Professor says law should allow refugees to travel anywhere

Human rights expert calls for freedom of movement for everyone on the planet

International law should be extended to allow freedom of movement throughout the planet, a leading human rights expert has said.

Such an extension may be decades away, but it will represent a "giant step" to end captivity, Prof William Schabas, former director of NUI Galway's Irish Centre for Human Rights, predicts.

Prof Schabas, who is due to give a keynote speech at Music for Galway’s midwinter festival on the theme of “captivity” next month, said refugees fleeing persecution should not only have a right to asylum but should be able to move where they wish.

Citing the experience of Palestinians facing enormous restrictions within and without their own territory, Prof Schabas said captivity involved not only detention, but also much broader notions of freedom of movement.


Prof Schabas, professor of international law at Middlesex University in London, resigned earlier this year from chairing the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, amid claims by Israel of bias.

He is acknowledged as a "world expert on the law of genocide" and is the son of Canadian-Jewish classical musician Ezra Schabas.

The imprisonment without trial in Egypt of Irish national Ibrahim Halawa, the situation of detainees in Guantánamo Bay and the countless numbers whose human rights are being breached worldwide will be remembered at the Music for Galway festival, according to artistic director and pianist Finghin Collins.

The festival will stage the Irish premiere of Marc Neikrug’s Death Row Memoirs of an Extraterrestrial, which explores “the woes of an alien trapped in a human body”. It will also screen The Lady in No 6 – a portrait of the life of Alice Herz-Sommer who survived Theresienstadt concentration camp and died last February at the age of 110. See

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times