Devika Hovell

please note:
on leave Lent 2017

Administrative support: Lewina Coote
Room: New Academic Building 6.32
Tel. 020-7955-7254

Devika Hovell is an Associate Professor in Public International Law. She holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford and a Master of Laws from New York University, where she was awarded the George Colin Award. Devika graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours. She served as an Associate to Justice Kenneth Hayne at the High Court of Australia, and as judicial clerk at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. She formerly held lectureships at the University of New South Wales and the University of Birmingham.

Research Interests
  • United Nations

  • Use of force and international humanitarian law

  • International courts and tribunals

  • Interface between public law and public international law

  • Relationship between international law and domestic law


The Power of Process: The Value of Due Process in Security Council Sanctions Decision-Making (Oxford University Press, 2016)

The UN Security Council's transition to 'targeted sanctions' in the 1990s marked a revolutionary shift in the locus of the Council's decision-making from states to individuals. The establishment of the targeted sanctions regime, should be regarded as more than a shift in policy and invites attention to an emerging tier of international governance.

This book examines the need to develop a due process framework having regard to the uniquely political and crisis-based context in which the Security Council operates. Drawing on Anglo-American jurisprudence, this book develops procedural principles for the international institutional context using a value-based approach as an alternative to the formalistic approach taken in the literature to date. In doing so, it is recognized that due process is more than a set of discrete legal standards, but is a touchstone for the way the international legal order conceives of far larger questions about community, law and values.

No Country is an Island: Australia and International Law (UNSW Press: Sydney, 2006) (with Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Madelaine Chiam and Professor George Williams). [Highly Commended, Australian Human Rights Awards 2006]

International law does not seem immediately relevant to domestic Australian politics and law, let alone to our everyday lives. Yet, as this essential book shows, international law has a growing significance for trade, human rights, crime, terrorism and climate change. This is a highly readable, timely and important book that shows that while international law can seem remote, there is an urgent need to understand it and for its processes to be as transparent as possible.

The Fluid State: International Law and National Legal Systems (Federation Press: Sydney, 2005) (edited with Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Madelaine Chiam and Professor George Williams).

Described as ‘a valuable contribution to contemporary scholarship in the strongly comparative approach it performs and develops’ providing ‘a rich sense of the range of effects produced by the choice to refer to law in the administration of international matters when that choice is made in the fact of the “war on terror”, human rights violations and economic globalisation’.

Selected articles
and chapters in books

'Glasnost in the Security Council: The Value of Transparency' Law Society and Economy Working Paper Series 15-2016 (2016)

The value of transparency in decision-making is regarded as something of a truism in the public sphere; something that is uncontroversial and requires little by way of justification. In the Security Council setting, there are mounting calls for greater transparency as if publicity is some form of unconditional virtue. However, this easy embrace of transparency evades difficult questions and fails to consider the tensions it conceals. The principle of transparency is not as easy to sustain, either in theory or practice, as it first might seem. Publicity might be necessary to justify policy, but secrecy may also be necessary to effect some policies. The primary aim of this essay is to ask a question to which an easy answer is sometimes presumed: why do we need transparency in the Security Council sanctions context? In this essay, I set the foundations for a value-based theory of transparency for Security Council sanctions decision-making. It is only when we understand ‘why’ transparency is needed in this context that we can adequately answer other questions, including the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ questions.

'Due Process in the United Nations' American Journal of International Law  (2016) 110 (1) pp.1-48

Certain UN organs continue to resist procedural limitations on their decision-making authority. Yet, paradoxically, failure to accord due process has compromised the strength of UN authority, as seen in relation to the targeted-sanctions regime and the 2010 Haiti cholera outbreak. This article questions current, formalistic approaches to due process in the UN setting, which rely on traditional sources of international law. As an alternative, it presents a value-based approach that takes into account instrumentalist, dignitarian, and public interest principles.

For a symposium on this article, including contributions by Alexandra Huneeus, Antonios Tzanakopoulos, Rosa Freedman and Joy Gordon, click here.

‘Kadi: King-Slayer or King-Maker? The Shifting Allocation of Decision-making Power between the UN Security Council and Courts’ (2016) 79 (1) Modern Law Review pp.147-182

This note analyses the twelve-year span of the Kadi litigation in the European courts. The litigation raises the textbook question of the relationship between international and municipal legal orders, yet demonstrates that it is high time to move the description of this relationship beyond the orthodox yet outdated monist/dualist dichotomy that was seen to provide the answer in less complicated times. The note examines the different approaches taken at the three key phases of the litigation: the ‘supremacy’ position adopted by the Court of First Instance in 2005, the ‘subversive’ approach of the European Court of Justice in 2008 and the ‘subsidiarity’ position of the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2013. Ultimately, the note invites attention to the ‘Solange equivalence’ approach taken by the Advocates-General and argues that this strikes the best balance in normative terms for an enduring approach to power-sharing between legal orders.

'A Dialogue Model: The Role of the Domestic Judge in Security Council Decision-Making' Leiden Journal of International Law (2013) 25 (3) pp.579-597

This article proposes a different theoretical account of the role of domestic courts when engaged in judicial review of decision-making by international institutions. Many domestic courts in democratic societies operate in accordance with a ‘public-law model’ when adjudicating questions related to international decision-making, underwritten by respect for doctrines such as the rule of law and separation of powers. Drawing on a case study of domestic-court decisions in the Security Council sanctions context, this article seeks to demonstrate how the public law model’s focus on concepts of ‘bindingness’ and hierarchy between judicial and political organs can lead to distorted outcomes when applied to decision-making by international institutions. As an alternative, the author proposes a different theoretical account of the judicial role, described as the 'dialogue model', of courts when engaging in the review of Security Council decision-making. The idea is that domestic courts should confine themselves to tools of 'interpretation' and 'declaration' in their approach to international decision-making, so as to position their judgments in amore theoretically supportable way in the broader legal context.

For a symposium on this article, including contributions by Piet Eeckhout and Erika de Wet, click here.

The Gulf Between Tortious and Torturous: UK Responsibility for Mistreatment of the Mau Mau in Colonial Kenya'  Journal of International Criminal Justice (2013) 11 (1) p.223-245

Analyses the Queen's Bench Division judgment in Mutua v Foreign and Commonwealth Office on whether the UK Government was liable for the abuse of Kenyan Mau Mau detainees by the colonial administration in the 1950s and 1960s on the basis of: (1) primary liability; (2) vicarious liability; (3) its alleged succession to the colonial government's primary liability on Kenya's independence; or (4) negligence. Discusses the significance of the fact that UK law does not recognise a tort of torture for each liability decision. Outlines the court's later ruling on whether the action was time-barred.

'The Deliberative Deficit: Transparency, Access to Information and UN Sanctions' in Jeremy Farrall and Kim Rubenstein, Sanctions Accountability and Governance in a Globalized World (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp 92-122.

 'A Tale of Two Systems: The Use of International Law in Constitutional Interpretation in Australia and South Africa' (2005) 29 Melbourne University Law Review 95 (with George Williams), pp 95-130.

'Advice to the Hon Simon Crean MP on the use of force against Iraq' (2003) 4(1) Melbourne Journal of International Law 183 (with George Williams), pp 183-189.

'Deep Anxieties: Australia and the International Legal Order' (2003) 25 Sydney Law Review 423 (with Hilary Charlesworth, Madelaine Chiam and George Williams), pp 423-465.