IHR News

UCL Laws PhD Student Awarded Modern Law Review Scholarship for Project on Human Trafficking

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Third-year PhD student Inga Thiemann has been awarded a Modern Law Review Scholarship for her research exploring ‘A victim-based approach to Human Trafficking - hindered by patriarchal stereotypes'. She is one of two UCL Laws PhD students in receipt of the prestigious scholarship which is awarded annually to doctoral research students whose research is expected to make a substantial contribution to their field.

UCL Graduate Law Society Submission to Home Affairs Committee Inquiry on FGM

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This year the UCL Graduate Law Society launched a project to give students an opportunity to make submissions to parliamentary inquiries under guidance from Faculty Advisor Colm O'Cinneide. In particular, the project seeks to contribute a unique perspective to UK law reform debates from a comparative point of view, exploiting the diversity of nationalities in the LLM cohort.

Watch Session Videos from the Workshop on Martha Nussbaum's Political Emotions

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On Saturday 31 May 2014 the UCL Institute for Human Rights had the honour of hosting Professor Martha Nussbaum for a workshop on her laterst book, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (Harvard University Press, 2013). The workshop began with a brief description by Professor Nussbaum of the aims of Political Emotions and was followed by four half-hour presentations on some of the book's key themes. You can watch the day's events in full below.

Watch President Dean Spielmann's Lecture 'Wither the margin of appreciation?'

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On Thursday 20 March 2014 President Dean Spielmann of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered the lecture 'Whither the margin of appreciation' at the UCL Faculty of Laws, covering the history of the doctrine and addressing its future and implications in the case law in the ECtHR.

Illegality, Human Rights and Employment: A Watershed Moment for the United Kingdom Supreme Court?

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Virginia Mantouvalou, Co-Director of IHR, and Alan Bogg, Professor of Labour Law at Oxford University, have written a piece  for the UK Constitutional Law Association (UKCLA) on the Court of Appeal's application of the doctrine of illegality in the case Allen v. Hounga which could carry serious implications for the human rights of undocumented migrant workers.

Dr Virginia Mantouvalou gives evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill

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Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, UCL Institute for Human Rights

In January 2014 Dr Virginia Mantouvalou gave evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill. She argued that the Bill provides some basic safeguards against the worst forms of labour exploitation. However, it does not address adequately the great vulnerability of domestic workers, which stems from their exclusion from much labour protective legislation. She also argued that the Overseas Domestic Worker visa regime that is in force since 2012 may lead to situations of ‘modern slavery’ in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and should therefore be revised.

President Dean Spielmann appointed Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Laws

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President Dean Spielmann

President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Judge Dean Spielmann has been appointed Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Laws for five years. The appointment takes effect in May.

Philosophy Bites Podcast with Prof John Tasioulas

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Professor John Tasioulas recently gave an interview on human rights to the podcast series Philosophy Bites. The interview covers topics such as the nature of human rights, how we can identify them, their relationship to legal rights, and the role of philosophy in understanding them.

Landmark Judgement on HIV/AIDS Discrimination in the Workplace

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Landmark Judgement on HIV/AIDS Discrimination in the Workplace

In the first ever case relating to HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace, I.B. v. Greece, the European Court of Human Rights held that the dismissal of an HIV-positive worker in response to workforce pressure violated human rights. The applicant was represented by the Co-Directors of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, Dr George Letsas and Dr Virginia Mantouvalou.

Dr Virginia Mantouvalou speaks at House of Commons on Overseas Domestic Workers

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Virginia Mantouvalou

UCL Institute for Human Rights Co-Director, Dr Virginia Mantouvalou spoke at a House of Commons Panel Discussion on the new visa for overseas domestic workers, arguing that the visa regime, which ties overseas domestic workers to a particular employer, may be in breach of article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights that prohibits slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour.

Human Rights Institute Welcomes Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor Roberto Gargarella

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Professor Roberto Gargarella (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina).

The announcement that Professor Roberto Gargarella will be visiting the UCL Institute of the Americas on a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorship has been welcomed by Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, Co–Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights:

"Professor Gargarella has made an outstanding contribution in the area of constitutional theory, social rights and democratic theory, and we will be delighted to also host him at the UCL Law Faculty and the UCL Human Rights Institute. We are also extremely pleased that he will give a Current Legal Problems lecture in the Faculty of Laws in 2014." Dr Mantouvalou is the Joint Editor of Current Legal Problems together with Dr Jeff King and Professor Charles Mitchell.  

Justice for Domestic Workers 4th year Anniversary, Panel Discussion with IHR's Dr Virginia Mantouvalou

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Domestic workers banner

On Sunday 17 March, the organization Justice for Domestic Workers celebrated its 4th year anniversary and International Women’s Day. The events included a documentary, presentations by migrant domestic workers, and a panel discussion with Dr Virginia Mantouvalou (UCL, Laws), Jamilla Duncan-Bosu (Islington Law Centre) and Catherine Kenny (Kalayaan). It was followed by writing a letter to MPs, as part of a campaign that will be launched to change the regime of the Overseas Domestic Workers’ Visa.

UK falls short – leaving domestic workers at risk of ‘modern slavery’

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Virginia Mantouvalou


Legislative loopholes mean many domestic workers are employed in conditions that meet the emerging definition of ‘modern slavery’, according to Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, UCL Law lecturer and Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights.

Domestic workers, defined as those employed by private households for tasks such as cleaning and child-care, are given inadequate legal protection regarding the minimum wage, health and safety at work and maximum hours worked.

Recent changes to immigration laws have further compounded these issues. Migrant workers who accompany their employers need a special visa that ties them to the employer. They can no longer change employers, regardless of their treatment, without risking deportation – a move Dr Mantouvalou described as “a dispiriting step in the wrong direction”.

These factors, in conjunction with economic changes and the informality of the employment relation in question, have contributed to these workers' precariousness. As a result, high numbers of domestic workers are suffering abuse at the hands of their employer.

The claim is borne out by the alarming results of recent reports of international and national bodies such as the International Labour Organisation, the European Union, Human Rights Watch and Anti-Slavery International. Findings from the survey of the London-based NGO Kalayaan, for instance, revealed that from those that registered with it in 2010, 60 per cent were not allowed out unaccompanied, 65 per cent had their passport withheld,54 per cent suffered psychological abuse, 18 per cent suffered physical abuse or assault and 3 per cent were sexually abused.

Dr Mantouvalou said: “ Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits slavery and servitude. The European Court of Human Rights has shown that it is willing to find a breach of the provision in cases of severe denials of freedom, obligation to provide services and little or no ability to change the situation.

“In the case of domestic workers, we are in the process of acknowledging that in a disturbing number of cases, employment conditions meet the definition of modern slavery. Workers are excluded from certain legal rights, and remain vulnerable to abuse, because they have very few alternatives other than severe poverty or homelessness. The statistics show that workers are being routinely abused … put simply, their life can become an object of their employer’s control.

“There are positive signs of political good-will on this subject, not least from US President Obama's talk in September 2012. However, the sad fact remains that the UK is falling behind international standards. It needs only to look to certain other European countries to find solutions to the many obstacles they claim are preventing them doing more to protect workers who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society.”

Listen to this Lecture in full in our Listen/Watch Again section

Further information:

UK human rights reform may prove to be a ‘difficult and thankless’ task

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Colm O'Cinneide

The current state of human rights law in the UK is compatible with constitutional principles, the democratic process and the rights of the individual. Attempts to recalibrate it may prove to be a difficult and thankless task, according to a new report authored by Colm O’Cinneide, IHR Steering Group member, for the British Academy Policy Centre.

The report, Human Rights and the UK Constitution, investigates some of the key issues surrounding UK human rights law, including the controversial relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and UK courts. Set against a backdrop of continuing public debate, which reached fever pitch last year following the ECHR ruling on UK prisoner voting, the findings represent a timely and incisive contribution to the ongoing dialogue.

Completion of the report was overseen by a steering group of leading scholars of constitutional law - Professors Vernon Bogdanor, John Eekelaar, David Feldman, Sandra Fredman, Conor Gearty (all Fellows of the British Academy) and Francesca Klug (LSE). The report has also been rigorously peer reviewed by a number of prominent legal experts, including academics, barristers and former judges.

Further reading: 

Major breakthrough as HIV/AIDS case is put before European Court of Human Rights

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Puzzle Pieces Spelling HIV/AIDS

The first ever case relating to HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace was declared admissible and is to be heard before the European Court of Human Rights following work by Dr George Letsas and Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, Co-Directors of the UCL Institute for Human Rights.

The case concerns applicant I.B. – a HIV-positive individual, who was dismissed from his job when colleagues found out that he had HIV, and refused to work with him.

I.B. challenged the dismissal as unlawful. However, the Greek Court of Cassation upheld the dismissal on the ground that the employer was not motivated by hostility towards his HIV status, but by the desire to ensure the peaceful running of her business.

Speaking about the case, on which the court is expected to rule in 2013, the Co-Directors said:
"We are very pleased that the Court has declared the case admissible, not least because some 90% of the applications submitted are declared inadmissible. Our claim is that the applicant suffered discrimination on the basis of his HIV-status. This remains the case even though his employer did not have discriminatory motives, and only cared about business efficiency. There is widespread discrimination and social exclusion in Europe towards persons with HIV/AIDS. States have positive obligations to take action."

IHR's Judicial Visitor Dean Spielmann elected President of the European Court of Human Rights

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Judge Dean Spielmann

Judge Spielmann, Judicial Visitor at the UCL Faculty of Laws and the UCL Institute for Human Rights, was elected President of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.  He has been a judge at the Court since 2004, Section President since 2011 and was elected Vice-President in July 2012. He succeeds Sir Nicholas Bratza whose mandate will come to an end in October 2012.

“Judge Spielmann is an outstanding judge, whose judicial and extra-judicial writings have been pivotal to the continuous development of the case law of the Court. His election to President is fantastic news for human rights advocates in Europe. It is also great news for our Faculty with which he has strong links”, said the Co-Directors of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, George Letsas and Virginia Mantouvalou.

Dean Spielmann has written the preface of George Letsas’s book, A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights (2009, Oxford University Press). He has also judged the annual UCL Human Rights Moot Competition in Strasbourg since 2008.  In 2012, Judge Spielmann co-edited the book The European Convention on Human Rights: A Living and Dynamic Instrument, with contributions by Virginia Mantouvalou and George Letsas. The book was launched at UCL in February 2011.

Fellow and member of the steering group of the Institute for Human Rights, Dr Ronan McCrea, co-authors Report on Controversial Judicial Reform in Hungary

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Dr Ronan McCrea

The Hungarian government should respect the ruling of the Constitutional Court and repeal controversial new legislation lowering the mandatory age of retirement for judges to 62, according to a new report co-authored by Dr Ronan McCrea, fellow and member of the Steering Group of the Institute for Human Rights.

The report, Courting Controversy: the Impact of the Recent Reforms on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law in Hungary, undertaken by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), outlines a number of recommendations in the wake of controversial legislative reforms, including a new Constitution, which came into force at the beginning of 2012.

Containing the findings of the IBAHRI fact-finding delegation which visited Hungary in March of this year, the report acknowledges that although the rationale behind the attempts to make the judicial system faster and more deficient are to be welcomed, several key legislative aspects pose a severe threat to judicial independence.

Further information: 

George Letsas, Co-Director of the Institute, Returns from Sabbatical Year

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Dr George Letsas

Dr Letsas had a very productive academic year in the USA. During his sabbatical, he visited New York University (NYU) as a Senior Global Emile Noel Fellow. During this time he gave talks at NYU, Georgetown University, Duke University, University of Oslo, Yale University and the University of Ghent, and completed a number of research papers. At NYU, Dr Letsas worked on a paper on ‘Proportionality and Balancing’, which he presented to the NYU Faculty in April 2012. He also spoke at the NYU Colloquium on Global and Comparative Public Law on ‘Harmonic Law: The Case Against Pluralism’. At Georgetown, he presented a paper (with Prince Saprai) on ‘Private Law and Moral Myopia’ (September 2011). At Duke University, Dr Letsas spoke at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, on ‘Dialogue, Deference and the Legitimacy of International Courts’ (November 2011). At the University of Oslo, he spoke on evolutive interpretation of human rights treaties (November 2011).  At the University of Ghent, he spoke at a two-day conference on ‘Scope, Rights and Balancing’ (March 2012). At Yale University, Dr Letsas was invited to present a paper at the Annual meeting of the Analytic Legal Philosophy Committee (ALPC), on ‘The DNA of Conventions’ (April 2012).

Upon returning to the UCL Institute for Human Rights, Dr Letsas joins Dr Mantouvalou and Dr Meckled-Garcia on the directorship of the Institute, for an exciting new year of activities.

Co-Director Appointed Senior Consultant and Collaborator on Exciting Social Rights Projects

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Virginia Mantouvalou

Dr Virginia Mantouvalou, Co-Director of the Institute for Human Rights, has been appointed consultant in two exciting social rights projects. Dr Mantouvalou is senior advisor of the Equal Rights Trust on a project on how Anti-Discrimination and Equality Law is used to promote social rights in various jurisdictions. The findings of the project will be presented at a conference at UCL in June 2013.

She is also appointed collaborator of FLOOR (the Financial Assistance, Land Policy and Global Social Rights), an interdisciplinary project of the University of Bielefeld and the University of Dortmund in Germany. The project examines the links between global social citizenship and human rights.

Fellow and member of the steering group of the Institute for Human Rights, Colm O'Cinneide, is awarded Nuffield Foundation grant.

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Colm O'Cinneide

Colm O’Cinneide, Reader in Law at the UCL Faculty of Laws, has been awarded £86,163 from the Nuffield Foundation to study this process of integrating equality and human rights institutions across the EU. This project will involve a comparative study of the regulatory, legal and political issues involved in the merger of these institutions into single integrated bodies, and will explore what factors exert a positive or negative influence on the fuctioning of such integrated bodies.

IHR's Judicial Visitor Dean Spielmann elected Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights

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Judge Dean Spielmann

The European Court of Human Rights has elected a new Vice-President – Dean
Spielmann (Luxembourg). Dean Spielmann is a Judicial Visitor for the Institute for Human Rights and has participated in a number of events with the Institute.

The 4th volume of the UCL Human Rights Review has been published and is available online and in print

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UCL Human Rights Review

UCL Human Rights Review publishes international legal and political scholarship on issues relating to human rights.  The 4th Volume is an exciting mix of articles on human rights issues, ranging from new analysis cases and legal history, to jurisprudence and legal theory. 

UCL students excel in European Court  of Human Rights moot

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Mooting students with ECHR judges

It was a long, but rewarding journey, for the four finalists from UCL. After months of rigorous preparation, on the 13 April 2012, before three distinguished judges from the European Court of Human Rights, where they would take part in the final round of the 2012 UCL European Court of Human Rights Moot.

Held in the Grand Chamber of the Court in Strasbourg, UCL’s four finest human rights oralists were given the privilege to plead before some of the most prestigious legal personalities from the continent, in the field of Human Rights Law. Presiding over the finals were, their Excellencies, Section President Dean Spielmann (Luxembourg), Judge Ledi Bianku (Albania) and Judge Julia Laffranque (Estonia).

Having to argue on the hypothetical case of the “Princess Royal”, on facts similar to those of von Hannover (No. 1), the finalists shaped their argument around two main grounds of appeal. The first involved a decision by the United Kingdom that pictures of the Princess kissing her partner were not within the scope of Art. 8 (1). The second involved Articles 8 and 10 ECHR, and the question whether the subsequent publication should have been restricted. All present to watch the moot agreed that it was as enlightening as it was entertaining. It was after all a rare chance for mere students to, not only practice their advocacy skills, but also test out their theoretical argument before members of the actual Court.

Mr. Justin Krahé was awarded Best Oralist, Mr. Daniel Viñas-Boreland Second Best Oralist, and LLM Students Mr. Daragh Gleeson and Mr. Gabriele Ruberto came in Third and Fourth respectively. All four speakers were commended by the judges for their insightful arguments; comprehensive understanding of the law; and their sense of collectedness as they calmly handled the intense scrutiny of the judges. In fact, so impressed were the judges by the caliber of the finalists, they decided to probe the four UCL students for their opinions on the very current and still controversial Brighton Declaration, right after the moot; like an impromptu ‘Final Question Component’ of the competition, which all the speakers rose to, without doubt or hesitation.    

The 2012 UCL European Court of Human Rights Moot was, for the fourth consecutive year, successfully organized by the UCL Students’ Human Rights Programme (UCLSHRP) in collaboration with the UCL Institute for Human Rights. The UCLSHRP has always provided various opportunities to UCL students to pursue their passion in human rights through a wide variety of activities and programmes. The European Court of Human Rights Moot, in particular, is unique as it not only promotes awareness of the ECHR, but has now turned into an established path of communication between academia and the highest level of judiciary.

Fellow and member of the steering group of the Institute for Human Rights, Dr. Sarah Snyder, is reviewed by former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Richard Schifter

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Dr Sarah Snyder

International Affairs is a hugely important journal in the fields of International Politics and International Relations. So their choice to review Dr. Snyder's book, Human Rights and Activism at the End of the Cold War, Cambridge University Press (2011), is testimony enough to the quality of her work as a historian. But not only that, the reviewer of the book is none other than Richard Schifter, who worked in the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, first under the Reagan administration from 1985-1989, continuing in that capacity post Reagan until 1992. That a key player in some of the historical events described and analysed in Snyder's book should take the time to read and review it speaks volumes as to the work's significance.

UCL Institute for Human Rights Submission for Government Consultation on a British Bill of Rights

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Ministry of Justice

On 11th November 2011, the UCL Institute for Human Rights provided a submission to the Government's Commission on a Bill of Rights for consultation. Co-Directors Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia (UCL Department of Political Science) and Dr Virginia Mantouvalou (UCL Laws) along with other members of UCL Laws Dr Jeff King, Dr Ronan McCrea and Mr Colm O'Cinneide outline suggested recommendations for Commission.

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