RightsCast brings you discussion on a wide range of contemporary and enduring human rights issues from the University of Essex Human Rights Centre.
Bringing together diverse voices from all over the world, we apply a human rights lens to better understand current events, to discuss key and emerging issues, and to explore how to achieve social change.
From grassroots movements to major international affairs, join us each week as we talk to the people behind the stories and seek to create a dialogue around the role of human rights in our daily lives.
.In this episode, Dr Daragh Murray chairs a discussion with Dr Matt Lodder, Dr Emily Jones and Alexandra Grolimund about the lasting impact of the infamous judgement in R v Brown , which established the legal precedent that the “consent” of a victim is not a valid defence when it comes to the criminalisation of assault through certain ‘extreme’ but consensual acts, including sadomasochism and, more recently, body modification, in the case of R v BM .
Operation Spanner was a police investigation into sadomasochism among homosexual males across the UK in the 1980s. As a result of this investigation, the House of Lords convicted a group of men for their involvement in consensual sadomasochistic sexual activity. The case has since been criticised as a homophobic attempt to moralise about consensual sexual activity among homosexual men in particular. However, the legacy of the precedent set by this judgement (i.e. that an individual cannot consent to injury which amounts to actual bodily harm) still remains, and its impact can be seen in R v BM , where the Court of Appeal maintained that consent provided no adequate defence against ‘assault’ though body modification.
Dr Matt Lodder is a Senior Lecturer in Art History and Theory, and Director of American Studies at the University of Essex. He teaches European, American and Japanese art, architecture, visual culture and theory from the late 19th century to the present, including modern and contemporary art post-1945, digital and "new media" art, and the intersections between art & politics. Matt is currently Director of American Studies, overseeing the US degree programs within the Interdisciplinary Studies Centre.
Dr Emily Jones is a feminist international legal theorist working from a critical posthuman perspective. Her current areas of focus include on military technologies; feminist and queer methodologies; gender and conflict; and the interplay between property, work, technology and the law. Emily has held visiting positions at multiple institutions including at the University of Melbourne, Sciences Po Paris, SOAS University of London and Utrecht University. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Alexandra Carina Grolimund has a background in human rights and is currently completing her PhD with a focus on Operation Spanner and R v Brown at the University of Essex, under joint supervision by Matt and Emily.
In this episode of RightsCast, we bring you a panel discussion, chaired by Sheldon Leader, with Dr Miriam Saage-Maaß and Daniel Leader, both leading practitioners in the business and human rights field, as they outline recent developments in the litigation of business and human rights cases.
Taking Lessenich’s and others’ sociological concept of the “imperialistic lifestyle” to describe the dynamics of global economy and the lack of fundamental resistance against it, Miriam Saage-Maaß demonstrates how the law organises and enables exploitative practices of global economy. She also analyses how the law nevertheless opens space to develop resistance, and how it can be a driver of self-empowerment of workers and others negatively affected by globalised economic activities.
Daniel Leader discusses the emerging jurisprudence from the UK Supreme Court surrounding the issue of parent company liability. In April 2019, the Supreme Court gave a landmark judgment in Vedanta Resources Plc v Lungowe and Ors.  UKSC 20. The appeal analysed the controversial question of whether a parent company can be liable in the English courts for the operations of its foreign subsidiaries. The Supreme Court significantly extended the potential scope of parent company liability. The unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court has been cited as “the most important judicial decision in the field of business and human rights since the jurisdictional ruling of the US Supreme Court in Kiobel in 2013.”
Dr. Miriam Saage-Maaß is Vice Legal Director at the European Centre For Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), where she coordinates the Business and Human Rights program. She has worked on various cases against corporations relating to exploitation of workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan, especially against KiK Textilien regarding liability in the Baldia Factory Fire, and against companies trading in cotton picked through forced child labour in Uzbekistan. In 2016, the Association of Democratic Lawyers in Germany awarded Saage-Maaß and ECCHR's General Secretary the Hans Litten Prize in acknowledgment of their role in the strategic approach of ECCHR's work.
Daniel Leader is a barrister and partner at Leigh Day and specialises in international claims, group actions, environmental and human rights law. Over the past 25 years, Leigh Day has been involved in groundbreaking cases against parent companies on behalf of victims from the developing world who have sought redress for human rights abuses committed by British companies. The firm has represented claimants from Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, Colombia, Peru, Bangladesh, Iraq and the Ivory Coast. Many of Leigh Day cases have reached the higher courts and set new precedents in English law for cross-jurisdictional litigation. In 2001 Dan was awarded the Bar Council's Sydney Elland Goldsmith award for his contribution to pro bono work in Africa.
For an update on the Lafarge case taken by ECCHR and Sherpa: https://www.ecchr.eu/en/case/lafarge-in-syria-accusations-of-complicity-in-grave-human-rights-violations/
Professor Lorna Woods and Will Perrin, with support from Carnegie UK Trust, have been working on a public policy proposal to introduce regulation designed to protect social media users from harm, drawing on existing duty of care models such as those in health and safety law. In this episode, Lorna joins Dr Daragh Murray to discuss this proposal, which argues that social media platforms, viewed as public spaces, should be subject to a duty of care to their users, and also to discuss how regulation intersects with competing tensions of free speech and innovation.
Lorna Woods is a professor of Internet Law and a member of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex; she is also an EU national expert on regulation in the TMT sector, and was a solicitor in private practice specialising in telecoms, media and technology law.
Read more about Lorna and Will’s proposal for harm reduction in social media here: https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/project/harm-reduction-in-social-media/
For their work on this proposal, Lorna and Will were recently shortlisted for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Research Project of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards: https://www.essex.ac.uk/news/2019/09/05/research-on-how-to-protect-internet-users-makes-the-awards-shortlist
From drone warfare to 'autonomous' weapons like the SGR-A1, technology has drastically altered the nature of modern conflict. In this episode, Dr Emily Jones joins Daragh Murray in a discussion about how posthuman and feminist theoretical approaches can be used to better understand the debate around autonomous weapons systems and other military technologies. Emily explains the different types of autonomous weapons systems and the role of humans in deploying these systems, as well as exploring the differences between human-in-the-loop, on-the-loop and out-of-the-loop technologies. Discussion also covers what the development of such technologies might mean for Global North/South power dynamics and the role they might play in states developing digital surveillance infrastructure.
Dr Emily Jones is a feminist international legal theorist working from a critical posthuman perspective. Her current work focuses on military technologies, including autonomous weapons systems and human enhancement technologies; feminist and queer methodologies; gender and conflict; the granting of legal personality to the environment; and the interplay between property, work, technology and the law.
Emily has held visiting positions at multiple institutions including at the University of Melbourne, Sciences Po Paris, SOAS University of London and Utrecht University. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
This episode of RightsCast features a panel discussion with senior members of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team, who explore a range of issues central to their work, including how to conduct investigations on the ground, how to use remote and open source tools to conduct or support investigations, and how to translate those investigations into effective human rights advocacy.
Brian Castner is a Senior Crisis Advisor with the Crisis Response Team, specialising in arms and military operations. He is a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer in the United States Air Force, where he served in Iraq, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. After his military experience, Castner became a journalist, and he has twice received grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Scott Edwards is a Senior Adviser for Tactical Research and Analysis. His work focuses on the development of early warning mechanisms for humanitarian crises, as well as the practical use of new methods and technologies for human rights compliance monitoring and evidence collection, especially as it relates to international justice and accountability. He is currently a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs.
Micah Farfour is a Special Adviser in Remote Sensing for the Crisis Response Team. Having received her Master’s in GIS, Farfour developed skills to align open source information with the analysis of remotely sensed imagery to produce visual evidence of human rights abuses all over the world from her home in Colorado.
Richard Pearshouse joined the Crisis Response Team in September 2018 as Senior Crisis Advisor (Crisis and the Environment), where he leads work on the intersection of environmental degradation, conflict and crises. Most recently acting as associate director of the environment program at Human Rights Watch, where he worked for 10 years, Richard has undertaken high-level advocacy on environmental issues with national governments, the UN, and multilateral and bilateral aid donors.
Donatella Rovera is Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Researcher. Her role involves investigating human rights violations in crisis situations. Working at Amnesty International for 20 years, Rovera has travelled to some of the world's most dangerous conflict zones to investigate war crimes and other gross human rights abuses. Recent field missions include Nigeria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Ivory Coast, and Sudan.
In December 2018, emergency austerity measures and the rising cost of living in Sudan sparked demonstrations demanding economic reform, which quickly broadened into demands for long-standing President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
On 6th April, protestors began a sit-in outside of the military headquarters in Khartoum. Five days later, the military announced that al-Bashir had been ousted, and a transitional government was formed in his place. However, demonstrations continued, and pro-democracy protestors repeated their calls for a civilian-led government. Military forces reacted brutally, massacring protestors at the Khartoum sit-in in June.
In this episode, Mitch Paquette is joined by Malaz Wagialla, Omar Ashmaik and Wini Omer, who are all postgraduate students in the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. Malaz, Omar and Wini talk us through how the revolution unfolded and set out their hopes for the future in Sudan.
In this episode of RightsCast, Dr Carla Ferstman is joined in conversation by Richard Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning tirelessly since 2016 for the release of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from prison in Iran. This discussion was held in advance of a performance of Nazanin’s Story, a play which continually evolves as her case develops.
Dr Carla Ferstman is a senior lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Essex. She has worked with Richard since Nazanin was arrested, and recently worked with a team of students at the Human Rights Centre Clinic to prepare a report on behalf of family members of dual and foreign nationals detained in Iran, as part of Iran's upcoming Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and countless other UN bodies have called for Nazanin’s immediate release. In March 2019, the UK Government formally agreed to grant Nazanin's claim of diplomatic protection, meaning that the Government recognised that the breach of Nazanin's rights constituted a breach of its own rights, paving the way for it to escalate efforts to secure Nazanin's release. Sadly, she is still detained.
The joint submission concerning arbitrarily detained foreign and dual Iranian nationals is available online here: http://en.cshr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2019/04/CHSR-IHRDC-UPR-submission-detention-of-foreign-and-dual-nationals.pdf
When protests against Hong Kong's proposed extradition bill were met with the police's heavy hand, Amnesty International responded, showing evidence of repression and violence to support its call for a full, independent inquiry into police action. In this episode of RightsCast, we are joined by Sam Dubberley from Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team, as he explains how they worked remotely and on the ground to monitor the situation as it emerged, collecting evidence of excessive and unnecessary force being used against protesters by the police.
Sam Dubberley is the manager of the Digital Verification Corps (DVC) in the Crisis Response Team at Amnesty International and a research consultant for the Human Rights and Big Data Project at the University of Essex. He serves on the advisory board of First Draft and the Syrian Archive, and is the co-editor, with Daragh Murray and Alexa Koenig, of the forthcoming book Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability.
Amnesty’s timeline of the Hong Kong protests: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/timeline-of-the-2019-hong-kong-protests/
Hong Kong Protests Explained: How Police Are Escalating Tensions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tntrRIG_gl0
In his recent report on extreme poverty in the UK, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston highlighted our local areas of Jaywick and Clacton as places experiencing high levels of deprivation, where there is a sense among residents that they have been abandoned by the state.
In this episode, Mitch Paquette is joined by a panel of human rights organisers and academics who have been working on poverty-related human rights issues within these communities. While noting the destructive impact of austerity measures on the social protection afforded to these communities, such as cuts to legal aid, our panellists explain how making use of the human rights ‘toolbox’ has proved to be an effective way of organising these disenfranchised groups and supporting a community-led effort to claim their economic, social and cultural rights.
Rebecca Rocket is a Unite Community member and social justice organiser, Andrew Fagan is the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, and Lucy Davies is Housing Law Supervisor at the Essex Law Clinic.
You can read more about the issues discussed in this episode in this blogpost by Katya Al Khateeb https://hrcessex.wordpress.com/2019/08/29/human-rights-at-home/
In this episode, Dr Daragh Murray is joined by Professor Francoise Hampson and Professor Charles Garraway as they draw on their impressive careers to discuss how human rights investigations are conducted, particularly within the framework of UN mandated fact-finding missions. The discussion also delves into a debate around the role of human rights courts in investigating violations in situations of armed conflict.
Professor Francoise Hampson is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, and is currently a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. Professor Charles Garraway is a Fellow of the Human Rights Centre and is currently a member of the UN’s Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen.
You can follow the Human Rights Centre blog at hrcessex.wordpress.com
Welcome to RightsCast, a podcast about human rights, broadly understood. To begin the series, we bring you a discussion between Lorna McGregor and Daragh Murray as they set out their hopes for the podcast and offer some insight into what to expect from our upcoming episodes.
Lorna McGregor is a Professor in the School of Law and is the Director of the Human Rights Centre. Daragh Murray is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law and Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex.
You can follow the Human Rights Centre blog at hrcessex.wordpress.com