This was the question Professor David Miller from Oxford University addressed on 4 February 2016 in a well-attended lecture hosted by Edinburgh University’s Global Justice Academy and Just World Institute.
Professor Miller began his talk by noting the 2014 UK government decision not to support Triton, a search-and-rescue operation proposed by the EU that could have potentially saved the lives of sea-crossing migrants, or “boat people”. The main reasoning behind this decision was the claim that search-and-rescue encourages people to attempt dangerous sea crossings in the greater expectation of being rescued, and therefore, in the long term, will bring about more deaths. This seems to be a consequentialist argument that considers effects of alternative ways of using resources in order to minimise the loss of lives overall. Meanwhile, critics argue that European states have stringent obligations to protect rights of migrants. But is it true that the critics’ argument occupies the moral high ground while the UK government’s argument is morally defective? The answer Professor Miller gave us was: ‘Not necessarily’.
This guest post is by Sean Molloy,a Principal’s Career Development Scholar in Law at the University of Edinburgh. Sean completed his LLB Law at Queen’s University Belfast, continuing to read for an LLM in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice at the Transitional Justice Institute. Following a period working as a research assistant for a human rights solicitor, Sean began his PhD research at Edinburgh in September 2013. He edits the monthly Global Justice Academy Newsletter, and is a founding member of the Global Justice Society.
Freedom of Conscience in Northern Ireland
In December 2014 DUP MLA Paul Girvan introduced a Freedom of Conscience Bill aimed at allowing businesses to refuse services to a customer if they feel it is against their religious convictions. The Bill arose following the announcement of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission that they would be issuing legal proceedings against Ashers Baking Company for their refusal to accept an order for a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.
In 2014-15, the Global Justice Academy launched its Urban Justice Lab. Based on the MIT-pioneered model to address global challenges, the Urban Justice Lab creates space for discussions and debates as well as collaborations in research, teaching, and outreach for university academics that study or operate on the city.
Dr Tahl Kaminer, GJA Co-Director (Urban Justice Lab), is a Lecturer in Architectural Design and Theory at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA). One track of Tahl’s research studies the means of social amelioration via urban transformation. In 2014, students from the MSc programme in Urban Strategies and Design produced the Craigmillar Project Report – an extensive analysis of the Edinburgh neighbourhood, of the regeneration project, and of current conditions.
L-R: ‘Charlie’s Bus’ Craigmillar Festival playscheme Bus, historical photograph by Andrew Crummy; Craigmillar flats, photograph by David Flutcher; the White House in Craigmillar, photograph by John Lord.
The University of Edinburgh’s Annual Gifford Lecture Series has now begun. Professor Jeremy Waldron is University Professor at the New York University Law School. Professor Waldron’s work in jurisprudence and political theory is well known, as are his articles on constitutionalism, democracy, homelessness, judicial review, minority cultural rights, property, the rule of law, hate speech, human dignity, and torture. This post appeared originally on the Gifford Lecture Blog.
In a stimulating opening Gifford Lecture tonight, Professor Jeremy Waldron emphasised the urgency of not only eradicating ‘surface inequality’ in public legal relations, but in carrying out a theological and philosophical examination of what may underpin human equality in a world where ‘grotesque differences in economic lives’ create the risk of ‘leech and leak’ to undermine our commitment to a common humanity. We re-assure ourselves that the ‘surface inequality’ between rich and poor is compatible with an inviolate ‘basic human equality’ which underlies our mutual existence. But is that weakening in our society, such that the view may emerge that ‘the poor are not fully human’ and ‘only the prosperous live fully human lives’? Is there a danger now that a ‘conditional’ legal status due to the vicissitudes of life, such as that of an African-American in jail, becomes re-inforced as a ‘sortal’ status of permanent identity to delineate rights and all human potential, in like kind to the evils of slavery or apartheid in the past?
Dr Michelle Brock is an Assistant Professor of History at Washington and Lee University, specialising in British History. In this guest post, Mikki examines the culture of ‘victim blaming’ that has been reinvigorated in the United States over the past six months, from the perspective of an early-modernist who researches belief and the Devil.
From the decisions not to indict the officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner to the disturbing Rolling Stone article on a brutal gang rape at UVA, this country has produced a harrowing month of news. The reaction of much of the American public to these stories has been as distressing as their content. Many have turned not to self-searching or activism, but to stereotype and judgement. They rush to point out that Brown and Garner had, after all, committed crimes, drawing on centuries-old racial tropes to point out their size or comment that they were acting like “thugs” with “bad attitudes.” When they hear about the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses across the country, they question the victim’s dress, behaviour, and alcohol consumption, wondering if not explicitly saying that she might have been “asking for it.” In short, we are a country that blames the victims.
This post by Dr Harriet Cornell, Development Officer for the Global Justice Academy, examines the relationship between mental illness and justice in light of the planned execution of Scott Panetti in Texas on Wednesday, 3 December 2014.
A Public Policy Polling national survey was published yesterday, 1 December 2014, showing that Americans oppose the death penalty for mentally ill defendants by a 2-1 margin. The Death Penalty Information Center reported that ‘opposition to the execution of people with mental illness was strong across lines of race, gender, geographic region, political affiliation, and education. Democrats (62%), Republicans (59%) and Independents (51%) all opposed the practice’. Tomorrow, 3 December 2014, the state of Texas plans to execute Scott Louis Panetti for the 1992 murders of his parents-in-law, Joe and Amanda Alvarado. With a long, documented history of severe mental illness, Scott Panetti’s case has garnered international news coverage and a notable spectrum of support for clemency.
In this second guest post, Janice Brewer investigates the tomato industry in the US and what common practice means for agricultural workers and social justice.
As summer rolls through, tomatoes flourish in all sorts of varieties, colors, sizes, and tastes. As I sink my teeth into an heirloom German tomato, grown 100% organically by Green Edge Gardens in Athens, Ohio, I am blown away by the flavour. I grew up hating tomatoes! So why was this tomato so special?
Tomatoes are thought to have originated in the Northern Andes Mountains where the weather tends to be warm and wet creating an optimal growing climate for tomatoes. When the Spanish invaded these areas they became intrigued by tomato and brought it back to Europe. Being apart of the Nightshade family – a wide group of flowering plants generally containing alkaloids – the tomato was originally thought of as poisonous and unfit for consumption but it later developed the name of the “love apple” and “golden apple” given by the French and Italians. In addition to it’s growing popularity in Europe, then North America, the tomato was found to have countless health benefits.
Dr Laura Jeffery is a Lecturer and ESRC Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in forced displacement, migration, the environment, and human rights. Her academic profile can be viewed here.
In this guest blog, Laura considers how WikiLeaks evidence has been used in courts and whether documents obtained by WikiLeaks are admissable as legal evidence.
UK government policy is to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) the authenticity of unauthorised leaked documents. The rationale for NCND is twofold: firstly, authenticating a leaked document could compound any damage already caused by the leak and secondly it rewards those involved in leaking documents. NCND is applied as a blanket policy because selective commentary would give rise to the supposition that leaked documents whose authenticity was not explicitly denied are implicitly authenticated.
Harriet Cornell is the Development Officer for the Global Justice Academy. In this guest post, she reports on the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, and the state of the death penalty in the United States.
In 2005, this memo was posted next to the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. Credit: AP File Photo
The state of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett at 6pm local time on Tuesday 29 April 2014. Or, according to widespread news reports and a statement from Robert Patton (Director of Oklahoma Department of Corrections), the state attempted to execute Lockett but failed, and he died 43 minutes later from a massive heart attack. Charles Warner was due to follow Lockett to the gurney at 8pm, but has been granted a 14-day stay by Governor Mary Fallin, pending an investigation into what happened in that execution chamber. Continue reading →
Observations by Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Global Justice Academy. She is course organiser for the new LLM in Human Rights degree, available from September 2013 at Edinburgh.
At the start of this week, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing has released her report into the country visit she made to the UK which investigated the right to housing across the UK, and in particular considered it against the background of current welfare reform including on the bedroom tax.
The report can be accessed in English here. Two matters are interesting to highlight.