UCL Faculty of Laws


In Defence of Traitors

23 April 2019, 12:00 pm–2:00 pm


This event is part of the Legal Philosophy Forum series.

Event Information

Open to



UCL Laws


Hong Kong Room
Bentham House
UCL Laws
United Kingdom


Professor Cécile Fabre  (All Souls College, Oxford)


Treason is one of the most serious legal offences that there are, in most if not all jurisdiction. Laws against treason are not conjured up out of thin air: they are rooted in  deep seated moral revulsion about acts which, in the political realm, are paradigmatic examples of breaches of loyalty. In this paper, however, I seek to rehabilitate treason. I begin by providing a conceptual account of treason. I then argue that agents are sometimes morally permitted, indeed obliged, to pass on, in secret, secret information to foreign actors, be they enemies or allies. In the final part of the paper, I argue that they are sometimes permitted, indeed obliged, to disclose such information to the world at large – as, for example, Edward Snowden did - rather than a select few.

About the speaker:

Cécile Fabre is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. She is the author of six books, co-editor of the edited volume The Morality of Defensive War, and has authored various peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Her recent research focusses on the ethics of war and peace, and addresses questions such as the ethics of ending wars, what constitutes a just peace settlement, whether we are morally obliged to punish war criminals, and whether and how we should commemorate wars. She has also published on the ethics of economic statecraft and the ethics of espionage. 

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