prof. dr. Tom Zwart
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External recognition

  • In 1998 Zwart was awarded the Constitution Prize, endowed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands to celebrate the fact that the Dutch Constitution had reached the age of 150, for innovative scholarship.
  • The law students’ societies of both Leiden and Utrecht have appointed him an honorary member for his excellence in teaching and his commitment to students.
  • Zwart has been elected a visiting professor at a number of universities, including the University of Cambridge, L’Institut d’Études Politiques (Sciences-Po), Universidade Católica Portuguese, the Chinese People’s Public Security University and the University of Haifa.
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Curriculum vitae
  • Senior Counsel to the Deputy Prime Minster, Kingdom of the Netherlands (1993–1997)
  • Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge (2003) 
  • International Dean, Utrecht School of Law (2005-2008) 
  • Director of the School of Human Rights Research (2007-present)
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  • The Admissibility of Human Rights Petitions, the Case Law of the European Commission of Human Rights and the Human Rights Committee (1994)
  • Deference Owed under the Separation of Powers, in: John Morison, Kieran McEvoy, Gordon Anthony (eds.), Judges, Transition and Human Rights, Oxford, 2007, pp. 73-90
  • La Poursuite du Père Fouettard Meroni: Pourquoi les Agences Pourraient dès lors Jouer un Rôle Plus en Vue au Sein de l’Union Européenne, in: Jacqueline Dutheil de la Rochère and Jean-Bernard Auby (eds.), L’Exécution du Droit de L’Union, entre Mécanismes Communautaires et Droits Nationaux, Brussels, 2009 (forthcoming)
  • Taking Subsidiarity Seriously: Restoring the Role of Domestic Authorities under the European Convention on Human Rights, in Mark Entin and Klaus Iro (eds.), Liber Amicorum in Honour of Professor Lev Matveevich Entin, Moscow, 2009 (forthcoming)
  • Looking at the House of Lords from a U.S. Perspective, in: Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, Brice Dickson and Gavin Drewry (eds.), The Judicial House of Lords, Oxford, 2009 (forthcoming)
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Zwart’s research focuses on issues related to human rights, courts (separation of powers), and public law from a comparative perspective. His publications in the area of human rights take as a point of departure the subsidiarity principle that is part of all major human rights instruments. It emphasises the need for a ‘bottom-up’ approach which stimulates the positive elements that already exist in every society, rather than forcing international norms on them ‘top down’. His Global Constitutional Justice project, which relies on such embedding of human rights, provides research support to constitutional courts in Central and Eastern Europe in the areas of comparative law and human rights. Northwestern University School of Law, Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University School of Law, the Russian School of Private Law and the Law Faculty of the University of Haifa are among the participants in this project.

Zwart is also in the process of setting up the so-called ‘matching values’ project, which looks for values in non-Western cultures, which can act as receptors for human rights principles. Underlying the project is the idea that non-Western cultures should neither be forced to accept human rights, nor be allowed to reject them out of hand as being ‘alien’. The project aims at by-passing the universalism versus relativism stalemate by seeking common ground between human rights and non-Western values. Several scholars and institutions, both in Africa and in Asia, have committed themselves to the project, including Tsinghua University in Beijing.

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Zwart teaches courses on comparative constitutional and administrative law, comparative law, global law and human rights at Utrecht and universities abroad.

Together with his then Utrecht colleague Bart Stapert he developed the adversarial method of teaching, which involves two teachers taking opposite sides in a debate, while inviting the students to join and support them. This method is very well suited for teaching controversial issues, like the merits of ‘originalism’ and ‘living instrumentalism’ as means of constitutional interpretation in the U.S.

Zwart has developed a course on ‘judicial strategies’ which discusses strategic behaviour of courts vis-à-vis the political branches while relying on cases from ten jurisdictions. The course builds on insights from law and political science, in particular the work of Epstein and Knight on rational choice by judges.

In 2006 Zwart designed a transnational law program on the basis of the presumption that it is important for law students to familiarise themselves with a mix of legal systems, instead of focussing on one single jurisdiction from day one. The program has been adopted by a consortium consisting of the Universities of Utrecht and Trento, Washington University (St. Louis), Universidade Católica Portuguese and Queen’s University Belfast and it opened it doors in 2008.

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Zwart is a Director of the Summer School for Global Justice, a summer school set up by Utrecht University, Washington University (St. Louis) and Case Western Reserve University.

He serves as the China Coordinator of Utrecht School of Law and as a member of the Regional Committee on North America of Utrecht University.

He is a board member of the Telders foundation, a think thank which promotes liberty and democracy.

In 2008 the Dutch Minister for Housing, Neighbourhoods and Integration appointed him as chairperson of the commission that oversees the evaluation of the Integration Abroad Act, under which foreign nationals have to pass an exam in their country of origin to test their proficiency in Dutch and their knowledge of Dutch society in order to be able to settle in the Netherlands.

Member Executive Committee van het Nederlands Helsinki Comité, since 1 January 2014 

Chairman Vereniging van Directeuren van Onderzoekscholen "SODOLA", since 1 January 2009 

Strategic advisor of the Vereniging van Chinese Horeca Ondernemers, since 1 July 2013 

Chairman of the 'Stichting ter Bevordering van Politicologisch Onderzoek', since 1 September 2014 (onbezoldigd)

Member Supervisory Committee 'Convenant Aziatische Horeca', since 1 October 2014 

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prof. dr. T. Zwart Contactgegevens
Achter Sint Pieter

Achter Sint Pieter 200

Telefoonnummer direct 030 253 8094
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Laatst bijgewerkt op 15-09-2014