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Deree Students Experience Human Rights Protections in Action

An interest in human rights in the European setting drew 21 Deree students to Strasbourg for an intensive experience of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The trip was organized by the ACG Office of Public Affairs and was generously supported by the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Global Affairs and the IREA Student Society, whose members committed considerable time and effort to fundraise in order to lower the participation costs for students. The students were accompanied by Asst. Professor of IREA Effie Fokas and Ms. Melina Sgourou of the Office of Public Affairs.

The trip provided an excellent opportunity to gain insight into the people, processes and policies that together serve to protect the rights and freedoms of the 600 million+ individuals residing within the CoE states. One day of the trip was committed to learning about the workings of the Council of Europe and entailed meetings with Patrick Penninckx, who oversaw the development of the new Framework Convention on AI; Louise Barton representing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); Eleni Tsetsekou, Head of Roma & Travellers Division of the CoE; and Mats Lindberg representing the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). The group was especially pleased to meet with the newly appointed CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, whose moving response to a student’s question regarding the greatest challenges faced in his work will likely remain with the students for time to come. The day closed with a guided tour of the European Parlamentarium in Strasbourg and a talk from Ioulietta Bisiouli, Director of the European Implementation Network.

The following day began with the students’ experience of the Grand Chamber hearing of the case of Semenya v. Switzerland, a seminal case regarding an intersex athlete who was excluded from competition by an athletics agency based in Switzerland because she refused hormone treatment to decrease her natural testosterone levels.  Following the hearing, the students met with the Registrar of the ECtHR, Marialena Tsirli, who debriefed the students on the Semenya case and addressed their more general questions about the ECtHR.  A meeting with the judge corresponding to the Greek state, Judge Ioannis Ktistakis, ensued, during which the students were informed of the Court’s priority areas for the case of Greece. The trip closed with an engaging discussion with one of the Third Party Interveners in the case of Semenya, Professor Katrina Karkazis, whose research on testosterone has questioned assumptions regarding its role in athletic achievement.

The program’s success rested on the generosity in time and spirit of all our interlocutors in Strasbourg; we extend our sincere thanks to all of them, especially to Judge Ktistakis, who helped set the whole process in motion.

Deree students had highly complementary words about the experience:

The College’s initiative to organize annual educational trips truly reflects its people’s attitude toward learning. Our visit to the beautiful capital of Alsace, home to many important European and international institutions, further exemplified this commitment. Our experience at the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Human Rights went beyond the ordinary guided tour, allowing us to deepen our understanding through meaningful conversations with institution representatives. The meticulously curated schedule by Prof. Effie Fokas, coupled with the support of Ms. Melina Sgourou, ensured everything ran flawlessly. Simply put, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Panagiotis Domalis


This trip was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I am incredibly honored and thankful that I got to experience it with the people that I now get to call my friends! None of it would have been possible without Professor Fokas, SLAS, IGA, the Office of Public Affairs and of course the IREA Society. Thank you for the memories!

Eirini Pozapalidi


A very nice and enjoyable trip in a beautiful place. Very inspirational and insightful meetings and discussions with the representatives of the European institutions. Overall, an amazing experience.

Evangelos Koutsioumpas