United Nations on Trial

Hosted by LSE Law and the LSE Literary Festival

Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building,


Dr Nazila Ghanea

Dr Nazila Ghanea

Expert witness

Professor Francoise Hampson

Professor Francoise Hampson

Expert witness

Antony Loewenstein

Antony Loewenstein

Expert witness

Carne Ross

Carne Ross

Expert witness

The Hon. Mr Justice Jay

The Hon. Mr Justice Jay



Dr Emmanuel Melissaris

The Charter of the United Nations, drafted in 1945, pledged in the name of the peoples of the United Nations to save us from the scourge of war; to reaffirm faith in human rights and the dignity and worth of all; to promote social progress and better standards of life in conditions of freedom. One does not have to take a very long look at the world around us to realise that this utopia of cosmopolitan peace and prosperity has not been achieved. Wars still wage, new and old global political divisions still run deep, the disparities in the global distribution of wealth are staggering. Is this conclusive proof that the UN has failed? Is it politically toothless and manipulated by the world’s most powerful states, as some believe? Has it become a bureaucratic, inflexible, cumbersome mega- structure prone to inertia and even corruption? Might it even be the case that the UN has in fact actively contributed to disasters, which it should have prevented according to its remit?

A little over 70 years since the Charter was signed by the founding 51 members states, we will be putting the United Nations on trial. It will be a tough call for the prosecution. How does one bring charges against an institution, which many criticise but in which so many people around the world have placed so much faith? Nevertheless, this is not to say that it will be a walk in the park for the defence. The United Nations set the bar very high and they must be able to prove that there are good reasons for having disappointed the expectations that they created.

Prosecution including: Gráinne Mellon, Professor Gerry Simpson
Defence including:
 Paul Clark, Natalie Samarasinghe

Sir Robert Maurice Jay started practice at the Bar in 1983 after completion of pupillage. His practice was based mainly on public law, general common law, group litigation and public inquiries. He was appointed QC in 1998 and Recorder in 1999. He was subsequently appointed a Deputy High Court Judge in 2008, and was elected Head of Chambers at 39 Essex Chambers in 2011.  He was Leading Counsel to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press (2011-12). In June 2013 he was appointed to the High Court Bench, and sits in the Queen’s Bench Division.

Paul Clark (@_Paul_Clark) is a barrister for Garden Court Chambers. Paul provides representation and advice in public, civil, and international law. His practice includes judicial review, private law, inquests and inquiries, with a focus upon human rights.  Paul’s experience in international law includes pre-trial, trial and appeal proceedings before international tribunals – the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

Gráinne Mellon (@GrainneMellon) is a barrister for Garden Court Chambers and Guest Lecturer on the LLM in Employment Law and in International Human Rights Law at LSE Law. Gráinne has a broad public and civil law practice with particular expertise in human rights law and discrimination.  Gráinne was called to both the Bar of Ireland and the Bar of Northern Ireland in 2013. 

Natalie Samarasinghe (@Natalie_UNA) is Executive Director of the United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK), where she has worked since 2006. She is the first woman to hold this role. Prior to joining UNA-UK, Natalie worked in various roles in the public, private and education sectors, including for the University of Oxford. She is an alumna of LSE.

Gerry Simpson holds the Kenneth Bailey Chair of Law at the University of Melbourne and is currently a Soros Fellow (based at the Tbilisi State University, Georgia). He will take up a Chair of Public International Law at LSE in January, 2016. He has been a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University (1996-1998) and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School (1999). His most recent books are Law, War and Crime: War Crimes Trials and the Reinvention of International Law and a collection of essays entitled The Margins of International Law.

Nazila Ghanea is Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford and serves is a member of the OSCE Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She serves on the Board of Governors of the Universal Rights Group, on the Editorial Board of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion and is an Associate of the Oxford Human Rights Hub. She has authored, co-authored and edited a number of academic and UN publications including: Religion or Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Britain in Global Contexts and Human Rights, The UN and the Bahá’ís in Iran. She is a co-author of the recently published Oxford University Press monograph: Freedom of Religion or Belief, An International Commentary. She has carried out field research in a number of countries including Malaysia and the member states of the GCC. She has attended numerous UN events (World Conference on Women in Beijing, Human Rights Council, Working Group on the drafting of the Human Rights Defenders Declaration, etc) and served as consultant, expert and trainer for the United Nations, and attended UN events in an NGO capacity.

Francoise Hampson taught at the University of Dundee from 1975 to 1983 and has been at the University of Essex since then. She was an independent expert member of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights from 1998-2007. Professor Hampson has successfully litigated many cases before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and, in recognition of her contribution to the development of law in this area, was awarded Human Rights Lawyer of the Year jointly with her colleague from the Centre, Professor Kevin Boyle. She has taught, researched and published widely in the fields of armed conflict, international humanitarian law and on the European Convention on Human Rights. She is currently working on autonomous weapons, investigations into alleged violations in situations of armed conflict and on the use of an individual petition system to address what are widespread or systematic human rights violations.

Antony Loewenstein (@antloewenstein) is an Australian independent freelance journalist, author, documentarian and blogger. He is a columnist for The Guardian. His writings include My Israel Question,The Blogging Revolution  and Profits of Doom: How vulture capitalism is swallowing the world. His latest book Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe  is an exploration of how disaster has become big business. 

Carne Ross (@carneross) is a former British diplomat who resigned in 2004 after giving then-secret evidence to a British inquiry into the war. After he quit, he founded the world's first non-profit diplomatic advisory group, Independent Diplomat (@IDiplomat), which advises marginalised countries and groups around the world. His latest book is The Leaderless Revolution: how ordinary people will take power and change politics in the 21st century. Carne has also written extensively for, among others, The Guardian, New StatesmanThe IndependentFinancial TimesThe Nation, and Huffington Post.

Emmanuel Melissaris is Associate Professor of Law in LSE Law with research interests in Legal Pluralism and in Social Justice and Criminal Law.  He studied at the University of Athens (Law) and the University of Edinburgh (MSc; PhD). Emmanuel is currently working on a monograph provisionally entitled Solidarity and Punishment: A Political Τheory of the Criminal Law.

LSE Law (@lselaw) is an integral part of the School's mission, plays a major role in policy debates & in the education of lawyers and law teachers from around the world.

This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2016, taking place from Monday 22 - Saturday 27 February 2016, with the theme 'Utopias'.

Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users: #LSELitFest

Briefing Notes

Download the briefing notes for this event, which give some background to the trial:

UN on Trial briefing notes

Prosecution Statement

Defence Statement

Podcast & Video

A podcast and video of this event is available to download from United Nations on Trial

Podcasts and videos of many LSE events can be found at the LSE Public Lectures and Events: podcasts and videos channel.