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Human rights talk proves a hit

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Speakers Hilary Stauffer and academic Dr Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou.

Human rights and international law proved to be a fascinating subject for the latest Mensa Faculti event, Law:Live.

Despite the best efforts of Storm Desmond and the distractions of the nearby German market, Mensans and guests from across the country travelled to the Priory Rooms in Birmingham to listen to international lawyer Hilary Stauffer, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, and Dr Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool.

Initial feedback was very positive - and both speakers commented on how impressed they were with the standard of questioning from the audience after each talk!

Hilary, an American citizen who is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, concentrated on the definition of human rights and some of the difficulties with ensuring everyone has access to those rights. For example, she outlined times when it is acceptable to limit human rights, such as to ensure national security or to protect society from criminals, but pointed out that we can't pick and choose who has rights and who doesn't.

She then moved on to freedom of expression - and concluded that just because we have the right to say what we think, it is not a duty, and we would all get along better if occasionally people didn't feel the need to say what they think!

Kanstantsin's talk concentrated on the European Court of Human Rights, and he started by dispelling some popular misconceptions - the court is not controlled by the EU, the ECHR cannot force Britain or any other country to change its laws and it does not cost billions a year to run.

If a country chooses to ignore a judgement there are no practical repercussions - for example, Britain has ignored the ruling that prisoners should be allowed to vote for 10 years. 

Both talks were filmed - the footage is now being edited and will be made available on the Mensa website as soon as it is ready.