New Publication: The Transnational Counter-Terrorism Order

m_clp_71_1coverLast November I was delighted to present a Current Legal Problems lecture at UCL. The article that emerged from that lecture has now been published in advance access format by the CLP and will appear in this year’s hardcopy. It is available here, and the abstract is  as follows:

We live our lives in an often-unseen transnational counter-terrorism order. For almost two decades now, counter-terrorist hegemons have been acting on multiple transnational levels, using a mixture of legal, institutional, technical and political manoeuvres to develop laws, policies and practices of counter-terrorism that undervalue rights, exclude civil society, limit dissent and disagreement, and expand greatly the reach of national and transnational security. The assemblage of laws, institutions, forums, processes, bureaucracies, and cooperative networks that have emerged from these machinations should be understood as a transnational counter-terrorism order that is intended to instantiate on a global level ‘an arrangement of social life…[that]…promotes certain goals or values’ (Bull), whether or not they conflict with rights, whether or not they emerge from legitimate and participatory processes. This paper brings together various seemingly-technical or esoteric strands of law, institutions, policy and politics to show their connections, interdependencies and interactions and, thereby, to illustrate the emergence of this transnational counter-terrorism order. It argues that unless we recognise the connections between and multi-scalar implications of the seemingly disparate, sometimes opaque, and often bureaucratic elements that make up the transnational counter-terrorism order, its scale and implications will remain hidden in plain sight and we may find ourselves unable effectively to insist on fidelity to the constitutionalist values of rights, accountability, and democratic legitimacy.

The new sovereigntism: what it means for human rights law in the UK

Cross-posted from LSE Brexit Blog

For many people, Brexit is about taking back ‘control’; about determining for ‘ourselves’ what the law is, how it applies, how we spend our money, and how we develop our policies. The fact that many people both before the referendum and now struggle to identify with accuracy an area of law or policy in which the EU has ‘taken’ control (and not had competence ceded or shared through a Treaty change ratified by the UK) is irrelevant; what matters is the perception of a lack of national autonomy, and an associated corrosion of domestic democratic control.

Deep within at least parts of the arguments that circulate around Brexit is a form of new sovereigntism that is deeply worrying to the rule of law. The UK is hardly alone in this phenomenon; as far back as 2000 Peter Spiro wrote about the emergence of new sovereigntism in the United States; about a group of scholars and intellectuals who were not opposed to international law per se, but who thought that the US should be able to engage with it as and when it wanted to. In other words, these scholars promoted an a la carte approach to international law, underpinned by a “brand of anti-internationalism [that] runs deep in the American political tradition”. Continue reading The new sovereigntism: what it means for human rights law in the UK

Being an Academic Today: Thoughts for Undergraduates

This week I went to Dublin to speak at the opening dinner of the Global Summit for the Undergraduate Awards. The dinner, and my speech, were on Wednesday (9 November), and the 150 students being honoured at the dinner came from all over the world. Wednesday, of course, was when people on this side of the Atlantic discovered that Donald Trump had been elected as the 45th President of the United States of America (subject to ratification by the Electoral College, of course). For many people, the election of Trump was a blow to progressivism, human rights, esteem and many other values that we hold dear; it is also perceived by many as part of the slide towards authoritarianism across ‘the West’. Bearing all of this in mind, it was somewhat difficult to craft a speech that would be uplifting, but the below is the text that I settled on. I decided to focus on being an academic in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and on the social value of that role at times like this. Continue reading Being an Academic Today: Thoughts for Undergraduates

Hong Kong and Comparative Public Law

As already noted, I have spent this week in Hong Kong, visiting at HKU Law’s brilliant and vibrant Centre for Comparative and Public Law. It is a fascinating time to be in Hong Kong. Elections for the Legislative Council take place today (Sunday 4th September), and the political arena is alive with calls for everything from Hong Kong independence (although they are not in the majority) to a return of Hong Kong to the UK (definitely not the majority!). My dominant sense, though, from the week spent contributing to a roundtable on the HK Basic Law’s Article 23 (this is a useful primer), speaking to PhD students, speaking with practicing lawyers and lawyers in training is that people are deeply concerned with maintaining not only the Hong Kong way of life but also—and fundamentally connected therewith—the Rule of Law. Continue reading Hong Kong and Comparative Public Law