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Lecture Thomas Hammarberg

The emergence of 'illiberal democracies' and the protection of human rights in Europe.

Thomas Hammarberg

On Saturday 10 December, Thomas Hammarberg, former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, delivered the sixth Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture on Human Rights. This event marked the annual celebration of International Human Rights Day, which was proclaimed in 1950 by the United Nations to bring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’. Thomas Hammerberg spoke on the emergence of 'illiberal democracies' and the protection of human rights in Europe. The lecture was followed by a Q&A-session with Thomas Hammarberg.

Illiberal democracies

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of what might be called ‘illiberal democracies’ in several countries in Central and Eastern Europe. After all the positive changes in the early 1990s, we can now observe growing tensions between the executive and the judiciary, leading politicians who openly question the rule of law, assertive nationalism, unwillingness to receive refugees, and so on. How did we get here? How to respond? To what extent are the Council of Europe and the EU able to exert influence, and what could or should individual states – and individuals – do?

Thomas Hammarberg 

Thomas Hammarberg (1942) is a distinguished Swedish diplomat and human rights defender. From 2006 to 2012 he held the post of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in Strasbourg. Prior to that, he had many international functions, including Secretary General of Amnesty International (1980–1986), Ambassador of the Swedish Government on Humanitarian Affairs (1994–2002) and Representative of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for human rights in Cambodia (1996-2000). 

Rick Lawson, professor of European Human Rights Law: “We are really delighted that we have been able to invite Thomas Hammarberg for our annual Sackler Lecture on Human Rights. He is an extremely experienced international diplomat; one who was very influential in shaping the international protection of human rights during more than three decades. And the topic that he will address – the emergence of ‘illiberal democracies’ – is absolutely crucial. Few may realise how serious the situation is”

Sackler Lecture

The Sackler Distinguished Lecture Series on Human Rights was established at Leiden University through an endowment given by Dr. Raymond R. Sackler and his wife, Beverly, international philanthropists with a commitment to supporting scientific research. Rick Lawson: "Meanwhile, the series of Sackler Lectures has developed into quite an event. From the president of the European Court of Human Rights, Jean-Paul Costa, to the Libyan Minister of Justice Marghani, from South-African Justice Albie Sachs to New York based scholar Brian Stevenson, and last year’s Mary Arden: it is an truly delightful series of speakers”


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