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Guantanamo - a challenge to international human rights

Speakers: Louise Christian; Andrew Coyle; Gerry Simpson
Chair: Professor Conor Gearty, Rausing Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights
February 2003


The seminar will consider the legal status of the detention of those being held at Guantanamo and the conditions of confinement there, in relation to international standards. The speakers will also examine the response of the UK courts to the situation.

Louise Christian is one of the co-founders of Christian Fisher Khan Solicitors. She has been instructed in many high profile cases, among the most significant of which were representing the victims of the Marchioness disaster for ten years and being the lead solicitor representing the victims of the Paddington and Southall rail crashes in major public inquiries. Louise did the only successful judicial review of the Crown Prosecution service over its failure to bring corporate manslaughter charges over the death of Simon Jones and persuaded the CPS to reopen its manslaughter investigation over the Paddington Rail Crash by threatening judicial review. Louise has dealt with many significant human rights cases including the leading ECHR case of Osman and recently the case of Abbasi in the Court of Appeal dealing with the situation of the UK citizens detained in Guantanamo Bay.

Andrew Coyle is Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at Kings College, University of London, whose objectives are to assist governments and other relevant agencies to develop appropriate policies on prisons and the use of imprisonment and to spread best practice in prison management. The Centre carries out all its work from a human rights perspective. He previously had 25 years experience at a senior level in the prison services of the United Kingdom. While in the Scottish Prison Service he was Governor of Greenock, Peterhead and Shotts Prisons. Between 1991 and 1997 he was Governor of Brixton Prison in London. His books include Inside: Rethinking Scotland's Prisons (1991), The Prisons We Deserve (1994), Managing Prisons in a Time of Change (2002) and A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management (2002).He is an expert on penal matters for the United Nations and the Council of Europe, including its Committee for the Prevention of Torture. He has visited prisons in over 40 countries.

Gerry Simpson studied law at the University of Aberdeen, the University of British Columbia and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) where he received his doctorate. He has taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of Melbourne (where he is currently a Visiting Senior Fellow) and the Australian National University, and he has held visiting positions at Sydney Law School (1996) and Harvard Law School (1999). He has been a Legal Adviser to the Australian Government on international criminal law and has worked for several non-governmental organisations. His main research interests are in public international law, international legal theory (particularly the intersection between the disciplines of International Law and International Relations) and international criminal law. His publications include The Law of War Crimes (Kluwer, 1997) with Tim McCormack and The Nature of International Law (Ashgate, 2001). He is currently completing two books entitled Unequal Sovereigns: Great Powers and Outlaw States in the International Legal Order (CUP, 2003) and War and Crime (Polity Press, 2003).