PhD Student

Last application date
Jul 15, 2020 23:59
RE22 - Department of European, Public and International Law
Employment category
Doctoral fellow
Limited duration
Master’s degree in law or a relevant social sciences discipline - for a PhD position / PhD in law or a relevant social sciences discipline - for a post-doctoral researcher position
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

We are seeking to fill one full-time position as part of the ERC-funded research project “DISSECT: Evidence in International Human Rights Adjudication” (ERC-AdG-2018-834044).

This position will be filled at either doctoral or post-doctorate level, as appropriate in view of the CV and experience of the selected candidate. If the position is offered for doing a PhD, the post is for 48 months. If the selected candidate is a post-doctoral fellow, the post is for a maximum of 36 months (or less if the fellow is able to complete the project in a shorter period).


If you apply for a PhD position, you will have a MA in Law (or possibly a relevant Social Sciences discipline).

If you apply for a post-doc position, you will have a PhD in Law (or possibly a relevant Social Sciences discipline).

The postholder will become a member of the Human Rights Centre at the Faculty of Law and Criminology.


As part of a research team that explores together evidence in international human rights adjudication, your task will be to investigate, from both a legal and a social perspective, the evidence regime developed at the African Court of Human and People’s Rights.

You will have good prior knowledge of the Court’s case law and use and extend it in order to identify legal issues such as the burden and the assessment of proof. You will conduct fieldwork including interviews with judges, legal representatives, applicants and other parties, in order to explore the concrete conditions of the evidence regime.

You will devise methods of enquiry in collaboration with the other members of the research team (who are pursuing different but nonetheless related objects of enquiry) and share your findings with the research team on a regular basis.

If you are a doctoral candidate, you will write a PhD thesis under the supervision of Professor Dembour. If you are a post-doctoral fellow, you will write academic publications under Professor Dembour’s mentorship. You will also attend academic conferences and participate in the dissemination of the findings of the research project.

English will be your main language of work.



Evidence is at the heart of adjudication, and adjudication at the heart of the international protection of human rights. Yet evidence in international human rights (IHR) adjudication remains to be comprehensively studied.

DISSECT captures the evidentiary regimes in place in the world’s three regional human rights courts and in UN human rights quasi-judicial bodies. It sets itself four main tasks:

1. To examine from a purely legal perspective the formal and informal rules and practices (‘regime’) which govern the treatment of evidence in IHR djudication.

2. To examine the political underpinnings and uses of the IHR evidentiary regime.

3. To identify ‘best’ and ‘worst’ practices and generate specific recommendations for use in IHR adjudication.

4. To develop new insights on evidence, truth and power and thus to create a new strand in Critical Legal Studies.

DISSECT’s overall intention is to support international human rights adjudicatory bodies who are always at risk of losing their legitimacy if they cannot demonstrate that they are acting logically, consistently and fairly. It also seeks to benefit victims of human rights abuse who seek international redress without knowing exactly what evidence is required of them.

Current concerns about ‘alt-truth’ and ‘truth decay’ make DISSECT’s subject of enquiry particularly timely.

Profile of the candidate

In order to be eligible, applicants must:

  • Have obtained their degree (Masters for PhD position; PhD for senior research position) at the time of the application or demonstrate convincingly that they will have that degree in hand by 1 September 2020;
  • Demonstrate prior familiarity with the African Court of Human and People’s Rights;
  • Have a deep interest in the study of power and society;
  • Be fluent in English as their main working language;
  • Be in a position to spend periods of time abroad to conduct twice 3-month-long fieldwork and to participate in international conferences.

The following attributes are also highly desirable:

  • Direct experience of the African Court;
  • In-depth knowledge of the case law of the African Court;
  • Experience in conducting ethnographic fieldwork or qualitative interviews, or interest in conducting these;
  • An academic background that helps to interrogate questions of evidence;
  • Experience in writing academic studies of publishable quality;
  • Pre-existing networks relevant to the research.

In addition to these project-specific elements, candidates are expected to:

  • Have the ability to work independently and in a team;
  • Have excellent academic presentation skills;
  • Contribute towards the general well-functioning of the team;
  • Have the ability to reach out to different audiences, including through the use of social media;
  • Work in a meticulous way and be able to manage deadlines.

How to apply

To apply, please send, in one single pdf file and in the listed order, the following documents:

  • A cover letter (double-space, font 12, maximum four pages) outlining why you wish to be part of the DISSECT research project, what you would bring to it and, if you wish, any preliminary idea as to how you would conduct your part of the project;
  • A detailed CV (including publication list if available);
  • Your degree(s), including transcripts - if these documents are in a language other than English or one of our three national languages (Dutch, French or German), please add a translation into one of the aforementioned languages;
  • Two letters of recommendation, and
  • A writing sample on a related topic (10.000 words maximum, in English, ideally an academic or research paper).

This one-file document is to be sent via email to .

The subject line of your application email message should be written in the form of:

Application – AFRICAN COURT – [your name]

As an illustration, this could read:

Application – AFRICAN COURT - Marie-Bénédicte Dembour

The deadline for submission is 15 July 2020.

For inquiries, please contact prof. dr. Marie-Bénédicte Dembour at


For more information on the recruitment procedure, see

See Q&A document for additional information: