Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > Human Rights Day Event: The Right of Rights 1948-2008

Human Rights Day Event: The Right of Rights 1948-2008

Page Contents >


Panellists: Shami Chakrabarti, Jonathan Cooper, Professor Conor Gearty, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Professor Francesca Klug, Professor Peter Townsend.

Chair: Professor Laurie Taylor

Thursday 4 December 2008

The Centre's 2008 human rights day event was an event with a difference. Over three rounds, six panellists argued the case for their favourite right (chosen from the 26 enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). After a series of  challenges from the panel and audience, the audience voted Article 5, the prohibition on torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, as the Right of Rights 2008.


  • Article 1 - Francesca Klug
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Francesca Klug is a Professorial Research Fellow at LSE, Senior Research Associate in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, and a Commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Francesca sits on the small Ministry of Justice Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Reference Group to advise on a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

  • Article 5 - Shami Chakrabarti
    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Shami Chakrabarti is Director of Liberty and the organisation's principle spokesperson. Shami is governor of LSE, an Executive Governor of the British Institute of Human Rights, an Executive Committee Member of the Administrative Law Bar Association and Editorial Board Member of the European Human Rights Law Review.

  • Article 8 - Conor Gearty
    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Conor Gearty is Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE. He has published widely in the fields of terrorism, civil liberties and human rights. Conor is also a founding member of Matrix Chambers where he continues to practise.

  • Article 9 - Helena Kennedy

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Helena Kennedy is a life peer in the House of Lords and a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. She is chair of the Human Genetics Commission; a member of the World Bank Institute's External Advisory Council; Vice-President of the Haldane Society and Vice-President of the Association of Women Barristers. She is President of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and President of the National Children's Bureau.

  • Article 12 - Jonathan Cooper
    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Jonathan Cooper is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and chair of the Executive Committee of the Human Rights Lawyers' Association. He creates human rights training programmes which are used around the world and works closely with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, governments in other jurisdictions, as well as international organisations, on how to implement human rights standards.

  • Article 22  - Peter Townsend
    Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Peter Townsend is Professor of International Social Policy at LSE and Emeritus Professor of Social Policy in the University of Bristol. In 1999 he was elected a founder Academician of the new Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences. He has investigated and written extensively on poverty, health, social policy and old age and was an early member of the Child Poverty Action Group.

Laurie Taylor (chair) is visiting professor in the department of politics and sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London. Before entering academic life, he had eight years industrial and sales experience, worked as a librarian in Liverpool, taught in a London comprehensive school, and was a professional actor with Joan Littlewood's famous Theatre Workshop Company at Stratford East. He is the author of fourteen books on motivation, change, communication, and personal identity. His weekly satirical column on university life has been appearing in the Times Higher Education Supplement for the last thirty years. His most recent book (written with his son, Matthew) was called What Are Children For?

For the past twenty years he has been heard on BBC Radio 4 in such programmes as Stop the Week, The Radio Programme, News Quiz, Speaking as an Expert, Afternoon Shift, and Room for Improvement. He can currently be heard every Wednesday afternoon on R4 presenting Thinking Allowed, a programme devoted to society and social change.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights devotes 26 of its 30 articles to declaring what are basic rights are. The rights to life, privacy and fair treatment before the law are there, as are guarantees against torture, slavery, discrimination and arbitrary arrest. The civil liberties of free expression, assembly and association make an appearance, as does the democratic right to participate in the government of your country. So too do social and economic rights to education, health, social security, health and leisure, and much else besides. This declaration of rights, long hailed as a manifesto for mankind, has grown in authority through its sixty years of life. Now to celebrate its birthday, the Centre for the Study of Human Rights asks its audience to vote on which is the greatest right of them all. Is it to think, to eat, to rest, to talk, or something unexpected, like the right to own property or to enjoy the arts. In a series of rounds, invited contestants will argue the case for their right, defend their choice and prove its worth against others, until eventually only one remains, the Right of Rights 1948-2008.


An audio recording of this event is available to download as: mp3 (39 mb; approx 85 minutes)