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Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award awarded to Yousra Benfquih (University of Antwerp) and Katie Pentney (Leiden University )

Published: 10th December 2021 Last updated: 28th July 2022

On December 10th 2021 the Max van der Stoel Human Rights Awards 2021, coordinated by the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research (NNHRR) and Tilburg Law School, have been presented to Yousra Benfquih of the University of Antwerp) and Katie Pentney of Leiden University. The award is delivered every two years on Human Rights Day to recognize outstanding academic works in the field of international human rights.

The Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award is given to the best PhD dissertation and the best Master-thesis or article written at Dutch or Flemish universities. It is named after Max van der Stoel who served as OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and professor of International and European Law at Tilburg University.

Keynote by Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie

This year’s award ceremony was hosted in an online format and featured a keynote by Dr. Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Human Rights Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on ‘Education lasts a lifetime: let’s give human rights a greater place in the classroom’. After the keynote by Tahzib-Lie, the award winners, which have been selected by the members of the jury, were announced. 

Dutch Human Rights Ambassador Bahia Tahzib-Lie

The jury

This year’s members of the jury were Dr Koen Lemmers (Professor of Human Rights Law at KU Leuven) (presiding), Dr Jos Dute (Professor of Health Law at Radboud University, Nijmegen), Dr 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).

The winners

Dr Yousra Benfquih (University of Antwerp) was awarded the prize for best PhD dissertation for her dissertation ‘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.

Katie Pentney (Leiden University) was awarded the prize 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. 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.

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