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Melanie Fink and Emma Irving present at ‘New Female Voices in Academia’ – Book Launch ‘Frontex and Human Rights'

On 11 February 2019 the Women in International Law Network, established in 2017 as an informal network for midlevel to senior female officials, experts, advisers and academics working in international law in the Netherlands, organised a panel discussion and the book launch of ‘Frontex and Human Rights’, written by Melanie Fink. The event was hosted by the Austrian Embassy.

The afternoon opened with a panel discussion, including Dr Melanie Fink (Europa Institute), Dr Emma Irving (Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies), and Dr Solène Guggisberg (Utrecht University). All three speakers presented their ongoing research and shared their insights and experiences in legal academia.

After an introduction by Katharina Kofler (Austrian Embassy) and chair Ana Cristina Rodriguez Pineda (Chef de Cabinet and Principal Legal Advisor at UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals), Emma Irving kicked off the discussion with a presentation on the legal responsibility of social media companies. She mapped the ways in which social media companies could be involved in human rights violations and explained how challenging it is to hold these private actors responsible. Solène Guggisberg then introduced the audience to fisheries law. Stressing the importance of sustainable fisheries, she focused on the role that litigation could play in this respect and outlined the various advantages and challenges of relying on litigation to achieve sustainable fisheries. Finally, Melanie Fink spoke on the European external border control and human rights responsibility. She discussed the role of the EU agency Frontex and the particular difficulty of allocating responsibility in cases where human rights are violated during joint border control operations.

The panel was followed by the book launch of ‘Frontex and Human Rights: Responsibility in “Multi-Actor Situations” under the ECHR and EU Public Liability Law’, written by Melanie Fink and published by Oxford University Press in December 2018. The Austrian Ambassador, Dr Heidemaria Gürer, opened, after which Prof. Rick Lawson (Leiden University) introduced the topic of the book. The book launch closed with a presentation of the book and final words by Melanie Fink.

The book is based on Melanie’s PhD thesis, defended in December 2017 at Leiden University. It examines the legal responsibility for human rights violations that may occur in the context of border control or return operations coordinated by the EU agency Frontex. Imagine, for example, that during a border control operation at sea, a vessel forces a boat carrying migrants back to its place of origin, which may be in violation of the rights of persons on that boat. The operation is hosted by State A, coordinated and financed by Frontex, but the vessel in question is from State B. The contributions by State A, B, and Frontex to the violation vary in nature and degree. But which contribution leads to legal responsibility? In other words, who has to bear the consequences for and remedy the unlawful conduct?

More information on the book can be found here.

Photos by Katharina Kofler.

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