Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2021 for PhD thesis by Yousra Benfquih: ‘A book that challenges readers to react’Published 10 December 2021
Today, Yousra Benfquih (University of Antwerp) received the Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2021 for her PhD thesis in the field of international human rights. Katie Pentney (Leiden University) was awarded the prize for her Master thesis.
The Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award 2021, co-organised by Tilburg Law School and the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research (NNHRR), powered by the Asser Institute, is delivered every two years on Human Rights Day to recognise outstanding academic works in the field of international human rights.
The award is given to the best PhD (Category 1) and the best Master thesis or article (Category 2), and is named after Max van der Stoel, who served as OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorites, former UN Rapporteur on human rights in Iraq, and was professor of International and European Law at Tilburg University.
‘Astute, transparent and courageous’
Yousra Benfquih (University of Antwerp) was awarded the prize for best PhD for her dissertation entitled ‘Reasonable Accommodation in Education: An Integrated Human Rights Approach on the basis of the Right to Equality, Inclusive Education and Freedom of Religion’. The Jury's decision was unanimous and Ms Benfquih will receive €3,000 euros in prize money.
According to the jury, the work of Dr Benfquih is a very convincing testimony of scientific competence in terms of methodology and analysis. “Moreover, it is a book that challenges readers to react, to agree or not to agree, which therefore engages with its audience. According to the jury, Dr Benfquih is aware of the importance of stories and the question from which perspective and how they are told, and how much this also plays a role in science and her own position in it. The added modes of critical analysis are not invoked as afterthought but instead develop on an integrated human rights approach. The approach taken in the book is astute, transparent and courageous.”
‘A practical study on a pressing issue’
Katie Pentney (Leiden University) was awarded the prize under Category 2 for her Master thesis titled ‘Tinker, Tailor, Twitter, Lie: Government Disinformation and Freedom of Expression in a Post-Truth Era’. She will receive 1,500 euros in prize money. The jury was of the opinion that Ms Pentney’s thesis topic is ‘very timely and relevant and that her work contains a clear analysis’. From the jury report: “The thesis is well-written, immediately relevant and gives a useful overview of the relevant ECHR case law on the topic, making it a practical study on a pressing issue.”
This year’s award ceremony was hosted online, and featured a keynote by Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Human Rights Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a role in which she promotes human rights around the world. After Tahzib-Lie’s keynote, the jury announced the award winners Benfquih and Pentney, who were selected from twenty nominations: eleven doctoral dissertations entered the competition under Category 1 and nine manuscripts entered under Category 2. The nominations came from ten Dutch universities and three Belgian universities.
This year’s jury members of the Max van der Stoel Award were: Koen Lemmens (Professor at Human Rights Law at KU Leuven) (presiding), Jos Dute (Professor of Health Law at Radboud University, Nijmegen), Liesbeth Lijnzaad (Professor of Practice of International Law at Maastricht University and Judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg) and Dr Eva Rieter (Assistant Professor of International and European Law at Radboud University, Nijmegen).
About the Netherlands Network of Human Rights
The Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research (NNHRR), powered by the Asser Institute, was established in 2017 to sustain and further strengthen cooperation in the field of human rights research. As an interuniversity platform, the NNHRR is connecting researchers, academic institutions, innovative ideas and outputs from the Netherlands and Belgium to generate relevant societal insights. One of the priorities of the network is learning from each other through meetings, workshops and exchanges. The NNHRR has two flagship activities: the annual Toogdag (annual research day) and training courses for 1st and 2nd year PhD-students as well as for 3rd and 4th PhD-students. In addition, the NNHRR organises PhD Meet & Greets, thematic and informal gatherings for PhD researchers.