JUSTICE Student Human Rights Network – Annual Conference 2014

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Date / time
Date(s) - 22/03/2014
12:00 am

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Home and Away: Protecting human rights through domestic and international law

Saturday 22 March 2014, 9.30-5pm
  • £10 standard
  • £5 for JUSTICE members
  • £30 combined conference / JUSTICE membership


Keynote speakers:

  • Ben Emmerson QC, UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights
  • Alison Macdonald, Matrix Chambers


This one-day conference will give law students, trainee solicitors and pupil barristers a unique opportunity to explore the role of global human rights standards – from Europe and beyond – in the formation of domestic law, policy and practice.

The Human Rights Act (HRA) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are the primary focus in the UK –  but our courts, Parliament and Government remain subject to a far wider framework of international human rights law.

The conference will cover both theory and practice. It does not require any detailed knowledge of international human rights law or the Human Rights Act though a familiarity with the broad outline of our domestic legislation and an interest in the international framework will be helpful. Together, we’ll grapple with the key issues in the UK human rights debate through a practical lens.

As a delegate, you will:

  • discuss topical, cutting edge human rights issues
  • gain a practical understanding of the practical role of rights in legal practice within the UK
  • gain a unique insight into the workings of one of the country’s leading human rights organisations


9.15-9.45am      Registration

9.45-10.00am    Welcome – Andrea Coomber, Director, JUSTICE

10.00-11.00am  Morning Keynote: International law in domestic practice: crucial, cunning or crazy? – Alison Macdonald, Matrix Chambers

Given the criticism of the ECHR as a foundation for our domestic human rights framework, are our unincorporated international law obligations really important to domestic practice? A significant number of recent, high-profile, UK Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions, and determinations of the European Court of Human Rights, have hinged on an analysis and understanding of public international law, including the international human rights framework.

Alison Macdonald has extensive experience of international and domestic law – and she shares her experience and understanding with you.

Followed by questions & answers

11.00-11.15am   Coffee break

11.15-12.30pm   Workshops (Choose one of the following three sessions)

1   Access to justice and legal aid in civil claims – Angela Patrick, Director of Human Rights Policy, JUSTICE

The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and the Government’s proposals in Transforming Legal Aid have significantly cut the availability of legal aid for advice and representation in civil cases – including family, housing and judicial review cases which may impact on fundamental rights. In this session we consider how these changes impact on the ability of people without independent means to access justice, and whether alternatives to litigation are viable.

2   Access to justice and legal aid in criminal cases – Jodie Blackstock, Director of Criminal Justice and EU Policy, JUSTICE

The right to a fair hearing for those accused of crime is one of the most closely guarded of all fundamental rights in the UK. It is grounded in the common law and supplemented by guarantees in the ECHR and other international human rights instruments. But, while the Government’s proposal to cut the budget for criminal legal aid has dominated legal discourse, it has been framed by some as a simple pay dispute. We explore the human rights implications of recent changes to the criminal justice system, focusing on the proposed cuts to legal aid.

3   Human rights in practice – Zahra Al-Rikabi, Brick Court Chambers and Deba Das, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

This workshop presents a chance to ask two leading young practitioners: ‘Does human rights law matter?’

When you’re struggling to reach your first rung on the career ladder, will your in-depth knowledge of international standards really help? What about those star internships? If you’re drafting your first instructions to counsel or your early skeleton arguments, will it matter how much you know about the ECHR?

Get your own questions ready.

12.30-1.30pm   Lunch

1.30-2.45pm     Workshops (repeat of the 11.15am sessions)

2.45-3.00pm     Tea

3.00-4.00pm     The future of JUSTICE – Andrea Coomber, Director, JUSTICE

2014 sees JUSTICE launch a strategy for the next three years. This new strategy comes at a crucial time for the justice system, the protection of individual rights in UK law and the UK’s role as an international human rights leader. With austerity and cumulative cuts, new pressures face our courts and individual litigants daily. Political challenges to the HRA and the ECHR threaten our ability to vindicate our rights at home and undermine the credibility of the UK’s commitment to human rights on the international stage. As the lawyers of the future, we want you to be involved in shaping JUSTICE’s contribution to this crucial debate.

4.00-5.00pm     Afternoon keynote – Ben Emmerson QC, UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights

Ben has been instructed in many of the leading cases on the application of the HRA, the ECHR and international human rights law in the UK. Appointed UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights in 2011, he focuses on one of the most serious global challenges for international human rights law, and works to identify important lessons and practical guidance for the future.

Followed by questions & answers

5.00pm     Close


Ben Emmerson QC, Matrix Chambers and UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights

Ben is one of the UK’s leading human rights practitioners. He was appointed UN Special Rapporteur in 2011, where he brings his years of experience as a practitioner to one of the most pressing human rights challenges for the global community and the international human rights framework.

Alison Macdonald, Matrix Chambers

Alison is a leading junior who specialises in human rights and public international law. She has appeared in many key cases where public international law arguments have been used before our courts, including in the context of challenges arising from the Iraq war. She continues to appear in cases before our highest courts which develop legal thinking on human rights standards, both international and domestic.

Zahra Al-Rikabi, Brick Court Chambers

Zahra began her practice – accepting instructions in all areas of Brick Court Chambers’ work – in September 2013.

Before coming to the Bar, she worked as a Judicial Assistant to Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Vice President of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division). Earlier she worked with the public law team at the Law Commission for England and Wales. She was also involved in the bilateral negotiations between the United States and Iraq on the status of US forces in Iraq, as an assistant to the Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister of Iraq.

Deba Das, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Deba is an associate in Freshfields’ EU litigation team, with a focus on EU law challenges and commercial judicial review. He has worked on many of Freshfields’ leading EU and public law pro bono projects and interventions in recent years, including for JUSTICE, the AIRE Centre, the Children’s Commissioner and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition.

Andrea Coomber, Director, JUSTICE

Read Andrea’s biography on the JUSTICE website

Angela Patrick, Director of Human Rights Policy, JUSTICE

Read Angela’s biography on the JUSTICE website

Jodie Blackstock, Director of Criminal and EU Justice Policy, JUSTICE

Read Jodie’s biography on the JUSTICE website