Human Rights and Democracy Forum
The Human Rights and Democracy Forum is a cross-disciplinary research group based in the University of Exeter Law School. It has members from Law, Politics, Sociology and Criminology, includes a growing body of PhD researchers, and has associate members from academia and legal practice.
The Forum has four main areas of research activity:
- Human rights and human dignity in theory and practice, especially under the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights
- Intersections of public law, private law, criminal law, criminal justice, and international law with questions of human rights and democratic principles
- Comparative and domestic constitutional law and politics
- Legal and political dimensions of non-democratic systems and threats to democracy, including past authoritarian regimes and the resurgence of populism and illiberalism
Examples of Forum members’ research on human rights include issues of international trade law, climate change, migration, gender and sexuality, religious freedom, the treatment of prisoners, police powers, and police uses of lethal force. Examples of members’ research on democracy and democratic principles include issues of criminal justice and the rule of law, the comparative history of criminal law in interwar Britain and Fascist Italy, constitutionalism and constitutional reform processes, and the foundations of national and transnational democracy in Europe. Research in the Forum involves comparative, doctrinal, theoretical, historical and empirical methods, and is both national and international in scope.
The Forum has five main aims overall:
- To support and develop individual and collaborative research projects to the highest standards
- To stimulate research discussion through seminars and workshops, involving Forum members, guest speakers and students
- To build connections with external organisations, institutions and networks in related areas of research and practice, nationally and internationally
- To nurture and train postgraduate researchers
- To support and deliver research-led undergraduate and postgraduate teaching
As a research group anchored in the importance of human rights and democratic principles, the Forum strives to be open and inclusive, to ensure equality of opportunity and participation, and to welcome all forms of research falling within its scope. Forum members invite enquiries about their research activities, proposed collaborations and postgraduate research opportunities. Please refer to the other tabs for further information about our publications and recent activities, as well as how to contact us.
|Konstantinos Alexandris Polomarkakis||Labour law and social rights; judicial decision-making; social policy-making; economic and social constitutionalism; European Union law and policy|
Socio-economic rights, particularly the right to education; equality law and human rights law; national human rights institutions, regulators, inspectorates and ombudsmen; theories of regulation and governance
European and international human rights law; prevention and prohibition of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights and UN law
PhD researcher working on international human rights law, particularly children’s rights to autonomy, parental rights, the right to freedom of religion and the rights of the larger community within a modern liberal democracy.
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
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
|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|
|PhD researcher working on systems of legal gender recognition, especially the Gender Recognition Act 2004; human dignity and human rights law; LGBTQI+ rights, with a specific interest in transgender and non-binary rights|
|Public law; constitutional theory; comparative constitutional law; constitutional democracy; constitutionalism; populism; authoritarianism; illiberalism; courts|
|Human rights dimensions of international trade in healthcare services in Indian and international law; the right to health; public and private duties in the health sector|
|International human rights law; internal displacement, refugee movements and migration; European Convention on Human Rights; vulnerability and human rights; access to higher education|
|The history of modern political thought and contemporary political philosophy, with a particular focus on human rights. His current work focuses both on general historical and philosophical understandings of human rights as a moral idea, and also on particular conceptions of specific human rights (such as rights to property, asylum, and political participation) in modern political texts|
|PhD researcher working on prisoners’ rights under the ECHR; criminal justice and human rights; EU law; international criminal law and public international law|
|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|
International human rights law, emergence of new rights categories, imagining non-imperialist law-making, critical legal theory with a special interest in the intersection of queer and postcolonial theory, non-western LGBTIQ+ rights
|International relations; anarchy and constitutionalism; theoretical dimensions of anarchist constitutional politics|
|International humanitarian law; secrecy; disarmament; the use of force; chemical and biological weapons; evidence-based policing|
|PhD researcher working on the burden of proof in relation to LGBTQI+ asylum seekers; sexuality rights; immigration, including asylum and refugee law and international human rights law|
|Business and human rights, comparative corporate governance, transnational tort litigation, human rights & documentary filmmaking, law & economic thought, the legal history of the corporation, international economic law|
|Labour law; human rights law, including as relevant to (domestic) workers’ rights, rights of women and migrants, socio-economic rights, and positive duties; feminist and anti-racist approaches; Latin America; business and human rights|
Comparative history and theory of criminal law in democratic and fascist systems; political crime; the rule of law; police use of lethal force, democratic values, and the right to life under the ECHR
International human rights law, focusing on the remedies available to climate-vulnerable Small Island Developing States and climate justice frameworks for law and policy-making
Migration law, especially the regulation of family migration and citizenship
|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|
|Philippa Collins, Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol|
|Dimitrios Kagiaros, Assistant Professor, Durham Law School|
|John Wadham, Associate Tenant, Doughty Street Chambers|
|Adam Wagner, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers and founder, UK Human Rights blog|
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 Dignity, Human Rights and Democracy: UK Legal Practice in Focus
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. She expanded the original theoretical scope of her research with an ESRC funded project on ‘Human Dignity in UK Legal Practice: Realities, Challenges, Potentials’ in collaboration with Daniel Bedford (University of Portsmouth) and barristers and solicitors from London-based chambers, including Doughty Street, Garden Court and Matrix. In 2018-19, she guest-edited a special issue of the European Human Rights Law Review on human dignity in UK legal practice.
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.
Icelandic Constitutional Reform
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 have co-edited a collection of essays, which brings together the key actors in the Icelandic constitutional reform, and analyses all the main stages in the process between 2009 and 2017. The collection, entitled Icelandic Constitutional Reform: People, Processes, Politics, is published by Routledge.
Criminal Law, State Power and the Rule of Law under Democratic and Non-Democratic Systems
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. Activities and publications drawing on the project have included a series of conference papers and articles in international peer reviewed journals. Professor Skinner has also co-ordinated two international collaborative projects on a wider comparative analysis of aspects of criminal law under a range of fascist and authoritarian regimes around the world, from which he has edited two collections of papers, entitled Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity (Hart, 2015) and Ideology and Criminal Law: Fascist, National-Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes (Hart, 2019).
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 activities have included a workshop at Doughty Street Chambers in March 2015 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of McCann and Others v the United Kingdom (1995) and a visit to the Metropolitan Police Service’s firearms training centre in August 2015. Publications from the project include papers in human rights journals and a monograph entitled Lethal Force, the Right to Life and the ECHR: Narratives of Death and Democracy (Hart, 2019).
Toward a Lethal Force Monitor: Enhancing State Accountability for Loss of Life in Law Enforcement
Brian Rappert (Exeter, Sociology), Abi Dymond (Exeter, Criminology) and Stephen Skinner (Exeter, Law) are working on a collaborative project, led by Professor Rappert and funded by the Open Society Foundations, to research the compilation and availability of information about uses of lethal force by police and law enforcement agencies in Europe and Africa. The project involves working with partner researchers and organisations to develop a pilot analysis of existing lethal force reporting mechanisms in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and Kenya.
Abi Dymond, Stephen Skinner, Brian Rappert
Open Society Foundations
2020 - 2020
2018 - 2018
The Fascist Roots of the Italian Penal Code: Fascist Law and Contemporary Commentary in Comparative Perspective
2011 - 2012
Prichard A, Kinna RE, Pinta S, Berry D (eds)(2017). Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Oakland, PM Press.
Rappert B, Balmer B (2016). Absence in Science, Security and Policy from Research Agendas to Global Strategy., Palgrave.
Dupre CCL (2015). The Age of Dignity: Human Rights and Constitutionalism in Europe. Oxford, Hart Publishing/Bloomsbury
Lamb R (2015). Thomas Paine and the Idea of Human Rights., Cambridge University Press.
Rappert B (2015). Sensing absence: How to see what isn't there in the study of science and security. DOI.
Skinner SJ (eds)(2015). Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity. Oxford, Hart
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
Barrett DA (In Press). The importance of regulators and inspectorates to the realisation of equality and human rights: Ensuring compliance and supporting mainstreaming. Public Law Full text.
Bicknell C (In Press). Same Tools Used Differently: the Preventive Potential of the European Arrest Warrant against Inhuman Treatment. European Human Rights Law Review Full text
Collins P (In Press). Covering up? Client embarrassment, neutral intolerance and wearing headscarves at work. Law Quarterly Review, 134, 31-31.
Collins P (In Press). Square Peg versus a Round Hole? the Necessity of a Bill of Rights for Workers. European Labour Law Journal Full text.
Gola S (In Press). Right to Health in GATS: can the Public Health Exception Pave the Way for Complementarity?. Pace International Law Review Full text.
Dupre C (2019). ‘Human Dignity is Inviolable. It must be respected and protected’. European Human Rights Law Review, 2, 101-109.
Dupre C (2019). ‘Making Dignity Work’. European Human Rights Law Review, 2, 115-118.
Dymond A (2019). Towards a socio-technical understanding of discretion: a case study of Taser and police use of force. Policing and Society: an international journal of research and policy Full text. DOI.
Hudson B (2019). Editorial: the Future of Internal Displacement and Sustainable Development. Journal of Internal Displacement, 9(1), 2-4.
Barrett D (2018). The effective design, implementation and enforcement of socio-economic equality duties: lessons from the pupil premium. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 40(1), 57-77. Full text. DOI.
Dymond A, Hickman M (2018). Body-worn cameras, use of force and police-civilian interactions. Policing (Oxford), 12(1), 1-5. DOI.
Hudson B (2018). Editorial: Special Issue on Law and Society CRN 11: Displaced Peoples. Journal of Internal Displacement, 8(1), 2-4.
Hudson B (2018). Migration in the Mediterranean: Exposing the Limits of Vulnerability at the European Court of Human Rights. Maritime Safety and Security Law Journal, 4, 26-46. Full text.
Bicknell CH (2017. A Hydra in Detention Settings: a context-based inquiry of Corruption’s many heads. Human Rights Law Review Abstract. Full text.
Hudson B (2017). Homosexuality and "Gay Propaganda". European Human Rights Law Review, 5, 505-508.
Hudson B (2017). Labour Exploitation and Human Trafficking. European Human Rights Law Review, 3, 326-329.
Hudson B (2017). Migrants on Lampedusa. European Human Rights Law Review, 2, 192-195.
Hudson B (2017). Murder of a Journalist. European Human Rights Law Review, 4, 406-409.
Hudson B (2017). Pension Entitlements of Gurkha Soldiers. European Human Rights Law Review, 1, 94-97.
Barrett DA (2016). Tackling Radicalisation: the Limitations of the Anti-Radicalisation Prevent Duty. European Human Rights Law Review 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.
Dupre C (2016). ‘Constituţie neconstituţională: un concept oportun’. Buletinul Curţii Constituţionale a Republicii Moldova, 1, 44-44.
Dupre C (2016). ‘Le respect de la dignité humaine: principe essentiel du droit du travail’. Droit du Travail, 670-677.
Gola S (2015). International Trade & Health Equity: Have Benefits of Medical Tourism ‘Trickled Down’ to India’s Poor?. Law Social Justice and Global Development Journal Full text.
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.
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.
Bicknell C (2020). Council of Europe and the European System. In Evans M, Modvig J (Eds.) Research Handbook on Torture, Edward Elgar Abstract. Full text.
Dupre C (2020). Conclusion: what has changed?. In (Ed) Icelandic constitutional reform: people, processes, politics, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 252-257
Dupre C (2020). Introduction: making sense of the Icelandic constitutional reform. In (Ed) Icelandic Constitutional Reform: People, Processes, Politics, Abingdon and New Yor: Routledge, 1-18
Dupre C, Arnason AT (2020). The reform of the 1944 Constitution and Icelandic constitutionalism. In (Ed) Icelandic Constitutional Reform:. People, Processes, Politics, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 26-53
Barrett DA (2017). The Future of the Right to Education in the UK: the Challenge of Anti-Radicalisation Measures. In Lang R, Smyth C-M (Eds.) The Future of Human Rights in the UK, Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Full text.
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
Dymond A (2017). Shocking Silences: the Management and Distribution of Silences Around Taser. In Mellor F, Webster S (Eds.) The Silences of Science: Gaps and Pauses in the Communication of Science, London: Routledge, 253-273.
Barrett DA (2016). The Importance of Equality and Human Rights Law in Addressing Socio-Economic Inequality. In Cuypers D, Vrielink J (Eds.) Equal is Not Enough, Intersentia
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.
Monitoring deaths associated with police use of force in Kenya and South Africa addressed in new report
Processes for monitoring deaths following police use of force need urgent improvement, warns a new report
Phillipa Collins presents her research on 'Homeworking, surveillance-by-software and the right to privacy'
Stephen Skinner presents his research on the philosophy of legal history and the rule of law in Europe
Dr Ben Hudson provides expertise to UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Internal Displacement
Stephen Skinner takes part in a Human Rights Lawyers’ Association discussion panel on the significance of McCann v UK (1995)
Dimitrios Kagiaros publishes an article on austerity measures in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights
Catherine Dupré guest-edits a special issue of the European Human Rights Law Review focusing on human dignity in the UK
Dimitrios Kagiaros contributes chapter to an edited volume on European Consensus in the European Court of Human Rights
Preventing Torture in Europe - The Council of Europe publishes a book co-authored by Christine Bicknell
Catherine Dupré awarded fellowship at Max Planck Institute for Public International and Comparative Law
Catherine Dupré co-convenes 'Human Dignity and Constitutional Crisis in Europe' conference in Florence
Stephen Skinner co-convenes a conference panel to explore how law structured and supported totalitarian regimes in the first half of the twentieth century
European Constitutional Democracy in Peril - People, Principles, Institutions: International Conference Budapest June 23-24 2016
Stephen Skinner Convenes a Workshop Examining Anti-Democratic Ideology and Criminal Law under Fascist Regimes
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: please see the Members tab above for details.
For non-media enquiries about the Human Rights and Democracy Forum and its activities, please contact us in one of the following ways:
The Human Rights and Democracy Forum
Law School - Amory Building
University of Exeter
Media enquiries are also welcome - please contact:
Telephone: +44 (0)1392 722307