, education, seats in parliament and so on. There, the Netherlands is at the top of the list, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. Ireland is in 29th place on the Gender Inequality Index. By comparison, Berlusconi’s Italy comes in at 9th place, and Singapore is 10th,, but we are still ahead of the United Kingdom at 32. Iran is number 98, far ahead of countries like Egypt, Indonesia and India (122!). Rwanda scores well for Africa, at 83.
There is even a table that measures ‘perceptions of individual well-being and happiness’. Its calculations are based on such factors as ‘purposeful life’ and ‘treated with respect’. There seems to be little difference if any between rich and poor countries. In Ireland, 87% of people think they have a ‘purposeful life’, compared with 98% in Sierra Leone and 95% in Saudi Arabia. As for ‘treated with respect’, 93% of Irish women respond positively, compared with 69% in Saudi Arabia, 86% in China and 88% in the United States
Thanks to Nathan Derejko.

Friday 5 November 2010

I'm Not Making this Up

In this week's elections in the United States, voters in Oklahoma adopted by a majority of 70% an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits judges from referring either to international law or to Shariah law. What have these people been smoking? Perhaps that's the real meaning of 'tea party'.
Here is the text of the amendment:

B. Subsection C of this section shall be known as the “Save Our State Amendment”.
C. The Courts provided for in subsection A of this section, when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, established common law, the Oklahoma Statutes and rules promulgated pursuant thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international or Sharia Law. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.
They were asked to vote on the following question:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.
The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.
Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
Shall the proposal be approved?
For the proposal
Yes: __________
Against the proposal
No: __________
 Thanks to Bill Hartzog.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Finishing the Thesis

Professor Leonard Cassuto of Fordham University has some helpful advice about how to finish your doctoral thesis in a recent blogpost. A few points I particularly liked (and that I am reformulating here in my own words, and perhaps departing slightly from the views of Professor Cassuto:

  • you don't have to start at the beginning. A painter wouldn't begin at one end of a canvas and then work her or his way to other other end. You work on parts of the canvas, enhancing detail in one area, leaving another to be filled in later. There is no need to begin writing your thesis with chapter 1, or the introduction.
  • the best is the enemy of the good. Get the damn thing finished. You'll have man years of academic life in which to write the perfect book or article. Finishing the doctorate is the beginning of the scholarly career. It need not be the place for the masterpiece. That can come later.
  • start writing sooner rather than later. The thesis is all about writing, and the sooner you are not only producing written work but also honing your writing skills, the better. Don't make a mechanistic divide between the research phase of the thesis and the writing phase.
Thanks to Kathleen Cavanaugh.

Monday 1 November 2010


This Scrabble puzzle appeared in last week's Saturday Guardian. I couldn't find it on the web, and had to take a photo of the page. The idea is to make a word using all seven letters CDEGINO. Here is the answer.