As CRIMHUM continues its preparatory work and looks forward to full project registration in Belarus and Ukraine, some first student feedback was collected by Dr. Thomas Krüßmann, CRIMHUM manager at the University of Graz when he visited the Law Faculty of Belarusian State University from 16-20 September 2019. The visit was funded by the EU through the MOST project implemented by Goethe Institut in Minsk. Its goal was to offer consultations to faculty members and doctoral students, teach a series of lectures to Master students and also to work with a group of bachelor students who were in their 4th year. If CRIMHUM develops according to plan, these students will be the first ones to enjoy the possibility to study on the Master level with the specialization “Prosecution and investigation”.
Thus, on two days (19-20 September) students followed an introductory class (in Russian) on the topic “Basic principles of criminal law and procedure in the understanding of the European Court of Human Rights”. The main idea of this teaching was to develop an idea that had been announced earlier during the opening of the IX. International Summer University with colleagues from Potsdam (CRIMHUM representative Prof. Dr. Uwe Hellmann) and from Paris-Nanterre: the idea of “legal thinking” as opposed to “knowing the law”. Human rights is a topic that is very suitable to emphasize the importance of legal thinking because human rights are generally seen as not operational and not having any practical weight while the interpretation of critical issues is leaning more to “official” court and executive positions.
As a case study, students were introduced to some of the materials that are currently under preparation for one of the CRIMHUM course books: the problem of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, in particularly with regard to the issue of criminalization of members of search and rescue teams as “facilitators” of illegal migration. During the second day, students split into four groups and decided whether they wanted to argue in favour of the position of the then Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, or the captain of the Sea Watch-3, Carola Rackete. The students were very active, but it came as quite a surprise that at first all groups opted to represent the legal opinion of Salvini. Undeniably, there was a larger willingness to defend the interests of the state than in supporting migrants based on some concept of human rights. It was only in the course of debates that the positions began to shift and some students took an interest in defending the interests of Rackete and the migrants who had been rescued by her action.
From a didactical point of view, the experience of testing new materials and issues that are in the vanguard of human rights problems today should not be underestimated. Taking these first steps was a great encouragement also to the CRIMHUM coursebook authors who see their work, even at this very early stage, having an impact and modernizing legal education in the professional spheres of the criminal justice system.