Previous Guest Speakers

Speaker series guest lecturers since 2018

Annual Lecture of the International Law and Human Rights Unit

Monday 26th September, 4:00 - 6:00pm

Professor Laurence R. Helfer

The Facebook Oversight Board’s Human Rights Future

Prof Laurence Helfer 

Laurence R. Helfer* & Molly K. Land**

In the Fall of 2020, Facebook (now Meta) established a new oversight mechanism to review its content moderation decisions—the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB). The company created this body following widespread criticism for mishandling hate speech and misinformation, including its role in election interference in the United States and genocide in Myanmar. Facebook sets global rules from its headquarters in Silicon Valley, but the impact of these rules are felt by internet users and civil society worldwide, especially in the Global South.

The FOB was intended to provide an independent check on the platform’s most challenging speech regulation decisions. However, the Board is unlikely to succeed in holding Facebook accountable to its users. Although it was created after a lengthy consultation process, the Board will hear at most a handful of cases each year. And its jurisdiction is limited to reviewing Facebook’s decisions to remove or allow individual posts. The FOB can evaluate Facebook’s content moderation policies, but its recommendations on these issues are only advisory.

We argue that despite these limitations, the Board will be able to make a significant contribution by developing the human rights norms that apply to social media platforms. Although it has been compared to a variety of review bodies, the FOB is most closely analogized to an international human rights tribunal. Drawing on the extensive experience of these tribunals, we argue that the Board should develop soft law regarding the human rights responsibilities of private social media companies. We analyze the Board’s caselaw to identify the contributions it has already made in this effort, and we argue that such norms may over time acquire additional force through integration into national and supranational initiatives to regulate internet platforms.

View the papers here:


Laurence R. Helfer is Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law and co-director of the Center for International and Comparative Law at Duke University. He also serves as a Permanent Visiting Professor at the iCourts: Center of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2014.

Helfer has authored more than 100 scholarly publications, including four coauthored books, two edited volumes, and numerous articles in peer review law and political science journals. He has lectured widely on his diverse research interests, which include international law and institutions, human rights (including LGBT rights), and international adjudication and dispute settlement.

Helfer was nominated by the United States and elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee for 2023 to 2026. He recently completed a four-year term as co-Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of International Law.

Professor Harold Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School

9 June 2022

“Get Back!”: Inside the Biden Administration’s Efforts to Restore

Professor Harold Koh - Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School

Joe Biden entered the White House determined not just to reverse the excesses of the Trump Administration, but also more ambitiously to restore the postwar liberal order of international law and institutions to “get back to where we once belonged.” After a year and a half, how well has he succeeded?

In this lecture, Professor Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law and former Dean at Yale Law School, currently Counsel to Ukraine against Russia at the World Court, and a legal advisor to four Presidents, including President Biden in his first year, offers this insider’s account and assessment.


Professor Harold Hongju Koh is Sterling Professor of International Law and former Dean (2004-09) at Yale Law School. He is currently a George Eastman Visiting Professor at Balliol College, Oxford University.

Professor Koh has served under four US presidents, as Senior Advisor (2021-present) and Legal Adviser to the US Secretary of State (2009-2013), Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (1998-2001), and Attorney-Adviser at the US Department of Justice (1983-1985).

16 March 2020

‘Russian Approaches to International Economic Law’ 

***Coronavirus (COVID-19) event cancellation*** The University is closely monitoring national and international developments in relation to COVID-19 and taking actions as appropriate. 

Therefore, we have taken the decision to cancel/postpone this Guest Speaker Event. While we realise that the cancellation of events will cause some inconvenience and disappointment, the health and wellbeing of our students, staff and visitors is our highest priority. 

Professor Lauri Mälksoo, University of Tartu, Estonia

In his talk "Russian Approaches to International Economic Law", Professor Mälksoo will address some conceptual underpinnings of international economic law in Russia, especially the importance of state sovereignty and the view that whatever is not agreed strictly between states cannot be international law. The impact of cases like Yukos will be discussed but also the significance of constitutional changes recently proposed by President Putin.

28 February 2020 (2-4pm)

‘Authoritarian Statism, the United States, and War’ 

Dr Catherine Connolly, Dublin City University

Using Nicos Poulantzas’ theory of Authoritarian Statism, this paper examines the United States’ - in particular, the Trump administration’s - approach to power in the domestic arena, and its impact on public international law and war.

‘Publicising Consent: Intervention by Invitation in the Age of Liquid Warfare’ 

Dr Max Brookman-Byrne, Loncoln Law School

The paper is an investigation of the extent to which the secrecy of consent to the covert use of force impacts upon its validity. To put it differently, it is an investigation as to whether there is a ‘publicity requirement’ in consenting to intervention. There will be examination of various examples of state practice to demonstrate that there is no such requirement, emphasising the limited potential for jus ad bellum to restrict states having recourse to military force.

18 February 2020

Fear and Hope. The revolution of individual liability in international law between justice and politics.

The case of international terrorism.

Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala

The idea that individuals, not only States, may be held liable for mass atrocities amounts to a subversive theory within traditional international law. Through this revolution, the legacy of immense suffering of the Second World War has eventually generated hope for humanity. However, the achievements of international criminal justice have not always met the expectations, due to structural factors, organisational inefficiencies as well as the complicated interactions between justice and politics.

One of the next challenges ahead arguably lies in achieving universal punishment for international terrorism, a crime which throughout the centuries has relied on instrumentally exploiting human frailty with a view to achieving and retaining power.

The lecture will be followed by a reception.


30 January 2020

‘Privacy International and Judicial Authority: are courts guardians of the law, or of the rule of law?’ 

Professor Alison Young, University of Cambridge

In R (Privacy International) v Investigatory Powers Tribunal ([2019] UKSC 22), the Supreme Court ‘reinterpreted’ an ouster clause. The clause in question stated that decisions of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, including decisions as to whether it had jurisdiction, could not be questioned by the courts. 

Event postponed to Semester 2, new date TBC

Exploring constitutionalism and counter-costitutionalism in the system of the ECHR: The constitutionalist attitude of the ECtHR and its backlash 

Prof Maurizio Arcari, University of Milano-Bicocca

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in its case law has contributed to the identification of the core concepts and values laying behind the legal system of the European Convention of Human Rights, thereby enhancing an incremental process of constitutionalization of this same system. However, the constitutional approach pursued by the ECtHR may ignite as side-effect a counter-constitutionalism discourse at the domestic level.

13 November 2019

Coming Of Age: The Human Rights Act At 21

Prof Conor Gearty, London School of Economics

The Human Rights Act received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998. In the week of its 21st birthday, how has it fared?  Well it is still alive, having faced a difficult childhood and a near fatal adolescence. What trends can we detect in how the legislation is being interpreted by the courts?  And what difference, if any, is it making to ‘real life’? 

16 October 2019

Parliamentary Sovereignty and The Locus of Constituent Power in the United Kingdom 

Alan Greene, Birmingham Law School

This paper argues that parliamentary sovereignty’s assimilation of constituent power — the ultimate power in a legal order to create and posit a constitution — has stultified the development of British constitutional law. The result is a deeply ideological, as distinct from oft-heralded pragmatic, constitutional structure that is incapable of confronting the systemic challenges the UK currently faces.

Aoife Nolan

1 May 2019

A Clear and Present Danger? The SDGs and Human Rights

Aoife Nolan

Much has been made of the bringing together of the development and the human rights agendas through the integration of human rights into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There is, however, growing evidence that the SDGs and associated implementation processes may constitute a serious danger to human rights in terms of law, politics and practice. Focusing in particular on children’s rights, Aoife Nolan explored whether the SDGs will ultimately serve as a vehicle for the advancement or the undermining of human rights.


Veronika Fikfak

13 March 2019

Compensating human rights violations: Damages before the European Court of Human Rights

Veronika Fikfak

When individuals are mistreated by European governments, the European Court of Human Rights is responsible for reviewing state actions under the European Convention of Human Rights. If the individuals are successful in proving a violation, the ECtHR may award them damages for the treatment suffered. Whilst domestic courts of the 47 Council of Europe (COE) Member States, over which the Court has jurisdiction, usually award damages on the basis of scales that are public, this is not the case with the ECtHR. The Court sets out no rules or guidelines as to when individuals are likely to get compensation; it also does not explain which elements of their treatment applicants should emphasise nor how much they should ask for. For many practitioners, the current practice of the Court appears arbitrary and opaque. 

In her talk, Dr Fikfak presented the patterns revealed in the ECtHR case law. Building on her empirical quantitative and qualitative study of the last ten years of caselaw relating to just satisfaction, she talked about the legal principles which can be discerned from the practice of the Court and critically assessed the Court’s role in awarding compensation for human rights violations.

Paolo Cavaliere

5 December 2018

The Harm in Fake News: a taxonomy of disinformation laws in Europe and beyond

Paolo Cavaliere

Fake news, or rather "disinformation", has become a viral phenomenon over the last couple of years and has possibly had a significant impact on major voting decisions, notably including the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit referendum. As concern spreads at the global level, what kind of legal measures can be devised to tackle the issue?

Andreas Follesdal

21 November 2018

Current contributions of the natural law tradition to international law

Andreas Follesdal

How might natural law theories contribute to current international law and its alleged crises, - if at all? Several scholars have argued that advances of positive international law and (international) legal positivism over the last century has replaced some of the contributions of natural law and natural law theories, and rejected the rest. This essay offers a modest defense: Natural law theories may continue to contribute to important questions of international legal theory and the challenges facing international law today.

Daniel Rietiker

19 November 2018

Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapon

Daniel Rietiker

Daniel Rietiker argues for putting human beings, rather than state security, at the center of disarmament law. After laying out the history of this approach in previous treaties, he examined how it has played out in the negotiations and text of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Colm O'Cinneide

10 October 2018

Can Legal Guarantees of Socio-economic Rights Ever Go Beyond Minimum Standards?

Colm O'Cinneide

The question of whether socio-economic rights should be legally enforceable looms large in comparative constitutional scholarship. It has also acquired real world significance, as such rights can now be enforced before courts in multiple different jurisdictions (including within EU law, courtesy of the 'social principles' set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).

Dr Vassilis Tzevelekos, Dr Aurel Sari, Prof Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, Dr Isabella Risini, Dr Jane Rooney and Andrew Forde

Wednesday 21 October 2020

The Role of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe in Armed Conflicts 

Guest seminar

Hundreds of applications land at the European Court of Human Rights during and in the aftermath of military confrontations between the member states and as a result of military operations of the member states overseas. This webinar will consider if the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe can do anything to prevent human rights violations before, during and after military interventions.


Dr Vassilis Tzevelekos (University of Liverpool)


Dr Aurel Sari (University of Exeter) Overreach: Should the ECHR apply to the Battlefield?
Prof Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Liverpool) Why Are the Court’s Interim Measures During Armed Conflicts Controversial?
Dr Isabella Risini (Ruhr-University Bochum) The strengths and limitations of inter-State proceedings under the ECHR in cases related to military confrontation.
Dr Jane Rooney (University of Durham) Hanan v Germany: A Re-Evaluation of Extraterritorial Airstrikes at the European Court of Human Rights?
Andrew Forde (NUI Galway) In Pursuit of Effectiveness: The Role of the ECHR System in Contested Territories

Participants (in alphabetical order):

Prof Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou is a professor of human rights law at The University of Liverpool and the Director of International Law and Human Rights Unit. He is an expert in the European Convention on Human Rights and adjudication of international justice. He is a co-editor-in-chief of the European Convention on Human Rights Law Review.

Andrew Forde is a final stage doctoral researcher at the Irish Centre for Human Rights focussed on The Application of the ECHR in European Contested Territories/“Grey Zones”. Andrew spent more than 12 years working with the Council of Europe and the OSCE primarily in post-conflict regions in south eastern Europe and the south Caucasus, and amongst other roles he has worked as a Human Rights Advisor to the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights and Political Advisor to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Dr Isabella Risini, LL.M. is a senior research associate at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. She is an invited expert to the CDDH on the ongoing reflection process of the inter-State application under the ECHR. Her book on inter-State applications under the ECHR was published in 2018.

Dr Jane M Rooney is Assistant Professor in International Law at Durham Law School. She researches the intersections between international, human rights, and public law, in extraterritorial adjudication. Her most recent publication is 'Crown Act of State and Detention in Afghanistan' (2020) 71(2) Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 109-133.

Dr Aurel Sari is an Associate Professor of Public International Law at the University of Exeter and the Director of the Exeter Centre for International Law. His work focuses primarily on international conflict and security law and the law relating to military operations.

Dr Vassilis P. Tzevelekos is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool School of Law and Social Justice. He is specialising in public international law and Human Rights, with a focus on the ECHR. He has published extensively in these areas and he is one of the two chief editors of the European Convention on Human Rights Law Review. 

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Reflections on the ‘Trump doctrine’: The US election, US foreign policy and the jus ad bellum

This webinar uses the opportunity of the US general election on 3rd November to reflect critically on the relationship between the Trump Presidency (in retrospect or at the half-way point), international law generally, and the jus ad bellum in particular. Speakers will address the topic from a variety of perspectives.

Chair: Dr Ben Murphy, Lecturer in Law and Deputy Director of the International Law and Human Rights Research Unit, University of Liverpool.

Danielle Rae Reeder, Doctoral Researcher, University of Liverpool.
The Trump Presidency in Reflection: Jus Ad Bellum, Peace, Security and the Rules-Based Order

Katie Johnston, DPhil (PhD), University of Oxford.
The Trump Administration’s Justifications for the Use of Force

Dr Luca Ferro, postdoctoral researcher at the Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute (GRILI) of Ghent University (Belgium).
Trump v. Soleimani: The Role of International Lawyers in Constraining Bellicose Governments

More information:


ILHRU Military Assistance poster

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Military assistance on request and general reasons against force: consent as a defence to the prohibition of force

Dr Federica Paddeu (University of Cambridge)

Online event, 11am

Dr Federica Paddeuis the Derek BowettFellow in Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and a Fellow of the LauterpachtCentre for International Law. She holds a law degree from Universidad CatolicaAndres Bello in Caracas, Venezuela, and an LLM and PhD in international law from Cambridge. She has written on diverse aspects of the use of force, investment law and State responsibility. Her monograph, Justification and Excuse in International Law was published by CUP in 2018 and a co-edited book on Exceptions in International Law was published by OUP earlier this year.

More information:

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