In this beautifully-written and fascinating book, Mike Chinoy has brought to life one of the great pioneering human rights lawyers of our times”

Conor O’Clery, author of ‘The Shoemaker and his Daughter’, former correspondent and news editor for The Irish Times

You can read an advance excerpt from this book on Global Geneva here.

Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement, by Mike Chinoy, chronicles the life of a man who spanned civil rights in Northern Ireland and the human rights movement from the halls of academia to international organizations and tribunals. I knew Boyle through our mutual human rights worlds. And being Dublin-born,  I knew of the nearly daily bombings, shootings and sectarian assassinations so had a special interest in ‘The Troubles’ (to which our thoughts return in these days of looming Brexit) and the ensuing peace process to which Kevin was so committed. The Troubles was the way many described the religious-nationalist conflict that broke out in the late 1960s and more or less came to an end with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Kevin Boyle arguing a Kurdish case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Boyle, a scholar-teacher-advocate-counselor who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, occupied multiple roles in the human rights movement, played a significant role in helping to bring an end to this turmoil which also affected the United Kingdom itself, Ireland, Europe and the United States. Yet he remained an unsung hero, until this book.

Chinoy, who is based in Hong Kong, first met Boyle while a student at Yale. He maintained the contact through his distinguished reporting career. For this book, he mined the James Hardiman Library at the National University of Ireland, Galway and drew upon multiple oral histories and extensive interviews. Deploying the skills of a seasoned reporter, Chinoy delivers the reader to a front row seat of the late 20th Century human rights canvass – the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, advocacy before the European Court of Human Rights, academia, civil society and the flowering human rights movement.

Boyle was at the forefront of it all. From his perch at the Queen’s University Law Faculty in Belfast, he drafted proposals for resolving the Northern Irish conflict. He also shone a light upon the abuses perpetrated by the British army and Northern Ireland police in a landmark case to the European Commission on behalf of seven Northern Irish men who were interned without trial, beaten and tortured. He mobilized international law on behalf of victims of torture, unjust imprisonment, discrimination and defended freedom of expression, belief and association.

Boyle with former Irish president Mary Robinson during her stint as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva (1997-2002).

Boyle also guided Amnesty International’s campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and spearheaded efforts to defend Salman Rushdie as Director of Article 19. Yet he never neglected human rights teaching, because students were the future. So he Directed the University of Essex Human Rights Law Centre and was founding Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland at Galway. When President Mary Robinson became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she wisely appointed Boyle her chief legal advisor – so he moved to Geneva.

This human rights law professor, advocate and activist died of lung cancer at age sixty-seven. At the time my University of Maine School of Law colleague Orlando Delogu who taught with Boyle at Galway observed, “He was single minded in his defence of oppressed people. The breadth of his interests was quite amazing, but always behind the scenes, the use of law – never violence.” Boyle helped lay the foundation for expanded human rights protections across the planet and inspired generations of scholars and activists.

How did Chinoy choose the title for this book? Boyle was first a university teacher. While lecturing he would pause and ask his students, “Are you with me?” It was a two-fold question. Did they understand the material? And would they be with him on the front line in the fight for human rights? “Are you with me?”

Are You With Me? will be launched at Essex University on 19 March 2020, with book events to follow in Dublin, Belfast, London, Galway and  Oxford. it can be pre-ordered through Lilliput Press: https://www.lilliputpress.ie/product/are-you-with-me

As a foreign correspondent for CNN for 24 years, Mike Chinoy won Emmy, Peabody and Dupont awards for his journalism. While he worked primarily in China and North Korea, he also reported on the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s. It was during this time that he met Kevin Boyle. Chinoy is currently a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute and is based in Hong Kong. His books include China Live: People, Power, and Television Revolution (1999), Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (2008), and The Last POW (2014). His work has been widely acclaimed across the globe.

In the 1990s, Boyle brought  – and won – scores of cases before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Kurds in south-eastern Turkey who had faced imprisonment, torture, rape, and murder at the hands of the Turkish security forces (link to Jonathon Randal’s piece).

Charles H. Norchi is a contributing editor to Global Geneva and  Benjamin Thompson Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law, USA. He has written for Global Geneva about Afghanistan, the Polar regions and international human rights.

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