Author Archives: Tom Zwart

Tom Zwart

About Tom Zwart

Zwart’s research focuses on issues related to human rights, courts (separation of powers), and public law from a comparative perspective. His publications in the area of human rights take as a point of departure the subsidiarity principle that is part of all major human rights instruments. It emphasises the need for a ‘bottom-up’ approach which stimulates the positive elements that already exist in every society, rather than forcing international norms on them ‘top down’. His Global Constitutional Justice project, which relies on such embedding of human rights, provides research support to constitutional courts in Central and Eastern Europe in the areas of comparative law and human rights. Northwestern University School of Law, Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University School of Law, the Russian School of Private Law and the Law Faculty of the University of Haifa are among the participants in this project. Zwart is also in the process of setting up the so-called ‘matching values’ project, which looks for values in non-Western cultures, which can act as receptors for human rights principles. Underlying the project is the idea that non-Western cultures should neither be forced to accept human rights, nor be allowed to reject them out of hand as being ‘alien’. The project aims at by-passing the universalism versus relativism stalemate by seeking common ground between human rights and non-Western values. Several scholars and institutions, both in Africa and in Asia, have committed themselves to the project, including Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Religion is a building block not a stumbling block for the integration of Muslims

integration-1777535_960_720Tom Zwart

Again, as a result of the recent terrorist attack in London, members of the Muslim community are increasingly being portrayed as ‘different’: they are painted as religious fundamentalists who cannot separate politics from religion; who treat women as being inferior to men; and who offer the cold shoulder to LGBT. There are calls for the banning of certain orthodox Muslim religious organisations; the exclusion of religious symbols from public life; the constitutional entrenchment of ‘our values’; and the active ‘integration’ of Muslims into mainstream society. During his 2011 speech before the Munich Security Conference then Prime Minister Cameron called for replacing the passive tolerance of recent years by a much more active, muscular liberalism: “A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them.”  Continue reading

Why the Tribunal Dealing with the South China Sea Dispute Should Step Aside to Make Way for a Negotiated Settlement

Tom Zwart

 2000px-south_china_sea_location_map-svgIncreasingly, in the West, in the class rooms of law schools and offices of foreign ministries, international law is being associated exclusively with courts and tribunals. The idea seems to be that something can only be regarded as law if it emanates from an international court. This judicialization of international law overlooks the fact that these international bodies owe their existence to treaties, which are concluded by states, which still are the main actors in international law. Continue reading