The EU-China Network for the Ratification and Implementation of International Covenants

Since 1997 China has been engaged in a human rights dialogue with the European Union. China has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and in February 2001 ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  
It was within this contexts that the Irish Centre for Human Rights contracted with the European Commission in 2002 to organise the ’EU-China Human Rights Network’.  The project was a spin-off from the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and involved the organisation of a series of activities, including conferences, training sessions, internships, exchanges and publications, with academics throughout China. 

This project initially consisted of a network of 15 European human rights institutions and universities partnered with 15 Chinese universities, with a secretariat at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. It provided a route through which to capitalise on the links established by the Dialogue process and to assist in the process of translating China’s increasing engagement with the international human rights system into concrete action on the domestic front.

On the Chinese side, the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) provided the network leadership. Located in Beijing, CASS is one of the country’s premier academic institutions.  Its influential scholars are extremely active in policy making, as well as in more traditional research. The strength of the relationship that developed between the Law Institute of CASS and the Irish Centre for Human Rights was demonstrated in November 2004 when CASS appointed Professor William Schabas, Director of the Irish Centre, as an honorary professor in recognition of his contribution to education and research in international human rights law.

The network was initially to operate for a period of two years. This was later extended for another year. With the expansion of the EU in 2004, some twenty-five universities in Europe, and a corresponding number in China, participated in these exchanges.

Over the course of three years, rich and productive linkages were developed between academics in Europe and China who are specialised in the area of human rights, and more specifically international human rights law. Seminars examined a number of important issues, including torture, capital punishment, freedom of expression and association, reservations to treaties and the right to education, the right to health and the right to social security. 

One by-product of this work has been the development of specialised literature in Chinese in the field of international human rights. In addition to several collections of essays, the network also resulted in an initiative to translate The Introduction to the International Criminal Court into Chinese. One of the premier monographs on the subject, it is authored by Professor William Schabas and published by Cambridge Unviersity Press. The work was translated by Huang Fang, Professor of Law at the Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Science, and formerly an intern with the EU-China Network at the Centre. The translation of this work into Chinese is significant insofar as it offers Chinese readers the opportunity to gain insight into what is arguably the most significant international organisation to be created since the United Nations. A contribution by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is also funding translation of a leading international law study on capital punishment, The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law, by Professor William Schabas (Cambridge University Press, 2003). It was published in 2007.

Detailed information about the EU-China network can be found on: