Experiencing LLM

LLM life



Following our exciting trip to Strasbourg (and various European institutions located therein) we are back on track with our Students Blog! Get an idea about our educational visit by looking at the pictures and reading Vicki McKenna’s account of the trip!


As an activist in the human rights field, last week’s LLM visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg was of great interest. A five hour journey from Ghent seemed at first a daunting prospect. However, it was well worth it to see this organisation which is renowned for its efforts in strengthening legal standards and European unity.

Born out of the horrors of World War II, the Council of Europe reflects a global consensus of the need for closer cooperation and greater human rights protection. As a proponent of key values, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and protection of minorities, the Council has underlined the necessity of combatting social exclusion and barriers to participation.

The core aim of promoting greater unity among its 47 Member States is embodied in its statue, a reminder of the desire to forge lasting relationships. The main focus was to construct Europe based on common values of ‘democracy, rule of law and human rights,’ noted Anita Hazenberg, representative for the Directorate of Legal Affairs.

The European Court of Human Rights, another prominent institution based in Strasbourg, is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the European Convention of Human Rights in the member states. Key principles, such as the right to life and absolute prohibition of torture are enshrined in this instrument, which entered into force on 3 September 1953.

On arriving at the Court, we were shown a film called ‘The Conscience of Europe,’ a vivid portrayal of various human rights violations, including inhuman prison conditions, the persecution of journalists, and the denial of a fair trial within a reasonable period.

In her presentation, Ms. Eva Hubalkova, senior lawyer at the Council of Europe, explained the procedure in bringing applications before the Strasbourg Court, noting that individuals can present complaints of human rights violations only once ‘national remedies have been exhausted.’

The role of the Court in promoting democratic values of tolerance and social justice was further reiterated by Mr Dirk Van Eeckhout, the Ambassador of Belgium and the current Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. In particular, Mr Van Eeckhout stressed the importance of the convention in ensuring adherence to principles of rule of law.

During this visit, several questions were posed in relation to the effectiveness of different monitoring committees, among which the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). One of its main responsibilities is to visit places of detention, in order to examine the treatment of people who are deprived of their liberty. After such visits, a report is drawn up of the CPT’s findings. On the one hand it is noted that the Committee may decide to make a “public statement” if a State fails to co-operate or refuses to improve the situation following the CPT's recommendations. On the contrary, however, the exact value of such a statement can be disputed, as one can question whether or not it has a concrete impact on raising human rights’ standards in the state concerned.


LLM life

International Women's Day: Promoting Women’s Rights


As March goes by, our in-house blogger and current LLM student Ms. Vicki McKenna reflects on the significance of the 8 March and promotion of women's rights


Violence against women is endemic, rooted in unequal power relations and patriarchal mentality. Cultural identity has often been considered as a primary cause of brutal discrimination, as women  in many countries have been subjected to harassment and abuse, either due to community values or family notions of honour.

Such a violation of rights can be observed from both a public and a private dimension. On the one hand, violence against women has been used as a weapon of war to subjugate or subdue a population. In this context, such violence can be seen as a contravention of the Laws of Armed Conflict which govern the treatment of civilians during hostilities. Domestic violence on the other has been more difficult to tackle, an insidious breach of human rights, which has often gone undetected.

According to a 2013 Report by the World Health Organization, an estimated 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner. This was described in the report “as a public health problem of epidemic proportions.”

International Women's Day (IWD), which  is celebrated on March 8 every year recognises the role women play in society This Year’s UN theme, “Empowering Women - Empowering Humanity: Picture It!" envisions a world where barriers to inclusion are removed and each woman and girl can freely  exercise her choices, to  participate in politics and get an education.

This year activists around the world had the opportunity to raise awareness of  the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap adopted by 189 UN Member States 20 years ago that sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights.

Events organised on International Women’s Day are centred around the celebration of women’s achievements, while at the same time recognising challenges, as they encourage mobilisation around women’s rights and gender equality.

While there have been many achievements since then, many serious gaps remain.  In particular it has been observed that economic disparities have had an adverse effect on women’s lives as they fall into a spiral of poverty. Although women’s level of participation has increased in many countries there continues to be a certain discrepancy in terms of pay.

Confronting inequality on all fronts is essential to promoting an inclusive, non-discriminatory society. It can further be said that any form of exclusion runs contrary to international human rights law in terms of inhibiting full participatory rights. Women have clearly been the victims of cruel and degrading treatment, often justified in the name of culture. Whether orchestrated at a state or at an individual level, this is a clear denial of their right to live in a safe and secure environment, free from the fear of intimidation and aggression. Violence perpetrated in the shadows, beneath the scenes continues to be an obstacle in the promotion of women’s rights.

Challenging gender discrimination and hostile attitudes is key to safeguarding fundamental rights. Without combatting impunity, the cycle of violence is perpetuated. In this manner, the perpetrators can go unpunished and thus the victimisation continues.

LLM life

The LLM UGent Student's Blog Created!


As the new week begins, we are delighted to present you with the first entry of our STUDENT'S BLOG written by a current LLM in International and European Law student, Ms. Vicki McKenna.

The idea of the Student’s Blog is to share the impressions of the author on the “taste” of the student’s life here at UGent with the prospective LLM students, give useful tips and ideas to the current students and remind the alumni about their experience here in Gent!

And who could do it better than a person with a background in journalism and with love for writing?

Please enjoy this first entry, feel welcome to comment and ask Vicki your interesting questions and stay tuned for the next issue!





Confronted by new faces and dozens of names. Trying to remember them all proves a challenge, as you desperately try to recall a name you heard only 2 seconds before. Making up a name should be avoided at all costs. It doesn’t go down so well if it’s something easy, better to wait until someone repeats it later.

Navigating those first few days of college can be like a military obstacle course, trying to get your bearing in the midst of confusion. Often you find yourself wandering through the open courtyard, trying to get your bearings. You can always spot a new student, running up and down the stairs, hunting for some class room or other. That and the big map in the hands gives the game away. It’s always a mine field, trying to figure out which way to turn and where to go for help.

The residential seminar in Oostduinkerke was my first real introduction to the other LLM students of Gent. Staying for 2 days in this place gave us all a better opportunity to discuss our motivation for doing this course. We were also put under pressure, when we had to do presentations of relevant cases from the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights. With a background in Journalism, this was a challenge for me, as I had to analyse very technical terms and simplify it into a more interesting manner. Giving a presentation is always a daunting challenge, you just have to resist that temptation to read straight from the page. A core case for me highlighted the importance of protecting free speech and the right to a fair trial as enshrined under the ECHR.

Visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery was a key part of this visit to Ypres. Looking at the grave stones of men of just 20, you’re struck by the futility and waste. ‘The War to End All Wars,’ it was called, one that was supposed to have ended in four months, but then lasted for four years. Marching to glory they thought, yet ending in slaughter. Lives ended so casually, without a thought. Scores of gravestones marked with the words ‘known unto God,’ unknown soldiers, buried without a name. The words of Alfred Lord Tennyson spring to mind

“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.”

Soldiers who had no choice but to do what fool hardy commanders said. They are the cannon fodder, the ones who pay the price for unreasoned, uncalculated decisions. Visiting such places always leaves an imprint on the mind, as you think of the folly that cost so many lives. People that went away with hope yet changed on returning.

LLM life



This sunny Monday's morning the members of the administration of the LLM Programmes were very glad to welcome our new students. A flash of statistics: this year 30 students from 17 countries will be exploring the intricacies of European Union and International Law at UGent LLM Programmes!


An exciting 2-weeks long Orientation Programme, which has been developed so as to immerse students in the studying and explorative mood, has started today with a welcome meeting and reception, followed by a guided city tour.


Even though our new students will be following separate programmes this year, they will still spend lots of time as a whole group during general courses and study visits. Today’s event, therefore, gave them an opportunity to get to know each other and share their expectations with regard to the upcoming academic year!


And, let's keep in mind that, as mentioned by the Director of the Programme, Professor Marc de Vos, one should study diligently and enjoy the opportunities Belgium offers (indulging in Belgian delicacies and visiting the suburbs of Ghent, such as Paris and London  ), but also plan ahead wisely as the LLM-year goes by very fast!

LLM life

Pride and joy - Graduation of our LLM students, class of 2013-2014

We are very pleased to share some photos of the joyous occasion of our students.

Heartiest congratulations, students!


More pictures can be viewed at -https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.828866100459261.1073741843.115...

and https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.827233593955845.1073741842.115...

Photos are courtesy of Frederik Sadones and Kristine Hull