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Human rights and international law in the spotlight as part of fascinating Berlin trip

Law students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) learned about international relations and human rights for refuges as part of the university’s epic trip to Berlin this month.

INSET humboldt

Students from DMU’s Business and Law (BAL) faculty were among the more than 800 students and staff who travelled to Berlin between June 12-16 for what was one of the biggest European trips ever carried out by a UK university.

To enrich the studies undertaken on their course, DMU Law School students visited and were given tours of important sites in the German capital to put into context and see how international law, the environment and human rights works in that country when compared to the UK.

Led by Gavin Dingwall, DMU’s Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, the students visited the Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie as well as the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights on Monday, June 12.

The museum explores the history of the Berlin Wall and the stories of those affected by Germany’s division into East and West Germany (1945-1990) and looks at the challenges facing people today as they struggle for recognition of human rights, freedom and democracy.

The Law students were able to view objects used to escape over, under and through the wall and read the stories of escapees who risked their lives to win freedom. The museum also aims to remember and keep alive the memory of those who died in the attempt and a new exhibition there traces the history of movements promoting human rights, beginning with Mahatma Gandhi, and highlights areas of the world today where the struggle continues.

The notorious Checkpoint Charlie was was the name given to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin and was the scene of an infamous stand-off between Soviet and US tanks in October 1961.

Later that day, the Law students then visited the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, the independent, not-for-profit legal and educational organisation dedicated to protecting civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by a small group of renowned human rights lawyers and focuses on cases with the greatest likelihood of setting legal precedents and advancing policies that strengthen global human rights.

The students learned how the centre actively litigates cases and researches, investigates, and helps to coordinate the legal strategies around human rights cases in what was an “excellent, informative visit,” said Prof Dingwall.

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The next day, Tuesday, June 13, the Law students were given a fascinating six-hour tour of the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, the setting for the Second World War peace conference where leaders of the Allied forces of America, Britain and Russia – Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin respectively – met between July 17th and August 2nd, 1945, to hammer out a peace agreement after VE Day.

DMU Law lecturer Ivan Stafford then led a group of Law students to Humboldt University of Berlin on Wednesday, June 14th, so they could learn more about its pro bono law clinics and compare the practical application of the law in Europe.

Humboldt’s law faculty runs pro bono – work undertaken without charge, often for a charitable or deserving cause – advice sessions for refugees as part a pioneering project first launched in 2010/11. Its Refugee Law Clinic idea was so successful, for students and recipients alike, that it expanded into the field of consumer law in 2012.

Prof Dingwall said: “We must thank all of the DMU Law School students who participated in the DMUglobal trip to Berlin. They were all superb ambassadors for the School and the university.

“On behalf of DMU Law School, we also wish to say a big thank-you to DMUglobal for all their help making the trip such a huge success.”

BAL students also took in other world-famous landmarks while in Berlin such as the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate. DMU’s conference event at the British Embassy at the heart of the city on Wednesday, June 14, where Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard was joined by Britain’s Ambassador to Germany, Sir Sebastian Wood, was also attended by BAL students and staff. They heard speeches on the importance of building and maintaining connections across Europe and the benefits of international education.
Posted on Thursday 22nd June 2017

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