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While acknowledging the disproportionate role of Islamic jurisprudence in studies of Islam generally, as a body of texts it provides a valuable site to trace the ways in which the natural sciences were on the one hand instrumentalized and appropriated by jurists to address ritual and social issues, and on the other demonstrates how these sciences provided the basis for legal thinking. The case of the Great Smoking Debate of the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries is discussed at length to show in detail how medicine shaped legal categories.
The UN Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) created the WGAD in 1991 after a long investigation by the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities into the practice of administrative detention. In his final report to the sub-commission, prominent French lawyer Louis Joinet emphasized the need for “suitable machinery … to prevent and report violations” of international law regarding detention and recommended the UNCHR create either a special thematic rapporteur or a five-person working group. He thought the latter option “might be more effective, by being able to deal with the variety of categories of detention.”
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