In this guest post, Law PhD Candidate, Vivek Bhatt, reflects on Bryan Stevenson’s visit to Edinburgh Law School to give the 2019 Ruth Adler Memorial Lecture, and to receive an honorary doctorate as part of the School’s summer graduation ceremony.
Bryan Stevenson (c) Nick Frontiero Photography 2019
On 8 July 2019, the Global Justice Academy hosted a lecture by Bryan Stevenson, recipient of an honorary doctorate at the Edinburgh Law School. Stevenson is founder of the Equal Justice Institute (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, and a clinical professor at the NYU School of Law. Stevenson works as a legal representative for disadvantaged and marginalised individuals, particularly young and poor people who are on death row or serving life sentences. He and his colleagues at the EJI have achieved the exoneration or release of over 125 individuals on death row. Stevenson is also the author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which was a New York Times bestseller and won the Carnegie Medal for the best nonfiction book of 2014.
Stevenson’s lecture circulated around a question that is as succinct as it is complex: how do we, as human rights advocates, address injustice? Firstly, he said, we must create justice by becoming proximate to those suffering inequality and injustice. Recounting his relationship with his grandmother, who wished that Stevenson would always be able to feel her embracing him, the skilful orator argued that we must know and seek to understand those who suffer injustice in order to affirm their humanity and dignity. Thus, human rights practice is not about the deployment of legal arguments from afar, but rather about stepping away from one’s legal expertise and embracing those who suffer violations of dignity.
In this post, Edinburgh Law School postgraduate student Phoebe Warren reflects on her experience of taking part in the peace process simulation ‘Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan’, organised as part of the 2019 Festival of Creative Learning.
It is frequently bemoaned that theory-heavy subject areas such as politics and law rarely provide opportunities from within the university setting to put education into practice. In an age where student loans continue to accrue for an entire generation while prospects of the job market dwindle, there is room for real concern regarding the employability of those interested in these disciplines. As a postgraduate student on the LL.M. Human Rights programme at Edinburgh Law School, the issue of lacking practical experience in my chosen field is one that worries me greatly. How can I one day participate in high-stakes politico-legal negotiations without being able to first make mistakes and grow from them in a low-risk environment? A useful solution has been the discovery of conflict resolution simulations.
By Jonathan Ambrogi, on behalf of the Latin American Forum, sponsored by the GJA-GJA Innovative Initiative Fund.
The Principal giving the opening speech
On 4-5 February 2019, the 8th edition of the Edinburgh Latin American Forum took place at the Informatics Forum and the Business School in Central Edinburgh. The event kicked-off at 10am with an opening speech of the University’s Principal, Professor Peter Mathieson, expressing his wish to keep strengthening the University’s ties with Latin America, which is one of the aims of the forum.The first session covered Water Security and featured an interesting speech by Dr. Castro arguing for a stronger role of the state in addressing hazards created by water scarcity. Representatives from Coventry University took a more scientific approach in explaining sustainable drainage in Brazilian slums. The Honduran Ambassador to the UK and Head of the Latin American Diplomatic Corp reassured the audience of the role his government was playing in reducing poverty and water scarcity for Honduras’ most vulnerable groups.
This is the second post in a blog series by Dr Kasey McCall-Smith examines some of the crucial legal issues and broader public questions raised regarding the US v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, et. al.military commission proceedings against the five men charged with various war crimes and terrorism in relation to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. The series is part of her project ‘Torture on Trial’ and funded by a grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
In the 9/11 war crimes trial taking place in Guantánamo, an array of motions have been filed regarding unlawful influence on the US v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, et. al.(9/11 case) proceedings. They began with complaints regarding statements by then-President Obama and continue to the present with complaints regarding President Trump, Secretary of Defense Mattis, former Attorneys General Sessions and Holder and CIA Director Gina Haspel. These motions, all based on section 949b of the 2009 Military Commissions Act, cover a range of statements and actions.
During the April-May 2018 proceedings, the influence of current US President Trump was raised as lawyers debated the influence of statements made by Trump as the commander in chief of the US military. The relevant statements focused on the president’s response to the Bowe Bergdahl v. UScourts martialand also the 31 October 2017 New York incident where an alleged terrorist drove a van onto a bike path killing eight people. Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and after his election were also potentially problematic for the 9/11case and attacked the integrity of the military justice system. His statements and twitter posts explicitly called into question the administration of justice and constitutional protections in the US. Defence counsel in the 9/11 war crimes tribunal argue that collectively these successive statements by US presidents and other government officials equate to unlawful influence (UI), a concept drawn from provisions in the US Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibiting Unlawful Command Influence (UCI). UI is a concept set out in 10 USC §837 and article 37 of the UCMJ and is deemed the ‘mortal enemy’ of military justice and also violates due process as guaranteed by the US Constitution and the right to a fair trial under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The concept applies here as the governing law of the trial is the Military Commissions Act 2009 (MCA 2009) – combining rules of military, domestic and international law – and the president is the constitutional Commander-in-Chief of the US military.
This blog series by Dr Kasey McCall-Smith examines some of the crucial legal issues and broader public questions raised regarding the US v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, et. al.military commission proceedings against the five men charged with various war crimes and terrorism in relation to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. The military commissions are in the sixth year of the pretrial phase and taking place at a purpose-built Expeditionary Legal Complex in Camp Justiceon Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The series is part of her project ‘Torture on Trial’ and funded by a grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Taking a Step Back – A Primer on the International Prohibition against Torture
Many members of the public not trained in international law fail to understand why the international prohibition against torture matters or should matter in the US legal system. This post seeks to explain how international law on the prohibition against torture relates to US law and the impact of the prohibition on the military commission proceedings against the five men charged with conspiracy and war crimes in relation to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US in US v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, et. al.(9/11 case).
Between 13-15 October 2018, the Global Justice Academy co-hosted a weekend of events joining Relief & Reconciliation for Syria with peacebuilding communities in Scotland. This post from Dr George R. Wilkes, reflects on the series of events that took place.
The prospect of an inclusive peacebuilding process in Syria looks bleak now. From the perspective of millions of Syrians who have fled regime controlled areas, atrocity, terror and armed extortion all confront attempts to straddle divisions to talk about peace. Refugees face daily existential pressures in the face of which peace talks appear distant and untimely. Critics of regime ‘reconciliations’ see the concept reduced to the mechanics of overpowering the regime’s outlaws. In regime territory, a more inclusive embrace of populations controlled by Islamist armed groups is undercut by the sense that violence and terror were the inevitable result of a religious fundamentalism shared widely within those populations, and by the international supporters of those forces.
Guncha Sharma is a candidate for the Global Justice Academy’s LLM in Human Rights, and a GJA Student Ambassador for 2018-19. From India, she is also one of three recipientsof the GJA’s LLM Human Rights scholarship awards for this year, and has a keen interest in gender issues, the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, and public health. In this post, Guncha reflects on the recent Ruth Adler Memorial Lecture, which was delivered by Philippe Sands QC, with a response from Scotland’s Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.
This guest post is by Pedro Cisterna Gaete, who is reading for an LLM in Global Environment and Climate Change Law at Edinburgh Law School. Pedro is a qualified lawyer from Chile, and former Deputy National Social Director of TECHO, Chile. In this post, he explores the ideas around the Right to the City, and current challenges facing the world’s urban spaces and their populations.
Almost two years ago, the last UN Conference on Human Settlements was celebrated in Quito, Ecuador. At this international meeting, representatives of the majority of governments and also several non-governmental organisations discussed what the essential international urban challenges for the next 20 years would be, and raised a vigorous agenda relating to our cities. This post addresses three main aspects of this meeting:
The Global Justice Academy (GJA) and Edinburgh Law School welcomed over 200 human rights academics and practitioners to the University of Edinburgh for the 2018 Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) Annual Conference on the 6-8 September 2018. The GJA holds the current Secretariat of AHRI in conjunction with the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law (CSHRL) at the University of Strathclyde. In this post, AHRI Chair and GJA Management Group member, Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, reflects on the three days.
This post is by Sarah-Jane Cooper Knock, and first appeared on the Security at the Margins (SeaM) blog. SJ is a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Edinburgh. Her current research focuses on magistrates courts in South Africa and asks what role they play in the negotiation of everyday security and justice. In this post, SJ draws on her recent work on the everyday lives of informal settlement residents in South Africa. She is currently based in Durban, South Africa.
As I walked into Solomon Mahlangu settlement, Sne was driving posts back into the ground to rebuild the walls that the Land Invasion Unit had torn down. Still visible on one of the remaining boards was a sprayed number, the ubiquitous sign across eThekwini that the municipality had registered the dwelling, ahead of upgrading. Sne’s home bore testament to contradictions of the South African state, which carries with it the promise of provision and violence.