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Human Rights, Civil Liberties And Democracy: ideas in conflict or in partnership?

Speakers: Professor Conor Gearty; Professor Francesca Klug; Andrew Puddephatt
Chair: Lord Justice Sedley
January 2004

Abstract

'Human rights', 'democracy' and 'civil liberties' are three terms that crop up in almost any kind of contemporary discussion about politics and good governance. But what do these phrases mean? Are civil liberties the same as 'human rights'? Are these terms distinguishable from other ideas, like 'justice' and 'the rule of law'? Where does democracy fit in all this: if human rights are essential to democracy, is the opposite also the case? How do all these ideas fit together? In this panel discussion, Conor Gearty argues that the idea of civil liberties needs to be rethought and that a fresh approach to human rights needs as a result to be adopted. A response to his analysis is provided by Francesca Klug and Andrew Puddephatt.

Conor Gearty was born in Ireland and graduated in law from University College Dublin before moving to Wolfson College, Cambridge in 1980 to study for a Master's Degree and then for a PhD. He became a fellow of Emmanuel College Cambridge in 1983 and in 1990 he moved to the school of law at King's College London where he was first a senior lecturer, then a reader and finally (from 1995) a professor. On 1 October 2002, he took up a new appointment as Rausing Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and professor of human rights law at LSE.

Conor Gearty has published widely on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights. His books include Terror (Faber, 1990) and two books with K D Ewing, Freedom under Thatcher (1989) and The Struggle for Civil Liberties (2000). Conor is also a barrister and was a founder member of Matrix chambers from where he continues to practice. He has been a frequent adviser to judges, practitioners and public authorities on the implications of the UK Human Rights Act, and has frequently lectured at home and abroad on the topic of human rights. He has appeared in human rights cases in the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

His latest book, entitled Principles of Human Rights Adjudication, is a study of the place of the Human Rights Act in Britain's constitutional order. It locates the measure in its political and historical context and analyses the case law from the perspective not only of principle but also of practical experience. It will be published in March 2004.

Francesca Klug is Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, and Director of Human Rights Futures. This is a major project addressing new trends in the international human rights law paradigm, highlighted by September 11, in which non-state power can be as significant a threat to human rights as state abuses and where the 'duty to protect' has become a major theme in international human rights discourse. Francesca works closely with Research Fellow Claire O'Brien and Researcher Theo Gavrielides who provide a major input into the research and day-to-day management of the project.

Francesca's further research interests include evaluating the impact of the UK's Human Rights Act on the domestic courts, parliament and public bodies, comparative bills of rights and models for domestic human rights promotion and enforcement.

Francesca is also Visiting Professor at the University of North London. She was formerly a Senior Research Fellow at King's College London Law School and a research fellow at Essex University's Human Rights Centre.

For some years Francesca worked with politicians and civil servants to develop the model for incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law which is included in the Human Rights Act. She was a member of the Government's Human Rights Task Force responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Act and is a former Director of the Civil Liberties Trust.

Her publications include 'Human Rights: A common standard for all peoples?' in Reclaiming Britishness, Foreign Policy Centre, 2002; Values for a Godless Age, the story of the UK's new bill of rights, Penguin, 2000; The Three Pillars of Liberty, political rights and freedoms in the UK (with Keir Starmer and Stuart Weir) Routledge, 1996, and numerous articles on the Human Rights Act in Public Law, European Human Rights Law Review and other journals.

Andrew Puddephatt has been the Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 since January 1999. He has been an expert member of both the Council of Europe of the Commonwealth Expert working groups on freedom of information and freedom of expression. He is the Vice-Chair of International Media Support; a Danish based NGO that provides emergency support to journalists in conflict areas. He is also a member of International Steering Committee for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina database, a Norwegian based project that documents the history of censorship in the world and an international Board member of the Open Democracy Centre in South Africa.

Andrew works closely with a number of international bodies, including the Special Rapporteurs for free expression of the UN, OSCE and OAS, with UNESCO, with the Africa Commission for Human and People's Rights and the Council of Europe.

Andrew has been a senior manager in the not for profit sector for more than twelve years. Between October 1995 and January 1999 he was the Director of Charter 88 which was the UK's leading constitutional reform organisation. Between 1989 and 1995 he was General Secretary of Liberty (aka the National Council for Civil Liberties). In both capacities he played a leading role in securing a Bill of Rights for the UK. This was agreed in 1998 after eight years campaigning and took effect in October 2000. In January 2003 he was awarded an OBE for services to human rights.

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