The Human Rights Law Research Center (“the Center”) at BILGI was established upon the Council of Higher Education's decree of December 4, 2000 as the result of the initiative done at the BILGI Law Faculty in academic year 1999-2000. At the time, BILGI Law Faculty was also in the initiation process. Yet, the foundation of a separate academic unit focusing on research and education in human rights law was not only an effort set forth by this initiation but also a preference emphasizing the research and education policy of BILGI Law Faculty.
As the first outcome of the collaboration and mutual support between BILGI Law Faculty and the Center, the first LL.M. in Turkey to offer courses solely defined within the area of human rights law under BILGI auspice was launched in 2001.
Since its establishment, the Center has operated as an academic unit without being confined to the academia. Initially the structural transformation within Turkey fuelled by the recognition of Turkey's EU candidacy status (1999) has contributed much to the Center's activities. During this period, the endeavors and activities to contribute to the structural progress (mainly human rights law training programs) were the Center’s prior areas of interest. These activities were designed and developed with the consideration of cooperation with public administrative bodies or governmental agencies as well as civil society organizations and professional associations. This policy the Center still maintains today was elaborately underlined in 2004 in a policy analysis exercise on the Center supervised by Prof. Michael Ignatieff at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.
For two years (2002-2004), in cooperation with the Center, the Human Rights Law LL.M. program hosted many international NGO representatives and individual human rights defenders in a diverse range of human rights with outstanding involvement on the application of human rights law as well as the recognition, protection and/or promotion of rights at national or international level. These NGO representatives and human rights defenders contributed in the Human Rights Activism course that was conducted as weekly seminars at the time within the LL.M. program, sharing their experience with participants and Turkish human rights defenders. Consequently, the importance of human rights activism phenomenon in human rights law was affirmed and brought into discussion regarding its academic and technical details.
For the abovementioned reasons, immediately after its establishment the Center’s activities were directed primarily at human rights education in collaboration with a variety of institutions. The Center organized several human rights training programs that were conducted with the inclusion of various institutions and officials of the domestic judiciary system. These training programs have formed a significant portion of the Center’s activities in 2001-2009.
In addition to the resources from the University, various domestic and international institutions supporting the Center have contributed vitally. The long-lasting institutional association with the Sweden-based Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law through a close and substantial cooperation both prior to and after the Center’s establishment has significantly supported the progress of the Center’s activities. In the same vein, “Human Rights Education for the Trainee Judges and Prosecutors", a three-year project hosted by Justice Academy of Turkey and conducted in cooperation Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) of University of Utrecht should also be mentioned. Open Society Institute, both through its’ foundation in Turkey and the Budapest-based the OSI Justice Initiative , also contributed to several research and training projects carried out by the Center, especially in the area of human rights law and judiciary. The European Union and later on TUBITAK (the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) are also among the organizations that the Center has collaborated with. Detailed information on the Center’s research and training activities is provided on the “Projects” link in this website.
The Center’s sphere of activity covers all fields of human rights law. The approach that predominates the Center’s activities is that every state of affair includes a “rights perspective” and thus, a perception of enhancement that prioritize the utilization of law should be promoted. Therefore, inter alia, the Center’s activities focus on women’s human rights, domestic and international human rights protection mechanisms, anti-discrimination, minority rights, refugee rights, freedom of expression and internet freedoms, access to justice and judiciary, human rights education and human rights activism.
Moreover, the Center, based on its assessments of the applications and proposals submitted by local or international researchers and students, offers guest researcher or volunteer positions for varied periods that enables research as well as contact and cooperation with local researchers and the opportunity to join some activities of the Center.
Researches that are conducted within the Center and approved for publishing appear on the “Human Rights Law Studies” series under the aegis of the İstanbul Bilgi University Publications. This series also include essential reference books on theory and application of human rights law at national and international level.