The Role of Courts in Tackling Climate Crisis

Photo by Markus Spiske

Dr. Birsha Ohdedar, Lecturer at the School of Law & Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, recently spoke at a special side event during COP26, hosted by global law firm Hausfeld, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) and the University of Glasgow on ‘Mobilising the Rule of Law in Climate Change’.

Birsha spoke alongside Dr. David R. Boyd (UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment), Prof. Michael Gerrard (Columbia Law School), Prof. Christina Voigt (the University of Oslo and Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Co-chair of the Paris Agreement´s Compliance and Implementation Committee). The panel was chaired by Ingrid Gubbay (Hausfeld). The event also included keynotes from Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland) and Vanessa Nakate (Climate Justice advocate)

The panel addressed the issue of climate litigation. The role of litigation has been a rapidly emerging area in recent years. The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, catalysed thousands of cases around the globe and has become a way to hold governments and corporations to account.

The panel built on discussions that took place in July at a ground-breaking global summit entitled ‘Our Future in the Balance: The Role of Courts and Tribunals in Meeting the Climate Crisis’, which resulted in a landmark Declaration outlining the role of the law and judiciary in addressing climate change.

Birsha’s presentation discussed the role of the judiciary in South Asia – its procedural and substantive innovations that have led to environmental rights-based public interest litigation since the 1980s. These innovations hold much promise in addressing the climate crisis.

However, as Birsha explains there are wider political-economy questions of how the courts deal with climate issues that may create obstacles. For instance, the deference to the executive on large economic projects (which often involve further climate harm), issues with enforcement of decisions, the types of environmental claims it favours, and how the judiciary deals with trade-offs between rights, justice and climate action.

In relation to the last point, Birsha argues that we may see an increase in litigation around ‘green’ projects, which negatively impact people’s rights, for instance, dispossession of land for solar energy, and for forest conservation. Thus, we need to work with lawyers and judges to better understand climate issues under a justice and rights framework, that doesn’t see ‘climate action’ further marginalising the already marginalised.

Birsha’s recent work on climate litigation includes a book chapter on litigation in India and Pakistan and a forthcoming article on climate adaptation, vulnerability and litigation in the Journal of Human Rights and Environment.

The presentation is available in the video below:

Spain and its Achilles’ Heels: the Strong Foundations of a Country’s Weaknesses

This blog post is an excerpt from Dr. Koldo Casla’s new book, which is published by Rowman & Littlefield.

On 1 October 2017, roughly two million people took part in a referendum organised by the Catalan government, a referendum that had been declared illegal by the judiciary. The regional government had promised that, if the majority of votes were positive, they would declare independence unilaterally within two days. “Yes” did win overwhelmingly, but the Catalan authorities did not declare independence. Instead, they issued an ambiguous statement acknowledging the referendum’s result and reaffirming their determination to become an independent State.

After a few days of confusion and tension, the Spanish government invoked a constitutional procedure never used before to replace the Catalan authorities with men and women chosen from Madrid. Regional elections were held in an uneasy calm weeks later, as a result of which the balance of power between pro- and anti-independence forces barely changed. Powers were returned to a new Catalan executive supported by the same parties of the previous one, under a new president who expressed his admiration for his predecessor, now exiled in Belgium, as well as his commitment to follow through with the independentist process. Two years later, Spain’s supreme court sentenced nine pro-independence politicians to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition and other crimes, including misuse of public funds.

Four days before the referendum, the US-based magazine Foreign Policy picked this headline for one of its online dispatches: “Spain is flirting with another civil war”. The author made clear on Twitter that he was not happy with the title, which suggests it was an editorial choice. Fast forward two years.

It is October 2019, and Andrew Hussey publishes an article in the New Statesman to explain the relatively sudden rise of the far-right party Vox as a by-product of the country’s agitated and contested relationship with the legacy of Islamic Al-Andalus, which ended more than five centuries ago. Hussey told me he did not decide the title, which means someone else thought this was going to be punchy: “The new Spanish civil wars”. One month later, Vox would win 52 seats in the lower house and 15% of the votes in the general election; 3.6 million people bestowed their trust on them.

These two examples are indicative of a widespread view in international news desks: That Spain’s 21st-century politics can be interpreted or explained in one way or another by reference to the Civil War (1936-39) and Francoism (1939-75). If the analysis or the discussion is long enough, whatever the topic, sooner or later someone will draw the connection. Such connection is not without merit. The war accentuated socio-economic and political divisions, cut short hundreds of thousands of lives, and led to a lengthy dictatorship where democracy and rights were suspended. Many of the economic and political institutions of the 21st century are the result of the lessons rightly or wrongly learned from that experience. But the Civil War and Francoism are not the master independent variables beneath everything else in politics. The past, or rather the way the past is dealt with in the present, is indeed one of the strong foundations of Spain’s weaknesses. But it is not the only one.

In the last ten years, new political players have upended the traditional two-party system, the far-right is back in business after four decades of quiet, ETA’s terror is history, one of the wealthiest regions has not been lost, but it was a near thing, and society survived the painful austerity policies of one economic crisis to find themselves in the middle of another one, this one stemming from a pandemic. The 2010s were awkward in many ways. And yet, in spite of everything, Spain still has one of the highest life expectancies, is a world leader in organ donations, harbours a long list of UNESCO heritage sites, has a very high rate of trilingual citizens due to its linguistic diversity, is a safe country with low levels of criminality, and in general is a fun and enjoyable place to be.

Cervantes, Lorca, Picasso, Almodóvar… Spanish culture has wonderful ambassadors, and as is usually the case, most of the best-known ones are men. But interest in Spain far exceeds gastronomy, arts and literature. Spanish history and politics are followed by an international community of journalists, academics and keen observers. Yet, despite the archives and the shelves full of books, it is still shocking to read how easily commentaries can fall back on clichés about violence or the purportedly homogenous desire in certain territories to separate from the rest of the country. Those desires do exist. But nothing is homogenous in Spain.

This book is a story of Spanish politics beyond Franco and Catalonia. As could not have been otherwise, the book also talks about Franco and about Catalonia, but it puts them in a wider context, tracking the historical roots of the political tensions that make Spain the captivating yet troubled country that it is today.

Why was Franco exhumed from the Valley of the Fallen in late 2019? How is it that he was there in the first place? Why did Catalonia erupt all of a sudden in October 2017? Why don’t you hear so much about the Basque Country anymore? How did Podemos gather momentum so quickly in 2014-15, and why did half of that support vanish five years later? Isn’t it counterintuitive that a Catholic-majority country may also have the most LGBT-friendly society in the world, and was one of the first to legalise equal marriage in 2005, or euthanasia in 2021?

Understanding the most significant events in recent Spanish politics requires spelling out the unspoken but enduring foundations of the country’s deepest fears and weaknesses, its Achilles’ heels. In Greek mythology, an Achilles’ heel is a vulnerability that can lead to downfall despite the apparent general strength of the full body. For a country, I use this term to refer to the underlying factors that, while by no means unique, are characteristic of that particular society, delimit what is possible and shape the political debate. They are the primary political frailties without which a country’s politics cannot be properly comprehended.

A copy of Dr. Casla’s book Spain and Its Achilles’ Heels can be purchased on the publisher’s website here.

Licensing System for 3D Printing in China

Source: PxFuel

James Griffin (Associate Professor, University of Exeter), Onyeka Osuji (Professor, University of Essex), and Hing Kai Chan (Professor, Nottingham University Business School China) have developed a digital watermarking technology that enables the tracking and tracing of 3D Printing (3DP) content, from its creation through to its destruction.

A watermark is embedded into creative content; the team’s research made the technology easier to implement and difficult to remove, thus enabling new forms of 3DP works.

The technology was successfully demonstrated operating at a conference in China in 2017 and received widespread and acclaimed international press and television coverage. It has been granted a patent in China in August 2020.  

The research team’s next task, with James Griffin as principal investigator in the impact follow on research, is to develop the technology further for implementation into licensing systems. They will do this with two China-based companies. The AHRC awarded Griffin, Osuji, and Kai Chan £65,774 for the project.

Professor Osuji’s role is mainly to apply contract law to 3D printed watermarks, provide training sessions concerning contracts and lead the development of the best practice code.  

Attaching the technology to an existing licensing platform will allow for the use of 3DP content in new creative ways, leading to new artistic forms. For example, the technology could be attached to 3DP materials themselves, resolving an ongoing problem in ensuring the quality of materials that are used for printing. This could allow for more complex artistic works; it could even lead to organic works involving 3DP biological material.

The technology would open up new markets, even overcoming existing regulatory hurdles. This is because the technology would enable right holders to guarantee sources of materials and can be used to check if the structure of a 3DP object has changed internally. 

More details about the project can be found here.

Ofcom clears ITV for Piers Morgan’s controversial comments about Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle going to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day 2017 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Alexandros Antoniou, School of Law, University of Essex

On 1 September 2021, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, rejected a record of complaints about Piers Morgan’s comments on Good Morning Britain in the wake of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Good Morning Britain (GMB) is a weekday morning news and discussion programme broadcast on ITV. On 8 March 2021, GMB was dominated by the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex which had been broadcast overnight in the USA. Excerpts from the interview had been made publicly available ahead of its full broadcast in the UK that evening. The programme included a report on how the US was reacting to the interview and focused on two parts which revealed that the Duchess had contemplated suicide and that an unnamed member of the Royal Family had raised concerns about “how dark” her son’s skin colour might be.

The following day, the lead presenter Piers Morgan made it very clear during the show that he did not believe a word of what Megan Markle had said, adding that if she read him a weather report, he wouldn’t believe it. Mr. Morgan stormed off the GMB set after clashing with weather presenter Alex Beresford over his controversial remarks. By the end of the day, the mental health charity Mind had released a statement showing their deep concern over the statements aired in the show. This was rather awkward for ITV because of their 2021 Get Britain Talking mental wellness campaign, in which Mind is a partner. A strong public reaction ensued. Ofcom received more than 57,000 complaints about Mr. Morgan’s comments on GMB, making it the most complained about TV show in Ofcom’s history. The same evening, ITV announced that the GMB host resigned from his role on the show after six (often confrontational) years.

The complaints received by the regulator can be grouped under two main categories. The first category related to concerns about Morgan’s statements on the Duchess of Sussex’s revelations about her mental health and suicidal feelings. The second category related to concerns about the presenter’s dispute of the Duchess’ personal account of her experiences of racism within the Royal Family during her time as a senior royal. The programme in question raised issues under Section Two of the regulator’s Broadcasting Code which outlines standards for broadcast content in respect of harm and offence.

In particular, the rules engaged were Rule 2.1 which provides that “generally accepted standards must be applied to the content of television and radio services […] so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material” and Rule 2.3 which requires that broadcasters must ensure that potentially offensive material is justified by the context. Under the latter, racist terms and material should be avoided unless their inclusion can be justified by the editorial content of the programme.

As far as the discussion of mental health and suicide in the programme is concerned, Ofcom held in a 97-page-long ruling that Piers Morgan was entitled to hold and express strong views that scrutinised the veracity, timing and possible motivations behind the allegations made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Their interview was a major international news story that was a legitimate subject for debate in the public interest. Restricting such views would be “an unwarranted and chilling restriction” to the broadcasters’ right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without undue interference (Article 10 of the ECHR). However, while the Broadcasting Code does not seek to curb broadcasters’ right to include contentious viewpoints, compliance with the Code’s rules must be ensured.

The regulator expressly acknowledged that Piers Morgan’s statements of disbelief of Meghan Markle’s suicidal thoughts had the potential to cause harm and offence to viewers. Without adequate protection by broadcasters, audience members (some of whom were likely to place weight on the presenter’s opinions) may have been discouraged from seeking mental health support for fear of facing a similar reaction. As the Chief Executive of Mind explained in the charity’s statement: “[…] when celebrities and high-profile individuals speak publicly about their own mental health problems, it can help inspire others to do the same. Sharing personal experiences of poor mental health can be overwhelming, so it’s important that when people do open up about their mental health they are met with understanding and support.”

Ofcom underlined their concerns about Mr. Morgan’s apparent disregard for the seriousness of anyone expressing suicidal thoughts, but nevertheless took the view that the robust and direct challenge to his comments from other programme contributors provided important context for viewers throughout the programme. “Overall, adequate protection for viewers was provided and the potentially harmful and highly offensive material was sufficiently contextualised,” Ofcom concluded. Thus, on balance, the programme was not found in breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3 in respect of the discussion on mental health and suicide. Although the regulator ruled in Mr. Morgan’s favour, it reminded ITV to be more cautious when discussing sensitive issues around mental health, e.g., through the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services.

A similar reasoning was followed in relation to the second category of complaints about race. Ofcom considered that the conversations in the programme provided an open and frank debate on the nature and impact of racism, about which there is a high public interest value. Given the seriousness of the allegations made in the interview to Oprah Winfrey, it was legitimate to discuss and scrutinise these claims. The programme included, however, several contributors who could speak “decisively and with authority” on racial issues, meaning that a range of views was represented, and Mr. Morgan’s comments were directly challenged on several occasions. Despite the strong opinions expressed in the programme, which could be highly offensive to some viewers, any potential offence was justified, according to the regulator’s view, by the broader context; hence, the comments were not found to be in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.

Speaking at a Royal Television Society conference in September 2021, the Chief Executive of Ofcom Dame Melanie Dawes defended the regulator’s ruling as a “quite a finely balanced decision” but “pretty critical” of Piers Morgan. However, BBC presenter Clive Myrie, who interviewed Dame Dawes at the event, told her: “The media forums that I’m on, which include a lot of black broadcasters and producers and people in the industry, were very upset at the Ofcom ruling concerning Piers Morgan, which was about his comments and views on mental health issues, but that race element is there. And their sense is that it [Ofcom] is too white an organisation and would never understand why that ruling was so upsetting to so many people.”

Piers Morgan was recently nominated for best TV presenter at the 2021 National Television Awards. On 15 September 2021, it was reported that he would be joining a Rupert Murdoch-owned network as a host of a new show that is planned to air in the US, UK and Australia.

This piece was first published on the IRIS Merlin legal database and is reproduced on our blog with permission and thanks. The original article can be accessed here.

Who Killed the Radio Star? How Music Blanket Licensing Distorts the Production of Creative Content in Radio

Photo by Eric Nopanen

According to popular and scholarly belief, video killed the radio star. The golden age of radio, culminating in the 1930s and 1940s, was gone with the rise of television in the 1950s and 1960s.

In their new article, titled ‘Who Killed the Radio Star? How Music Blanket Licensing Distorts the Production of Creative Content in Radio’ and published in the American University Law Review, Dr. Eden Sarid, Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex and Prof. Ariel Katz, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, advance the argument that television’s role in the “death” of the radio star has been more limited than commonly believed.

A major culprit, the authors argue, is the common licensing practice of musical content for broadcasting, or more precisely, the blanket license issued by copyright collective management organizations (CMOs). CMOs offer all-you-can-eat blanket licenses that allow broadcasters to use as many songs from the CMO’s repertoire as they like for a fixed fee.

Thus, by setting a zero marginal price for broadcasting additional songs from the CMO’s repertoire, CMOs’ blanket licensing drives commercial radio stations to dedicate a larger portion of their programming to the broadcasting of recorded songs and to reduce the time and resources spent on producing or procuring other content.

The article then reveals that the analysis of blanket licenses should not be limited to their static effects (i.e., the trade-off between lower transaction costs and supra-competitive pricing), but it should also include the dynamic effect of blanket licensing on the type and quality of content production.

This dynamic effect also poses a challenge for copyright law and policy: while collective licensing may be beneficial to one class of copyright holders, it may hinder the production of other content and harm creators of such content, by depriving them of important opportunities for market and cultural participation.

Moreover, the article provides a novel explanation for the well-documented phenomenon of the “death” of the radio star and re-evaluates some of the existing explanations.

Finally, the authors discuss some alternative models for music licensing that can mitigate the distortion created by blanket licenses.

A copy of the article can be accessed on the University’s research repository.

Police and Crime Commissioners: A Dislocated Expectation?

Image by James Eades

New research, based on exclusive interviews with high-ranking figures from across UK policing – including Chief Constables, PCCs, one of the most senior persons in policing and one of the persons involved with introducing PCCs – suggests a postcode lottery in police accountability. The calibre of individual PCCs is seen as the key factor in ensuring adequate oversight, with stark differences exposed between forces.

Dr. Simon Cooper, from the Essex Law School, gained unprecedented access to key figures from all sides, on the condition of their anonymity.

Dr. Cooper’s findings, which were published in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice and subsequently cited in the House of Commons Police and Crime Commissioners 2021 Report as well as House of Lords 2022 Report Police and Crime Commissioners: Powers and Functions, support the argument that the current system can work.

However, Dr. Cooper identifies a “significant anomaly”, with accountability dependent on the relative strengths of PCCs and Chief Constables and the relationship between the two. Success, in this respect, can be seen to “hinge on luck”.

Dr. Cooper said:

“These findings suggest a significant variation in how police accountability is administered around the country. While one Chief Constable described being regularly ‘grilled’ by their PCC, some Commissioners are seen as ill-equipped, ill-prepared and potentially ego-driven. The importance placed by the system on these single individuals suggests there is a real possibility that some Chief Constables are being held to account more effectively than others.”

One Chief Constable, identified as Chief Constable D, outlined the issues that exist when dealing with their elected PCC, contrasting it with the previous ‘tripartite’ structure, where Chief Constables would report to the Home Secretary and their local Police Authority:

“…there is a significant risk that the relationship (between PCC and CC) either becomes excessively hostile, excessively friendly or… there isn’t the balance, additional questioning or informing of the debate that a wider group would give. (…) Because of poor safeguards and governance arrangements it too quickly descends into personalities and subjectivity in which accountability becomes likeability, becomes re-electability. Accountability becomes all of those things it shouldn’t.”

Another Chief Constable, Chief Constable C, underlined the importance of the PCC-Chief Constable relationship, noting the impact of individual experience and characters:

I have seen evidence of PCCs who are ill-equipped and ill-prepared and actually don’t have the skills to understand big organisations making sweeping statements and making assumptions about individuals without any basis whatsoever. I have also seen Chief Constables that do not want to adapt to a new way of working and will be very obstructive towards PCCs.”

Summarising the impact on oversight, Police and Crime Commissioner D asked:

“The question is can a PCC be played by a Chief Constable? They clearly could be and some I suspect are. I am quite sure that there are some Chief Constables who just pay lip service to their PCC.”

The current system was seen by some as placing an impractical burden on one individual. The lack of a ‘pool of different views’ limits opportunities for the PCC to moderate their thoughts and has the potential to leave the PCC either exposed or guided by advice from others, with no formal oversight role. PCC A commented:

Presumably if it’s something they (the PCC) didn’t know a lot about they talk to a lot of people about it but you don’t see any of those conversations played out.”

In reality, one senior figure, Person Z, was left questioning the original design of the PCC system:

“For one person, even though they are elected, to replace the wisdom and contribution of 19 [Police Authority members] is a tall ask. There’s only one person [the PCC] providing scrutiny [of Chief Constables] and that’s a heavy responsibility, so in terms of scrutiny of course it’s a lot less. Palpably has it worked? No… I suspect PCCs might, in hindsight, be regarded as a blunder.”

Dr. Cooper’s findings suggest a need for the Home Secretary to review the Policing Protocol and for an Accountability Code of Practice to be issued. He said:

“This research encourages the Home Secretary to exercise their power and urgently review The Policing Protocol Order. In its current form, the PPO is overly broad, presumption-based, loosely-worded and generic, with a resulting impact on accountability.”

Dr. Cooper’s research is published at a time of a continuing debate on police accountability. The Police Foundation found a “crisis of confidence”, recommending “root and branch reform”, and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services recommended a “profound and far-reaching police reform” and there have been calls for a Royal Commission.

Dr. Cooper’s research also found that in some instances the PCC model is viewed favourably when contrasted with its forerunner, with the previous bureaucracy and resulting backlog replaced by a “single point of decision-making” and a greater “visibility” of the decision-making process at a local level.

Other interviewees, however, suggested such appearances could be deceptive. PCC E commented:

“We have gained in terms of visibility but lost in terms of detailed scrutiny that the Police Authority was capable of.”

Dr. Simon Cooper’s article titled ‘Police and Crime Commissioners: A Dislocated Expectation?’ was published in Vol. 15, Issue 3 of Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice and can be accessed via the publisher’s website here. The House of Commons report on PCCs, citing Dr. Cooper’s research (pp. 10-11), can be read here. The House of Lords report also citing his research (para. 1.3) can be read here.

This ELR post was updated on 10 November 2022 to reflect recent developments in the impact of Dr. Cooper’s research.

The Use of Digital Reconstruction Technology in International Law

Photo by Sajad Nori

Digital reconstructions of crime scenes have been used more frequently in both domestic and international courts as technology becomes more developed and accessible to courtroom actors.

Though digital reconstructions can be beneficial, especially in the context of international criminal law, as they allow judges to visit crime scenes that would otherwise be too expensive or dangerous to travel to in person, there are inherent risks that come with the use of this novel type of evidence in a court of law.

Sarah Zarmsky, a doctoral candidate with the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, published an article titled ‘Why Seeing Should Not Always Be Believing: Considerations Regarding the Use of Digital Reconstruction Technology in International Law‘ in the Journal of International Criminal Justice (JICJ).

Sarah’s article explores some key considerations which arise if digital reconstructions are to be used in international criminal courts and tribunals, with an emphasis on the rights of the accused and effects on victims and witnesses.

The article argues that in order for fair trial standards to be upheld and for international courts to fulfil their roles not just as prosecutors of crimes, but as seekers of truth and reconciliation, digital reconstructions need to be approached with caution and analysed through a critical eye.

Sarah will present her paper as part of the Launch Event for the JICJ Special Issue on New Technologies and the Investigation of International Crimes, which will be held virtually on 9 November 2021 at 15:30-17:00 GMT.

This event will bring the authors of articles in the special issue together, including Essex Law School’s Dr. Daragh Murray who also contributed to the same issue and served as one of its co-editors, for a discussion of their key insights on the future role of technology in accountability processes. Those interested in attending can register here.

ESRC New Investigator Grant Award For ‘Mediation of Medical Treatment Disputes: A Therapeutic Justice Model’

Dr. Jaime Lindsey, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, has recently been awarded the prestigious ESRC New Investigator grant for her research project ‘Mediation of Medical Treatment Disputes: A Therapeutic Justice Model’. She has been awarded £299,791 over 30 months to use socio-legal methods to research the use of mediation in medical treatment disputes.

The core aim of the project is to understand whether and, if so, the extent to which, mediation can and should be viewed as a form of Therapeutic Justice in medical treatment disputes. The research will adopt a mixed-methods approach including observations of medical treatment mediations, interviews with mediation participants and a questionnaire.

Mediation, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution, is generally more informal and flexible than court proceedings, but often takes place alongside or in parallel with court cases. ‘Medical treatment disputes’ in this context means disagreements that arise between patients, health professionals, family members and others regarding the provision of health and care to the patient herself.

Usually the patient will be an adult with impaired mental capacity or a child below the age of 16, such that they are legally incapable of making their own decision about medical treatment, hence the involvement of healthcare professionals, family members and the courts. The disputes most commonly arise between family members of the patient and healthcare professionals, but in some cases may involve the patient herself.

The research will consider whether there are any therapeutic, or healing, benefits of using non-court based methods of resolution, such as mediation, to resolve disputes that arise from healthcare contexts, as well as considering the ways in which mediation could become more therapeutic as an intervention. For example, through improved communication between parties, improved voice or participation in the process of dispute resolution and speed of resolution.

This project builds on existing research on mediation and Therapeutic Justice to consider mediation’s value in often challenging healthcare environments, while also considering that mediation comes with a number of risks which may make it is less than ideally therapeutic. For example, mediation can reflect or reinforce existing power imbalances between parties, it can limit the participation of the subject of proceedings and it may be seen as a cost-saving, rather than therapeutic, exercise.

As the use of mediation has not yet been tested through empirical research in the medical treatment disputes context, nor has a model of Therapeutic Justice been developed or applied to this field, this project seeks to test those claims empirically through qualitative analysis of mediation in medical treatment disputes.

This research will commence in April 2022, with a launch event later that year, followed by dissemination of the research findings in the later years of the project. If you would like further information about the project or to be kept updated regarding the findings then please get in touch with the PI, Dr. Jaime Lindsey, at this email address:

The International Criminal Court and the Transformation of Post-War Justice in Northern Uganda

International Criminal Court, The Hague | Source: Flickr

Miracle Chinwenmeri Uche, Assistant Lecturer and Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Essex, co-authored an article with Tonny Raymond Kirabira (Researcher, Portsmouth Law School) titled ‘The International Criminal Court and the transformation of post-war justice in Northern Uganda’. The article was published in Sentio Journal, Issue 3 (Transformations).

In recent years, the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has attained increased attention across interdisciplinary scholarship. At the same time, the impact of the ICC in Africa remains contested.

To this end, Tonny Raymond Kirabira and Miracle Chinwenmeri Uche examine the interface between the ICC and transitional justice processes in Northern Uganda, following a 20-year war involving the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the government forces.

The article draws on qualitative work in the fields of international criminal law, human rights, and political science. It finds that the Ugandan situation demonstrates that top-down transitional justice has both positive and negative dimensions.

In their article, the authors argue that while the ICC has helped to transform judicial aspects, it has also contributed towards the decline of traditional justice mechanisms.

As such, they posit that the ICC’s approach to addressing international crimes in situation countries needs to be aligned with the domestic complementary mechanisms, whilst also allowing space for other transitional justice approaches like amnesty and reconciliation.

Tonny Raymond Kirabira and Miracle Chinwenmeri Uche conclude by making a compelling case for the involvement of international criminal tribunals in post-war contexts but also argue that this needs to be done in such a way that promotes good domestic processes and incorporates bottom-up perspectives.

The article can be accessed through the publisher’s website here.