Human Rights and Democracy Forum

About us

The Human Rights and Democracy Forum was established in 2017 to support research and innovative research-led teaching involving questions of human rights and democracy. Based in Exeter Law School, the forum encompasses research on the legal, political, contextual and historical dimensions of these issues, including substantive, comparative and theoretical methods. Welcoming colleagues from all disciplines, as well as the participation of undergraduate and postgraduate students, the Forum’s main activities include:

  • Supporting and developing individual and collaborative research projects
  • Delivering undergraduate and postgraduate modules in these areas, drawing on members' research expertise
  • Running research seminars by Forum members and by guest speakers
  • Developing connections with external networks, organisations and institutions in related areas
  • Supporting postgraduate research students working in related areas
  • Providing opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved with Forum activities, to develop their interests and provide opportunities to explore research and employment ideas

There is a strong tradition and a wealth of human rights research at Exeter Law School, with other ongoing activities in this area in the Exeter Centre for International Law.

Members

Name Research interests

Christine Bicknell

European and international human rights law; prevention and prohibition of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights and UN law

Elif Ceylan Ozsoy

PhD researcher working on international human rights law; sexual orientation and gender identity law; refugee law; Critical Legal Theory and Queer Theory

Catherine Dupré

Comparative constitutional law; human dignity and human rights; the European Convention on Human Rights; human rights in the EU; judicial dialogue; the rule of law and democracy in Europe

Jess Duggan-Larkin

Public international law, human rights and constitutional law, with a particular focus on the international action of states and issues that require global collective action such as climate change

Abi Dymond

Policing and human rights, international human rights law and standards, police use of force, less lethal weapons, torture prevention, detention monitoring bodies, equipment with no use other than torture and ill-treatment

Obinna Edeji PhD researcher working on international human rights law; economic social and cultural rights; domestic implementation of socio-economic rights and their nexus with human dignity; the right to education and its implementation

Richard Edwards

Constitutional law; human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights; civil liberties and human rights in criminal justice, policing, and police powers

Adam McCann

The relation between law, governance, and human rights; especially the legal framework surrounding end-of-life medical decisions in the context of broader governance and political theories

Alex Prichard

International relations; anarchy and constitutionalism; theoretical dimensions of anarchist constitutional politics. See also: www.anarchyrules.info

Brian Rappert

International humanitarian law; secrecy; disarmament; the use of force; chemical and biological weapons; evidence-based policing

Severine Saintier

Human rights in the business world; consumer energy rights and fuel poverty

Stephen Skinner

Comparative legal history of criminal law in democratic and anti-democratic systems; the rule of law; the right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights and the use of lethal force in domestic policing operations

 

Associate members

Kingsley Abbott, Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific Programme, International Commission of Jurists
Jonathan Cooper, OBE, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers and editor, European Human Rights Law Review
John Wadham, Associate Tenant, Doughty Street Chambers
Adam Wagner, Barrister, One Crown Office Row and founder, UK Human Rights blog

 

 

 

 

Projects

Current projects

Prevention of Torture across Europe

Christine Bicknell is conducting research into the work of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). The CPT has a mandate to undertake preventive visits to places of detention across all Council of Europe states. Christine’s particular interest is in the CPT’s standards, their implementation, and the use and application of both the CPT’s standards and its findings by the European Court of Human Rights. In one aspect of this Christine is currently co-authoring a book about the CPT’s work, which has been commissioned by the Council of Europe. Though its focus is very much on Europe, the study necessarily situates the CPT within a broader international framework of torture prevention, which has become more complex since the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) came into force in 2006. Against the background of additional external scrutiny of places of detention from both international and domestic bodies, further potential challenges come from within the Council of Europe itself. The relatively recent European Court of Human Rights case, Mursic v Croatia, challenges the view that the CPT and the Court work as synergistically as could be hoped. Relatedly Christine has been researching overlapping, and sometimes conflicting competencies of different bodies with a specific mandate to prevent torture, and their work specifically in Europe, as well as the dialogues and interactions among them. See the news tab for her latest work in this field. In this area Christine has also published work focussing on the effect of corruption on human rights protection, including conceptualising the corruption phenomenon in the context of criminal justice systems where the majority of torture and ill-treatment is recorded. This aspect of her work aims to bring greater clarity to understanding precisely what torture looks like in these contexts, which includes discussion of the fact that torture itself is a corrupt practice. This conceptual view of the corruption phenomenon, which argues for a context specific handling of the issue, is a necessary first step towards further work to establish more precisely the role that corruption plays in thwarting work to eradicate torture, a point that remains underdeveloped both at policy level and in the academic literature.

Standard of Proof at the European Court of Human Rights

Christine Bicknell has been researching the standard of proof as it is set out and applied by the European Court of Human Rights. In a detailed analysis of the Court’s jurisprudence, with reference particularly to Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture) cases, this research grapples with the fact that while the Court professes to uphold a standard of proof ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ it at the same time acknowledges a less rigorous degree of probability than that allowed for in criminal trials. Since the standard should be a measure of certainty, and not of probability, this is problematic. Christine’s research in this area also engages with the fact that the standard of proof in this context is closely aligned with the burden of proof, and considers how in certain circumstances the Court is prepared to reverse this burden, transferring it onto the state.

Human Rights and the International Action of States

Jess Duggan-Larkin is currently examining the role of human rights in regulating the international actions of states, with a particular focus on global collective action problems. Building on doctrinal analysis of Articles 55(c) and 56 of the UN Charter and theoretical considerations, the project involves three detailed case studies on responses to climate change, World Bank Safeguards and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Project outputs have included conference papers, interviews with participants at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in October 2015, and participating in an Expert Meeting on Climate Change and Human Rights in October 2016. Dr Duggan-Larkin is currently working on a monograph entitled Human Rights and Global Collective Action Problems: From Legal Obligations to Principled International Practice.

Human Rights and Executive Action in the Area of Foreign Affairs

Jess Duggan-Larkin is researching the impact of human rights on the legal, administrative and political oversight of executive action in the area of foreign affairs. Beginning with the doctrinal issue of the justiciability of foreign affairs powers, with a particular focus on the UK, the project undertakes a comparative analysis of judicial oversight of such powers. Beyond the doctrinal, the project will go on to consider other forms of oversight, particularly the role of parliament and the civil service.

Human Dignity, Human Rights and Democracy

Catherine Dupré has been a pioneer in studying and developing the concept of human dignity in the field of comparative constitutional law and her latest monograph, The Age of Dignity (Bloomsbury/Hart 2015), stands out in the field as the first comprehensive and theoretical engagement with these issues in the European context. Professor Dupré is currently developing her work in two different directions. The first involves using human dignity as a diagnostic tool to assess and respond to crises in democracy and human rights. As part of this and together with a team of colleagues she is convening an international conference at the European University Institute, Florence. The second direction is taking her outside Europe as an advisor to the Dignity-Rights Project launched in May 2017, which aims to educate, advocate and provide litigation support worldwide.

Crises in European Constitutionalism and Democracy

Catherine Dupré’s research expertise in Hungarian constitutionalism returned to the forefront of her research activities with the adoption of the new Hungarian Fundamental Law in 2011. Professor Dupré was one of the first scholars to engage in critical discussion of the Hungarian government’s self-proclaimed turn to ‘illiberal democracy’. Her analysis of the Fundamental Law’s provision on human dignity was translated in Hungarian, Spanish, Italian and French. Building on a ground-breaking paper (C Dupre, ‘Unconstitutional Constitution: a Timely Concept’ in A von Bogdandyand P Sonnevend (eds.), Constitutional Crisis in the European Constitutional Area: Theory, Law and Politics in Hungary and Romania, Oxford: CH Beck, Nomos and Hart, 1995), she is currently developing a theoretical framework for European constitutionalism, aiming to enhance the protection of democracy in Europe. In order to promote international discussion on the crises of democracy that have since spread outside Hungary to other EU Member States, she convened an interdisciplinary conference in Budapest in June 2016 together with leading Hungarian constitutional law scholars, Gábor Tóth and Kriszta Kovács. An edited collection is now being considered by a leading publisher.

Icelandic Constitutional Reform

Catherine Dupré’s ongoing interest in constitutional reform and constitution-making processes is currently focussed on Iceland where reform of the constitution was triggered in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. Together with Ágúst Thór Árnason, Professor Dupré convened the first international conference to discuss and reflect on the constitutional reform, at the University of Akureyri in September 2016. Building on this conference, the convenors are currently working on an edited collection, which brings together the key actors in the Icelandic constitutional reform, and analyses all the key stages in the process between 2009 and 2017.

State Power and the Rule of Law under Democracy and Anti-Democracy: English and Italian Criminal Law in the Interwar Period

Stephen Skinner is researching the relationships between state power and the rule of law in contrasting politico-legal systems through a comparative history of criminal law in democratic Britain and Fascist Italy in the interwar period. The project examines the ideological, contextual and jurisprudential foundations of general provisions and specific offences in the 1930 Italian Penal Code and contemporaneous English criminal law, focussing on crimes against the state, public order provisions and concepts of legality and certainty. Project outputs have included a series of conference papers and articles in international peer reviewed journals, as well as an edited collection, Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity (Bloomsbury-Hart, 2015). Professor Skinner is currently editing a second collection of essays, entitled Ideology and Criminal Law under Fascist, National-Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes (under contract with Bloomsbury-Hart).

Lethal Force, the Right to Life and the ECHR

Stephen Skinner is also working on the theoretical, substantive, contextual and interpretative dimensions of European human rights law on the use of lethal and life-threatening force in domestic policing and security operations. Starting with a study of how the European Court of Human Rights has developed its case law on such uses of force and the right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR, the project encompasses inter-disciplinary analysis of legal narrative construction, the development of standards by the European Court of Human Rights and their implications, alternative extra-legal perspectives on the use of force and related human rights questions, as well as engagement with aspects of police training and practice. Project outputs have included a workshop at Doughty Street Chambers in March 2015, a visit to the Metropolitan Police Service’s firearms training centre in August 2015, as well as papers in human rights journals. Professor Skinner is currently working on a monograph entitled Lethal Force, the Right to Life and the ECHR: Narratives of Death and Democracy (under contract with Bloomsbury-Hart).

 

Past projects

The Fascist Roots of the Italian Penal Code: Fascist Law and Contemporary Commentary in Comparative Perspective

Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Human Dignity and Constitutionalism in Europe

 

Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Catherine Dupré
Leverhulme Trust
2010 - 2011

Human Dignity and Constitutionalism in Europe

Catherine Dupré
British Academy
2009 - 2010

Publications

Books

Skinner SJ (eds)(2015). Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity. Oxford, Hart

Dupre CCL (2015). The Age of Dignity: Human Rights and Constitutionalism in Europe. Oxford, Hart Publishing/Bloomsbury

McCann A, Hallo de Wolf A, van Rooij M (eds)(2014). Law and Governance: When Private Actors Contribute to Public Interests. The Hague, Eleven International

Saintier SDA (eds)(2013). Commercial Contracts: a transatlantic Perspective., CUP

Saintier SDA (2005). Commercial Agents and the law. London, LLP

Saintier SDA (2002). Commercial Agency Law. London, Ashgate

Journal articles

Bicknell CH (In Press). A Hydra in Detention Settings: a context-based inquiry of Corruption’s many heads. Human Rights Law Review  Abstract.  Full text.

Saintier SDA (2017). The elusive notion of good faith in the performance of a contract, why still a bête noire for the civil and the common law?. Journal of Business Law Full text.

Skinner SJ (2016). Crimes Against the State and the Intersection of Fascism and Democracy in the 1920s-30s: Vilification, Seditious Libel and the Limits of Legality. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 36.3, 482-504. Full text. DOI.

McCann A (2015). Comparing the Law and Governance of Assisted Dying in Four European Nations. European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, 2(1), 37-91.

Saintier SDA (2014). Good faith as an overriding requirement in commercial agency contracts: 'legal irritant' or successful 'transformation'. ZVertriebsR, 3(May 2014), 166-174.

McCann A (2014). Irish Legal solution to the Hammock Case. European Review of Private Law, 22(1), 119-129.

McCann A, Colombi Ciacchi A, Oldenhuis F (2014). Non-contractual Liability for Defective Immovable Property - the Hammock Case in a Comparative Perspective. European Review of Private Law, 22(1), 89-156.

McCann A (2014). The CJEU on Trial: Social Justice and Economic Mobility. European Review of Private Law, 22(5), 729-767.

Dupre CCL (2013). Human Dignity in Europe: a Foundational Constitutional Principle. European Public Law, 19 (2)(May 2013), 319-341.

Dupre CCL (2012). Dignity, Democracy, Civilisation. Liverpool Law Review DOI.

Duggan-Larkin J (2010). ‘Can an Intergovernmental Mechanism Increase the Protection of Human Rights? the Potential of Universal Periodic Review in Relation to the Realisation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 28, 548-581.

Bradgate R, Saintier S (2007). 'Compensation' and 'indemnity' under the agency regulations: How the common law system copes with the invasion of civilian concepts. , 311-338. DOI.

Chapters

Bicknell CH, Evans MD (2017). Monitoring prisons: the increasingly complex relationship between international and domestic frameworks. In Daems T, Visschers J (Eds.) Europe in Prisons, Palgrave Macmillan 

McCann A, Colombi Ciacchi A (2016). Fundamental rights and humaneness in European private law: the case of health care. In Ferreira N, Kostakopoulou D (Eds.) The Human Face of the European Union Are EU Law and Policy Humane Enough?, Cambridge University Press, 104-130. 

Skinner SJ (2016). The Core of McCann: Lethal Force and Democracy under the European Convention on Human Rights. In Early L, Austin A, Ovey C, Chernishova O (Eds.) The Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Twenty Years of Legal Developments since McCann v the United Kingdom, Oisterwijk: Wolf Legal Publishers, 67-73.

Skinner SJ (2015). Conclusion: Repression and Legality. In Skinner S (Ed) Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity, Oxford: Hart, 191-196.

Skinner SJ (2015). Fascist by Name, Fascist by Nature? the 1930 Italian Penal Code in Academic Commentary, 1928-1946. In Skinner S (Ed) Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity, Oxford: Hart, 59-84.

Skinner SJ (2015). Introduction: Fascism and Criminal Law, 'One of the Greatest Attributes of Sovereignty'. In Skinner S (Ed) Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity, Oxford: Hart, 1-11.

Skinner SJ (2015). Reati contro lo Stato e l'intreccio tra fascismo e democrazia degli anni venti e trenta del Novecento: vilipendio, libello sedizioso e la sospensione della legalità. In Lacche L (Ed) Il Diritto del Duce: Giustizia e Repressione nell'Italia Fascista, Rome: Donzelli, 57-77.

Dupre CCL (2015). Unconstitutional Constitution: a Timely Concept’ in P Sonnevend (ed.), the Hungarian Constitution in the European Constitutional Area (Hart Publishing. In  (Ed) A von Bogdandy and. Sonnevend (ed.), Constitutional Crisis in the European Constitutional Area: Theory, Law and Politics in Hungary and Romania, Oxford: CH Beck, Nomos and Hart, 351-370.

McCann A (2014). Euthanasia in England, France and the Netherlands: a Comparative Law and Governance Perspective. In McCann A. Hallo de Wolf A, van Rooij M (Eds.) Law and Governance: When Private Actors Contribute to Public Interests, the Hague: Eleven International

Dupre CCL (2012). Human Dignity: Rhetoric, Protection, Instrumentalisation. In  (Ed) A Constitution for a Disunited Nation. Hungary's New Fundamental Law, Budapest: Central University Press, 143-170.

Saintier SDA (2010). Commercial Agency Law in France. In  (Ed) The European law of commercial agency, Hart, 151-175.

 

 

Research supervision

The Law School has a dynamic international body of postgraduate researchers working in a wide range of fields. Find out more about PhD studies and funding.

We welcome enquiries from prospective research students interested in developing projects with support from any research funding body, including both the AHRC and ESRC. Please contact us to discuss possibilities.

Current research students

A range of exciting PhD projects are currently being undertaken by postgraduate students affiliated with the Human Rights and Democracy Forum.

Contact us

Non-media

For non-media enquiries about the Human Rights and Democracy Forum and its activities, please contact us in one of the following ways:

Stephen Skinner

Telephone: +44 (0)1392 723379

Post
The Human Rights and Democracy Forum
Law School - Amory Building
University of Exeter
Rennes Drive
Exeter
Devon
UK
EX4 4RJ

Media

Media enquiries are also welcome - please contact:

Telephone: +44 (0)1392 722307
Email: pressoffice@exeter.ac.uk