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The YTL Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law presents a symposium with Sir Noel Malcolm

K2.31 (Nash Lecture Theatre), King's Building, Strand Campus
22/02/2018 (17:30-19:30)
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We are delighted to invite you to attend 'Human Rights and Political Wrongs'. A symposium with Sir Noel Malcolm presented by the YTL Centre in Politics, Philosophy & Law.

In his new work Human Rights and Political Wrongs, one of the UK’s leading historians offers a trenchant critique of the existing system of human rights law and an original theory of the principles that should govern such law.

According to Sir Noel Malcolm, the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg operates on erratic and uncertain principles; it expands the scope of the European Convention beyond what was agreed by the signatory states; and it erodes democracy, encroaching on matters that should be decided by democratic legislatures. The Court not only tries to deduce law from unclear abstractions, but also invents ones that are not in the text of the Convention, such as ‘personal autonomy’. The result is bad law-making, of a subjective and open-ended kind.

Human rights, Malcolm argues, need to be re-thought from the foundations. Rejecting leading philosophical theories of human rights, including those that construe them as moral rights possessed by all humans in virtue of their humanity, Malcolm offers a new theory of human rights law. According to this view, human rights essentially set limits to democratic state power – compliance with them is a condition of the legitimacy of any democratic government. Since human rights are the fundamental political rights of people under democratic government, they should be used to protect democracy, not to erode it. 

A copy of Noel Malcolm's book is available here

The event will be chaired by Professor Gillian Douglas, Dean of the Dickson Poon School of Law.


Sir Noel Malcolm is Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. He did his doctorate in History at Cambridge, and was for seven years a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He has been a Visiting Lecturer at Harvard and a Visiting Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford; he is an Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, Gonville and Caius College, and Trinity College, Cambridge. His work has ranged widely in European history and intellectual history, with a particular interest in the history of political philosophy. 


Merris Amos is a Professor of Human Rights Law in the Department of Law at Queen Mary University of London. She has previously held posts at the University of Westminster, the University of Essex and the Australian Human Rights Commission. From 2006 until 2013 she was the General Editor of the Human Rights Law Reports UK Cases. Her teaching and research concern the protection of human rights at the national level, in particular the Human Rights Act 1998, and the relationship between national institutions and the European Court of Human Rights. 

Jessica Simor QC is a barrister at Matrix chambers. She is recognised as one of the country’s leading specialists in public/regulatory, EU and human rights law, acting for a wide range of clients, ranging from large companies, regulators, Government departments, NGOs, and for private individuals. She has particular experience in data protection privacy/data protection, tax, regulatory/competition law across different industries and in civil liberties work. 

John Tasioulas joined The Dickson Poon School of Law in September, 2014 as the inaugural Chair of Politics, Philosophy & Law and Director of the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law. He has degrees in Law and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and a D.Phil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He was previously a Lecturer in Jurisprudence at the University of Glasgow and Reader in Moral and Legal Philosophy at the University of Oxford, where he taught from 1998-2010. He has written extensively on a variety of topics within mora, legal and political philosophy, with a special focus in recent years on human rights and the philosophy of international law.

Guglielmo Verdirame is Professor of International Law. He joined King’s in September 2011 as part of The Dickson Poon School of Law and the Department of War Studies. Before coming to King’s, Professor Verdirame was a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law (2003-2011); a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford (2000-2003); and a Research Officer at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford (1997-98). He was Visiting Professor at Columbia Law School in the Spring Semester of 2015, and held visiting positions at Harvard Law School in 2006-07.

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