Ritsumeikan University College of Law staged an international academic symposium on the subject of human rights in Europe and Asia on March 24 at Kinugasa Campus. The symposium was to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the enforcement of Japan’s constitution and was sponsored by DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service), Kyoto Museum for World Peace, the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Egusa Social Science International Exchange Foundation, among other entities. The symposium was attended by more than 60 people including legal scholars from Taiwan, South Korea, China, Germany and France.
Congratulatory speeches were given by guests of honor who have close ties with Europe or Germany: Mr. Hwang-Sik Kim, the former prime minister of South Korea; Mr. Francesco Fini, minister/deputy head of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan; Mr. Johannes Schweizer, senior officer economic affairs of the German Consulate General Osaka-Kobe; Dr. Ryuichi Higuchi, president of the DAAD Alumni Association in Japan; Ms. Dorothea Mahnke, Head of the DAAD office in Tokyo; Ms. Gisela Elsner, Director of the Rule of Law Programme Asia, Konrad Adenauer Foundation; Mr. Julian Hermann, senior project manager of Robert Bosch Foundation; and Prof. Shinichi Wada, dean of Ritsumeikan Law School.
Mr. Jean-Paul Costa, a visiting professor at Ritsumeikan University and the president of the International Institute of Human Rights, delivered a keynote speech on the European fundamental rights protection system. His speech began by introducing two different European legal and political systems in existence since around 1950: the “big” Europe covering 10 states that started with the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, and the “small” Europe that started with the Treaty of Paris in 1951 and initially included just six states. He then touched upon the timely topic of the situation arising from the Brexit decision, presenting the risk to other countries, and in particular those countries that have joined the EU more recently, which could draw on arguments in favor of Brexit to decide to leave the EU themselves. In his conclusion, Mr. Costa stated that “The main obstacles for the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights are not technical, but political. In this era of extreme instability plagued by terrorism, we need wide-reaching changes and profound reflection, not only in Europe but throughout the whole world.”
Following some very worthwhile comments and discussion by distinguished jurists, Dr. Monte Cassim made closing remarks, citing the constitution in his home country Sri Lanka, and explaining the importance of protecting human rights.