UCL European Institute


The Rule of Law and Human Rights in our Time - The role of academia

26 June 2018, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm


Join the UCL Faculty of Laws for this timely discussion on the role of academia.

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UCL Faculty of Laws


UCL Faculty of Laws, Bentham House 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens London WC1H 0EG


A conversation with Kate O’Regan, Judith Resnik, and Philippe Sands. Chaired by Professor Piet Eeckhout (Dean, UCL Laws)

At the occasion of the re-opening of Bentham House, home to UCL's Faculty of Laws, the Dean, Prof Piet Eeckhout, invites you to a panel with three eminent scholars, all actively engaged in fashioning responses to the challenges posed today for the rule of law and for human rights protection. The rise of a nationalist populism in the West, the Brexit drama, the attempts to create illiberal democracies in Central and Eastern Europe, the further cementing of autocratic regimes in many parts of the world: they all go hand in hand with a deep challenge to the allocation of authority among branches of government, the rule of law, and to the protection of human rights, as we know them.

The manifestations are legion. Judges are called "enemies of the people" for upholding parliamentary sovereignty. Access to justice is ever more precarious. The U.S. President attacks judges ruling on cases to which he is a party and the U.S. Justice Department, and undermines the WTO's dispute settlement system. Executive branch actors are raising barriers to courts, including by cutting support and raising user fees, and justice is increasingly privatized and outsourced to private arbitration. Immigrants are being rejected and detained, adding to the large numbers of persons supervised or incarcerated through the criminal law. The binding nature of EU law is challenged in some member states. Constitutional courts are daunted in some instances and are faced with expanding protections for the unfettered authority of executive decison-making in others. Human rights protection is accused of having outgrown its basic function. Real equality seems ever harder to achieve. Multilateral rules are undermined in an effort to enhance bilateralism.

Our conversation aims to take stock, but also, and primarily, to see what can be done, and what role academia could play. What is the social function of legal academics and their institutions? What are the contributions that academia can make, and what are the methods and the forms of engagement that would be productive and appropriate? How can we best ensure that our research and teaching is relevant to the issues facing us, and to our students? With whom do we join and who is our audience? The conversation is aimed at a wide audience, to explore the import of legal studies beyond law as an academic discipline.


Kate O'Regan
Kate O’Regan is the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford, which will open in a new building at Mansfield College in September 2017.   

She served as one of the first judges of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from 1994 – 2009 and as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia from 2010 - 2016.  From 2008 – 2012, Kate served as the inaugural chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council, a body established to ensure independence, professionalism and accountability in the internal system of justice in the UN.

Kate is also President of the International Monetary Fund  Administrative Tribunal (since 2011), a member of the World Bank Sanctions Board (since 2012) and a member of the IAAF Ethics Board (since 2016).  

She is an honorary bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy and the recipient of six  honorary degrees. She has also served on the boards of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.

Judith Resnik
Judith Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School  and holds a term appointment as an Honorary Visiting Professor, UCL Faculty of Laws.  Her teaching and scholarship focuses on the impact of democratic, egalitarian principles on government services, from courts and prisons to post offices; on the relationships of states to citizens and non-citizens’ the forms and norms of federalism; and on equality and gender.  Professor Resnik’s books include Representing Justice:  Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms (2011, with Dennis E. Curtis);   Migrations and Mobilities:  Citizenship, Borders and Gender (2009 with Seyla Benhabib), and the 2014 Daedalus volume, The Invention of Courts  (co-edited with Linda Greenhouse).  Professor Resnik chairs Yale Law School’s Global Constitutional Law Seminar and edits its on-line book series.  Professor Resnik is also the founding director of Yale’s Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law, convening colloquia on access to criminal and civil justice systems.  The 2018 Liman monograph, Who Pays?  Fines, Fees, and the Cost of Courts, is an online e-book; earlier monographs include a series of reports on solitary confinement, co-authorized with the Association of State Correctional Administrators.  Professor Resnik has just been awarded a Carnegie Fellowship for two years to support her work to write a book, The Impermissible in Punishment, about the impact of rights on prisons.  She is a Managerial Trustee of the International Association of Women Judges.

Philippe Sands QC
Philippe Sands, QC is British and French lawyer at Matrix Chambers, and Professor of Laws and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at University College London. A specialist in international law, he appears as counsel and advocate before many international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of Sea, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. Sands serves on the panel of arbitrators at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

He is the author of sixteen books on international law, including Lawless World (2005) and Torture Team (2008). His book East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (2016) has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.

On 5 February 2018 Sands was appointed President of English PEN.