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Louise Arbour impresses human rights pundits
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Louise Arbour impresses human rights pundits

Mallesons partner and head of the firm's Melbourne Human Rights Law Group (HRLG) Robert Cooper has spoken of his admiration for former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and head…

Mallesons partner and head of the firm's Melbourne Human Rights Law Group (HRLG) Robert Cooper has spoken of his admiration for former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and head of the International Crisis Group, Louise Arbour.

Arbour was in Australia briefly last week and attended several human rights functions, including the Human Rights Law Resource Centre's 2010 Human Rights Dinner and a HRLG lunch hosted by Mallesons.

"[Arbour] is one of the world leaders in human rights. She is very affable, friendly, quite diminutive in size but hugely impressive, and a very excellent speaker," said Cooper.

"She is also very ... forceful and powerful in what she is saying."

According to Cooper, Arbour spoke of her native Canada - where she was once a Supreme Court judge - and how national human rights legislation functions there.

"She spoke about the introduction of human rights legislation in Canada, 20 years ago now, and its later encapsulation in the constitution," said Cooper.

"Obviously, the human rights debate has been a very big debate in Australia over the last year ... and there was a lively debate [at the lunch], involving people like Malcolm Fraser, about human rights in this country.

"The major points Louise said in relation to the Canadian position, and how this might be relevant to the Australian position, is that there has been little advocacy against the legislation. There has, in fact, been general support of judicial findings in relation to human rights in Canada."

Arbour's comments come in the wake of the Federal Government's decision to dispense with plans to implement a national human rights act, largely due to fears associated with moving human rights into the judicial domain.

"The position in Canada is that [the act] is just part of the everyday life of Canadian citizens. It has not led to the tsunami of human rights litigation that everyone thought it may do," said Cooper.

"It is Louise's view that it is effectively there to stay. It is part of the very essence of how Canada treats its people and regards human rights generally. It was a very interesting discussion and it was wonderful to have her ... talk about that."

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