PhD defenses 2021

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Vernacularisation of human rights: a case study of early marriages in Shinyanga Region in Tanzania - Isabela Warioba (8/12/2021)

PhD defense Isabela Warioba

  • 8 December 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Wouter Vandenhole (Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen)


​The overall research objective of this research study was to critically examine whether how human rights are transferred by local actors from the international level to the local level with a focus on child marriage can impact the acceptance/ rejection of international human rights (IHR) at the local level. 

The research was conducted based on the vernacularisation of human rights framework as propounded by Merry which seeks to explain the role played by the actors who ‘transport’ human rights norms from international settings to local settings and promote their acceptance through a variation of such to a limited extent. Data for the research was collected by documentary review and field research which was conducted in Shinyanga region in Tanzania. Findings of the research include that child marriage is considered to be a violation of human rights by international human rights law and also causes a violation of human rights. It was also found that there are concerns at the local level which limit the acceptance of human rights norms on child marriage. It has also been found that the vernacularisation of human rights framework offers an advantage in addressing child marriage. 

Through field research, it was found that the local actors use different techniques to facilitate the acceptance of international human rights standards. These techniques include strategic use of the global human rights package, specific framing of their message against child marriage and also delivery of the message through specific channels and technologies that can facilitate acceptance. It is also a key finding of this research that the vernacularisation of human rights has had some impact on making human rights norms relevant in addressing child marriage at the local level. 

However, if translators are to be effective in promoting acceptance of international norms on child marriage at the local level, vernacularisation of human rights has to be complemented with uncovering and addressing concerns of the local communities which cause resistance towards the adoption of international human rights norms on child marriage.

Blauwdruk voor een passende regeling van de collectieve arbeidsverhoudingen in de publieke sector - Sarah Palinckx (26/11/2021)

PhD defense Sarah Palinckx

  • 16 November 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Ria Janvier (Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen)


This dissertation takes a detailed look at the collective labor relations system in the public sector, with the aim of making concrete proposals for improvement.

The first part of the dissertation consists of a comprehensive inventory of the problems and incongruities of the general regulation of collective labor relations in the Belgian public sector, with due attention to its application in practice. At the end of this part, a summary is given in the form of ten statements, addressing the legal bottlenecks of the current regulation on collective labor relations in the public sector and the adjustments hat are necessary to remedy these difficulties.

The second part of the dissertation is devoted to comparative research with the regulation of collective labor relations in the public sector in the Netherlands, before and after normalization. A thorough analysis of the Dutch model makes it possible to determine to what extent the Netherlands can serve as a source of inspiration for Belgium. The “Wet Normalisering Rechtspositie Ambtenaren” has resulted in the vast majority of civil servants being employed with an employment contract from 1 January 2020 onwards, and in the introduction of a system of legally enforceable collective labor agreements within the Dutch public sector.

The third and final part of the dissertation focuses on the question of how the Belgian regulation of collective labor relations in the public sector can not only be updated, but also modernized. The legal comparison with the Netherlands runs like a thread through this part. Several scenarios are worked out, one more far-reaching than the other. The most cautious line of thought consists of implementing a number of reforms more or less within the contours of the existing framework. Secondly, it was examined to what extent generalizing the scope of the Belgian law on collective labor agreements (“Cao-wet”) would be an option. The ultimate proposal comes down to designing an idiosyncratic regulation that could mean significant progress for social dialogue in the public sector in Belgium.

A comparative law analysis of no-fault comprehensive compensation funds: international best practice and contemporary applications - Kim Watts (26/10/2021)

PhD defense Kim Watts

  • 26 October 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Thierry Vansweevelt and prof. dr.  Britt Weyts


Compensation funds in different jurisdictions have varying functions and objectives to remedy loss. A handful of jurisdictions have taken no-fault compensation funds’ use to their most extreme manifestation – a single publicly-managed structure that provides a wide, compulsory and complete replacement for tort remedies. This doctoral research addressed the significant knowledge gap in relation to no-fault comprehensive compensation funds, by undertaking the first thorough comparative law study of four such large funds. These four schemes are: the Accident Compensation Corporation (New Zealand), the Transport Accident Commission (Victoria, Australia), the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (Québec, Canada) and the automobile personal injury cover provided by Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation (Manitoba, Canada). These four funds are all a type of hybrid socio-legal structure and evidence of a revolution in private law.  

The research identified the characteristics of big no-fault funds that are key to their successful establishment, administration, operation and further development. This included analysis of the functional harms covered, quantum of compensation and funding mechanisms. Principled comparisons with selected European no-fault schemes also provided new insights.  Next, there was a novel first principles analysis of the interaction between these large funds and human rights law, access to justice concepts and practical dispute resolution issues. These analyses informed concrete recommendations for the legislative improvement of the four existing large funds, and guidance for the establishment of new funds. Finally, there was an analysis of how and whether no-fault comprehensive compensation funds can be used to address contemporary liability problems, such as artificial intelligence applications and multimodality shifts in transport, and emergency public health applications. The research has added new knowledge and definitional coherency to the socio-legal understanding of no-fault comprehensive compensation funds, that is relevant to scholars, lawmakers and the advancement of scientific knowledge about managing risk and compensation.

The role of the Burundi Constitutional Court in Protecting the Rule of Law - Pacifique Niyonizigiye (21/10/2021)

Public defense Pacifique Niyonizigiye

  • 21 October 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Patricia Popelier en prof. dr. Stef Vandeginste (IOB)

Abstract​ ​ ​ ​​ ​ ​

The establishment of constitutional courts is a significant trend in the late 20th and early 21th century, in particular in non-consolidated democracies. Many functions are attributed to these courts regarded as guardians of the rule of law, such as a rights-protective role, an arbitration role, a deliberative role, or a regulatory role.  In addition, courts in non-consolidated democracies are expected to play a role in political governance. The question is whether the political and institutional environment allows constitutional courts to satisfactorily fulfil all these tasks.

The study has addressed the Burundi Constitutional Court (the Court) to find out to which extent it protects the rule of law. In order to analyze the case law of the Court, we have coded the judgments into a database that allows to find out how often the competences of the Court have been exercised; how often the Court was referred to by the different categories of applicants; the types of decisions that are usually rendered by the Court; how often the various principles deriving from the rule of law have been upheld by the Court; and what are the strategic techniques used by the Court. All this allows to actually assess the practice of a court as a guardian of the rule of law.

It was established that the Court can - and has, in a number of cases, protected and developed the rule of law beyond what is incorporated in the Constitution. However, statistics have shown that the role of the Court as a guardian of the rule of law remains limited. Three reasons can generally explain the limited role of the Court: the institutional framework of the Court; the lack of a constitutional culture on which the Court could build; and the political environment.

Recommendations have been made to improve the performance of the Court. Some are addressed to the Court itself and others are addressed to public officials who can amend the Constitution and the Law on the Court in respect with the institutional framework of the Court.

The Impact of the Fundamental Rights Case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice on the Domestic Separation of Powers - Mathieu Leloup (20/10/2021)

PhD defense Mathieu Leloup

  • 20 October 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Dirk Vanheule


The separation of powers is a true hallmark of any liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law. The separation-of-powers theory argues that by distributing government power over various state bodies, these bodies will keep each other in check, thereby preventing the abuse and arbitrary use of this power. The most common understanding of the theory dictates that power be dispersed over three branches – the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch – each with its own function. Furthermore this separation is underpinned by a system of checks and balances.

The separation of powers is traditionally seen as a national concept, where every state decides for itself on how to devise its separation-of-powers system, based on its specific historical, geographical, economical and sociological background. In this era of multilevel constitutionalism, however, the predominantly national nature of the separation of powers increasingly gets put under pressure. One of the clearest examples of that, is the influence that the two highest European Courts, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, have on these systems. Those two Courts are increasingly asked to rule on issues of domestic separation of powers and are thus put in a position to have a direct impact on how those systems operate. Yet, despite the importance of that issue, it has so far received very little attention in legal literature.

This PhD focuses on exactly that topic. The main research question is to see what impact the European Courts have on the domestic separation of powers when they rule on human rights. This broad question is divided into two more concrete questions. First, where do the European Courts get the power to rule on issues of separation of powers? Second, what do the European Courts do with this power?

In order to answer these questions, the PhD starts with a theoretical framework on the principle of separation of powers. Then, it conducts an in-depth analysis of the case law of both Courts, structured on the basis of various substantive topics that can be seen as concrete expressions of the principle of separation of powers. Finally, it takes a step back and makes of an overarching analysis of the various strands of case law in order to provide an answer to the research questions.

Genetische gegevens en verzekeringen - Cindy Cornelis (5/10/2021)

Public defence Cindy Cornelis

  • 5 October - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Thierry Vansweevelt (Universiteit Antwerpen)


In dit proefschrift wordt onderzocht welke rol genetische gegevens spelen in het kader van verzekeringsovereenkomsten en of de huidige Belgische regeling de meest passende oplossing is. De Belgische Verzekeringswet van 2014 verbiedt het gebruik van genetische gegevens voor verzekeraars. Hiermee wil de wetgever de verzekeringnemer beschermen tegen mogelijke discriminatie en schending van zijn privacy.

Het proefschrift gaat na of het verbod op het gebruik van genetische gegevens nog te rechtvaardigen is, gelet op de huidige juridische, wetenschappelijke, ethische en maatschappelijke context. De onderzoeksvraag is ruim geformuleerd en luidt: “Zorgt het Belgische verbod op het gebruik van genetische gegevens en genetisch onderzoek bij het sluiten of uitvoeren van een verzekeringsovereenkomst voor een adequate bescherming van alle partijen?”

Uit het onderzoek blijkt dat er heel wat schort aan het verbod op het gebruik van genetische gegevens. De centrale onderzoeksvraag dient dan ook negatief beantwoord te worden. Uit het onderzoek is gebleken dat het verbod beter vervangen kan worden door een hybride systeem. Om ervoor te zorgen dat de regeling wel een adequate bescherming biedt van alle betrokken belangen zijn dan ook een aantal aanbevelingen geformuleerd:

1. Als uitgangspunt is er een systeem nodig dat gebaseerd is op de bescherming van alle medische informatie via de privacy- en antidiscriminatiewetgeving. 2. Het bepalende criterium daarbij is het voorspellende karakter van de medische informatie. 3. De bescherming geldt bovendien enkel voor de niet-gemanifesteerde aandoeningen. De gemanifesteerde aandoeningen moeten meegedeeld worden. 4. Om ervoor te zorgen dat de informatie die gebruikt kan worden door verzekeraars actuarieel relevant is, moet er gewerkt worden met een kwaliteitscontrole. Een onafhankelijk orgaan bepaalt of de medische informatie relevant is. 5. De regeling wordt ingevoerd via wetgeving maar met behoud van enige flexibiliteit. Het systeem moet een flexibel karakter hebben, gezien de evolutieve aard van de geneeskunde en specifiek de genetica.

From crime hotspot to secure hotspot: Unravelling the human factor of campus security - Marlies Sas (14/9/2021)

PhD defence Marlies Sas

  • ​14 September 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Prof. dr. Wim Hardyns (UAntwerp), prof. dr. Koen Ponnet (UGent & UAntwerp) and prof. dr. Genserik Reniers (TUDelft & UAntwerp)


In dit doctoraatsonderzoek worden de menselijke factoren van campusbeveiliging blootgelegd. Enerzijds wordt onderzocht welke factoren bijdragen aan het beveiligingsbewustzijn van studenten en personeelsleden en op welke manier zij nog bewuster kunnen gemaakt worden. Anderzijds wordt gefocust op angst voor criminaliteit onder studenten en personeelsleden en de invloed van omgevingsfactoren, zoals de inrichting van de omgeving en de aanwezigheid van overlast op hun veiligheidsgevoel. 

Bovenstaande werd op een multi-methodische manier onderzocht, daarbij gebruik makend van (i) een literatuuronderzoek naar fysieke beveiliging, (ii) een systematische review van de bestaande meetinstrumenten voor beveiligingscultuur, (iii) een survey onder studenten en een survey onder personeelsleden, (iv) quasi-experimenten met awareness trainingen en nudges en (v) systematische observaties in de directe omgeving van de campus. 

De resultaten tonen aan dat het inzetten op kennis, attitudes en gedrag in het kader van beveiliging noodzakelijk is bij het vergroten van beveiligingsbewustzijn onder studenten en personeelsleden. Terwijl awareness traingingen voornamelijk effectief zijn in het bijbrengen van noodzakelijke kennis en verbeteren van attitudes, toont het experiment met nudges verandering in het gedrag op het vlak van beveiliging teweeg te kunnen brengen. Daarnaast wordt een duidelijk verband aangetoond tussen angst voor criminaliteit onder personeelsleden en studenten en de omgevingsfactoren van de campus. Gebaseerd op onze bevindingen raden we aan hoger onderwijsinstellingen meer in te zetten op de menselijke aspecten van campusbeveiliging. Op een kostenefficiënte manier kunnen er initiatieven ontwikkeld worden die het beveiligingsbewustzijn onder personeelsleden en studenten vergroten. Het aanpakken van overlast en inzetten op architecturale aanpassingen in de omgeving via de principes van Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), zorgt daarnaast voor minder angst voor criminaliteit en een campusomgeving waar iedereen op een veilige manier kan deelnemen aan activiteiten.

The Legitimacy of Civil Society Participation in International Organizations: Prospects for the World Trade Organization - Ayse Irem Kirac (26/8/2021)

Public defense Ayse Irem Kirac

  • 26 August 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: Esther van Zimmeren (Universiteit Antwerpen) & Carlo Cantore (Universiteit Antwerpen)


The World Trade Organization is recurrently contested by civil society through thepublic protests during the WTO Ministerial Conferences. Especially after the major protests during the Seattle Ministerial Conference in 1999, the law- and decision-making procedures of the WTO have come under close scrutiny of academics from various disciplines, policymakers and civil society representatives. 

This PhD project mainly aims to contribute to the doctrinal debate about the legitimacy of the WTO. The project addresses the main pillars of the legitimacy problem in the WTO and it discusses the reasons why the particular form of participatory discursive democracy involving civil societyis the best normative theory to address the problem. The position of civil society is analyzed under the current regime of the WTO considering both WTO law and the decisions of the WTO dispute settlement panels and the Appellate Body.The ultimate objective is to propose alternative legal mechanisms and channels forcivil society participation that would contribute to the legitimacy of the WTO. In addition, the project offers certain solutions that might be applicable more general to international organizations and that might drive the discursive process to enhance the legitimacy of multilevel governance.

Het Europees burgerinitiatief als een element van participatieve democratie. Een systemische analyse - Maaike Geuens (25/5/2021)

Public defence Maaike Geuens

  • 25 May 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Johan Meeusen


De Europese Unie heeft zich, als dynamische democratie, verschillende kerenheruitgevonden. De aandacht ging naar de verhouding tussen de burgers en de Europese instellingen, specifiek naar de manier waarop deze kon worden verbeterd. Sinds de jaren zeventig werd nagedacht over aanpassingen van het Europese democratische bestel. Dit leidde tot de versterking van de positie van het Europees Parlement, hervormingen in de besluitvormingsprocedures, de introductie van het Europees burgerschap, het ontwikkelen van het petitierecht, de ombudsprocedure en de wetgevende consultaties en eindigde in 2012 in het summum van participatieve democratie, het Europees burgerinitiatief.

De centrale onderzoeksvraag leest als volgt: “In hoeverre vormt het Europees burgerinitiatief een meerwaarde voor de democratie en de democratische legitimiteit van de Europese Unie?” Het proefschrift voert een uitgebreide analyse van het Europees burgerinitiatief uit en bekijkt onder meer de procedure, de doelstellingen en de praktische toepassing. Bovendien wordt het burgerinitiatief ook binnen een ruimer perspectief geplaatst. De eerder ingevoerde instrumenten, zoals het petitierecht, de Europese ombudsprocedure en de wetgevingsconsultaties worden functioneel bestudeerd. Deze maken immers deel uit van de participatieve democratie. De analyse maakt daarnaast gebruik van inzichten uit de politieke en bestuurswetenschappen ter aanvulling van de juridische analyse. 

Dit onderzoek geeft een systemische analyse van het Europees burgerinitiatief, zowel vanuit theoretisch als praktisch perspectief. Bovendien kijken we naar de nationale instrumenten en hebben we aandacht voor de manier waarop de lidstaten en de Unie elkaar beïnvloeden. De samenhang tussen de verschillende niveaus, de instellingen en de instrumenten van participatieve democratie wordt door middel van dit proefschrift voor het eerst duidelijk in kaart gebracht. De systemische analyse wordt toegepast binnen de Europese participatieve democratie. Ze leidt tot nieuwe inzichten en opent pistes voor toekomstig onderzoek.

Environmental citizenship practices of children: pathways of public participation in global climate change governance - Kata Dozsa (1/4/2021)

PhD defence Kata Dozsa

  • 1 April 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisor: prof. dr. Wouter Vandenhole (University of Antwerp)


Attributing the characteristics of political actors tochildren is not necessarily immediate and conspicuous. This could be even moreso when environmentally concerned young people (environmental citizens) wish toact across national borders to address global environmental problems. Eventhough children are identified as key stakeholders in thesustainable implementation of long-term climate change policies, and theirinclusion in decision-making processes is recognized as a guarantee ofintergenerational equity, children’s access to different participatory methods, spaces andprocesses in public affairs has been subject of debate for decades. Moreover,the UN CRC does not guarantee the environmental rights of children per se, nordoes it provide an explicit reference to the right to public participation –although more general provisions and international soft-law documents supportthese notions. The interpretations of the applicability of the children’srights framework therefore depend on the context. Climate change governance,for example, is a particularly shaky area for civil participation, wherechildren’s ecological truths are not so much welcome, and have achieved littletangible impact so far – resulting in growing concerns and frustration of theyoung generations.

Based ona socio-legal research, this PhD thesis takes into account three mainapproaches to children’s status and role in climate change governance: firstly,a theoretical introduction to new concepts such as the environmentalcitizenship of children, and decentred deliberation which allows participationon the global scale; secondly, the normative background of children’s right toparticipate in public affairs in the area of climate change, mainly at theinternational level; and thirdly, the social developments of the mainstreampathways of participation, including the recent emergence of climate changelawsuits and the global youth movement. The thesis offers recommendations forstrengthening the socio-legal- and policy framework which could provideexplicit guarantees for children to participate in climate change governance.

Illicit organ removal and international criminal law response: strengths and challenges - Sylwia Gawronska (31/3/2021)

PhD defence Sylwia Gawronska

  • 31 March 2021 - 5 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Kristof Van Assche (University of Antwerp) and prof. dr. Thierry Vansweevelt (University of Antwerp)


Organtrafficking – i.e. the use of financial inducements or other illicit means toobtain an organ – is a major point of concern for national governments, legalexperts, and healthcare professionals, due to its exploitative nature and itsdetrimental effects on the integrity of the transplant system. As a result,various international legal instruments prohibit commercial dealings, coercion,and fraud in the context of organ donation. In response to a number ofloopholes in the international legal framework, the Council of Europe in 2015adopted a Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, hereby establishing aparallel criminal law regime to the human trafficking framework. Due to thevery recent nature of the criminal law regimes developed around organtrafficking and trafficking in persons for the removal of organs, there was anurgent need to examine the scope and overlap of both types of crimes, and toclarify the way in which the relevant legal provisions should best beimplemented in domestic law, within European borders and beyond.

By applying amultimethod research approach, compiling all relevant data, and conducting fieldresearch, this PhD identifies the legal and practical issues arising from theadoption of the two international legal frameworks that criminalise illicitorgan removal.

First, the PhDexamines the scope and the legal challenges resulting from the overlap of bothframeworks, including possible difficulties in their simultaneous application.Second, the research also focuses on the usefulness and application of bothframeworks in different legal systems and political environments. These includecountries affected by a humanitarian and refugee crisis in the Middle East anda country affected by natural disaster, namely Nepal, which has become one ofthe organ trafficking hubs in Asia. Third, special attention is paid to thelegal interpretations of the crimes of trafficking in persons and organtrafficking in the context of organ donors, and, where applicable, to thephilosophical and social science concepts that are connected to illicit organremoval, such as “position of vulnerability” and valid consent. 

Finally, on thebasis of the research findings recommendations were made for a more harmonisedapplication of both legal regimes, with regard to the treatment of organdonors, including a proposal of criteria for the determination of victimhoodunder organ trafficking law, and with regard to the prevention of illicit organremoval. Additionally, areas in need of further research are identified inorder to address the outstanding legal, ethical, and practical issues inrelation to the prevention and prosecution of illicit organ removal. 

Hart and the Oxford Jurisprudence Circle: Rediscovering the Lost Legacy of Customary Law - Andreas Hadjigeorgiou (7/1/2021)

PhD defence Andreas Hadjigeorgiou 

  • 7 January 2021 - 16:15 p.m.
  • Supervisors: prof. dr. Kristof Van Assche (University of Antwerp), prof. dr. Pauline Westerman (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and prof. dr. George Pavlakos (University of Glasgow)
  • Joint PhD University of Antwerp and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen - Public defence in Groningen


H.L.A.Hart is one of the most famous legal positivists. Nevertheless, the controversythat surrounds his position on (customary) international law discloses acontroversy that runs to the core of his Concept of Law. In an attemptto settle this controversy, the thesis delves into the history of ideas and,especially, the legacy built by Hart’s predecessors in the Oxford Chair ofJurisprudence: the Oxford Jurisprudence Circle. An exploration of their worksexhibits that they constructed socio-historical groundworks for redefining theconcept of law, beginning at the level of primitive communities and customarylaw. Fitting Hart into this legacy and re-reading his seminal work throughits prism, clearly shows that Hart never questioned the legality of customarylaw, nor (in extension) the legality of customary international law.As such, this endeavour definitively, it is hoped, settles the controversy thatsurrounds Hartian scholarship and, through the revival of this lost legacy ofcustomary law, a new, and more complete, Hart is revealed. This realizationbrings with it a number of other elements and unveils at least three strands ofPositivism that have remained hidden, and largely misunderstood, under thevague and confusing ‘Positivism’ label. From this perspective, the present workchallenges us to rethink what we consider to be the basis of Hart’s work andHart’s kind of Positivism; and, at its end, new routes and newpossibilities are revealed, not only for international Hartian scholarship butfor general jurisprudence as well.