Newcastle Law School

Newcastle Forum for Human Rights & Social Justice

Newcastle Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice

About us

The Forum is a multi-disciplinary group based within the Law School, Newcastle University, with members from, among others, Law, Arts & Culture, History, Business, Geography, Politics, but also members from Northumbria University.

In this way the Forum establishes a vital research network among different disciplines and different universities in the North East of England bringing together varied expertise and diverse knowledge on ideas concerning human rights and social justice. In this respect, the Forum provides, through publications, seminars, conferences, projects and engagement, a platform for intellectual dialogue on issues of local, national and international significance and engages with various stakeholders such as scholars, policy makers, non-governmental organisations and civic society on contemporary societal challenges.

The Forum is currently co-led by Dr Elena Katselli (Law), Professor Peter Stone (Arts & Culture) and Professor Mark Shucksmith (Architecture, Planning and Landscape).

  • Dr Katselli is an international lawyer with extensive research and teaching expertise in international human rights. Some of her recent publications include a joint article (with Dr Vassilis Tzevelekos) on the extra-territorial obligation of states to protect migrants at sea, and an edited collection on armed conflict and forcible displacement.
  • Professor Stone is a well-established figure with national and international standing on the protection of cultural property during armed conflict and is currently the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Property Protection and Peace.
  • Professor Shucksmith, who is also the Director of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal, has published widely on poverty, social exclusion and rural development.

Programme of activities 2018-19


The Newcastle Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice (NHRSJ) aims to foster debate within and beyond Newcastle University about the concepts of human rights and its place within broader conceptions of social justice.

As members of HaSS Faculty Research Groups, we seek to cultivate a stimulating and innovative research environment by forging inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional links.

The NHRSJ examines human rights as a foundation of wider inter-disciplinary research into social justice.

We engage with contemporary discussions on the nature of human rights, the challenges faced by the human rights movement and the concept’s history and development. As such, our work has relevance across the humanities and social sciences. We aim to produce outputs that raise awareness of relevant issues, alter attitudes of public officials, shape debate, and issue in legal change.

The work of the NHRSJ advances understanding of human rights and social justice, both within and beyond the United Kingdom. In our work, we collaborate with practitioners, non-governmental organisations, international organisations and government agencies, contributing to training and knowledge exchange within this important field.

The NHRSJ is a member of the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI).

Achieving our Aims

These aims will be achieved in various ways:

  • Through the organisation of events such as seminars and lectures with prominent speakers on specific issues, which reflect the teaching and research interests of each member of the Group, the Group hopes to facilitate dissemination of knowledge of the latest developments on human rights and related issues.
  • Through the production of high quality teaching and research, reflecting the interests of its members, the Group hopes to support critical thinking, academic initiative and freedom of thought.
  • Through the formulation of common teaching and research ideas, intended to be materialised with the support of external funding, the Group hopes to organise events which will assist in achieving its aims.


The Forum is currently co-led by Elena Katselli (Law), Peter Stone (Arts & Culture) and Mark Shucksmith (Architecture, Planning and Landscape). It is supported through the rich portfolio of its members which include (among many others):

  • Colin Murray who is currently working on prisoner voting rights, the human rights implications of counter-terrorism law and policy and the rights implications of Brexit;
  • Ruth Houghton who joined the Law School in September 2017 and whose research mainly concerns international law, global constitutionalisation and debates on democratisation. Ruth has written on the UN Human Rights Council with a forthcoming presentation (April 2018) at Reading University’s UN Global Order Programme on the United Nations Human Rights Council;
  • Elliot Winter who is researching the compatibility of lethal autonomous weapons systems with various rules and principles of international law.  At present he is focussing on the challenges posed to this technology by the principle of ‘proportionality’’;
  • Hélène Tyrrell whose book on UK Human Rights Law and the Influence of Foreign Jurisprudence will be published soon;
  • Kathryn Hollingsworth who has published widely on children’s rights;
  • Jenny Johnstone who has extensive expertise on restorative justice, criminal justice and youth justice;
  • Professor Rhona Smith who is an expert in international human rights law and who currently acts as the UN Special Rapporteur on Cambodia;
  • Sarah Campbell whose research focuses on political violence;
  • Koldo Casla and Peter Roderick who are leading the Article 22 project, an initiative to identify the law and policy changes needed to secure economic, social and cultural rights in the UK

Other members include:

Group News

  • Justice Matters in the North

The Newcastle Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice, together with Legal Action Group and Justice Alliance, co-hosted an online event entitled 'Justice Matters in the North' on Tuesday 1 December 2020. Local legal practitioners shared insights about access to justice challenges relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond and Professor Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Extreme Poverty made introductory remarks at the event. Lady Hale drew attention to the lack of Parliamentary scrutiny of Covid related legislation and the knock-on impact of a public misunderstanding of what constitutes 'the law' in 'a bewildering number of new sets of regulations'. Professor Alston commented upon the inter-related problems of poverty, ongoing austerity measures, Brexit and climate change. One of the key themes that emerged from the event was the need for lawyers to collaborate across civil society in order to resolve social justice problems.














You can read Lady Hale's remarks - The Pandemic and the Constitution - Lady Hale.

The Justice Matters: Essays from the Pandemic published by Legal Action Group is available online.
  • Third-party intervention submitted to the European Court of Human Rights

On 2 September 2019, the Newcastle Forum for Human Rights & Social Justice – led by Ms Raffaella D’Antonio, Dr Elena Katselli (Co-convenor) and Dr Elena Fasoli (Trento University), the Newcastle Environmental Regulation Research Group - led by Dr Ole Pedersen (Convenor) and Dr Ciara Brennan, and two non-governmental organisations, namely Legambiente, and Let’s Do It! Italy, submitted, after Court permission, a third-party intervention in the case of Di Caprio and others v Italy to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case concerns a complaint against Italy that it has failed to effectively protect the rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the rights to life and to private and family life as guaranteed under Articles 2 and 8 respectively. This is the result of ongoing environmental pollution caused by tonnes of toxic waste dumped and burned in illegal landfills in Campania, in the south of the country and known as the Land of Fires. Such dumping and burning by criminal organisations has caused serious air and soil contamination which in turn have had, and continue to have, a detrimental impact on health with scientific evidence demonstrating a statistical link between the environmental disaster in Campania and the increased incidence of malformation and cancer mortality in the region.

In their legal opinion, the interveners, led by Ms D’ Antonio, a Doctoral student at Newcastle Law School, argue that the environmental disaster in Campania has been exacerbated by the lack of an effective national legal framework aimed at tackling environmental crimes and by the lack of a precautionary approach in tackling and removing all sources of environmental pollution harmful to human health. Drawing from current developments and debates in contemporary international law concerning the right to a healthy environment, the interveners stress that environmental degradation may have a direct (legal) impact on the enjoyment of rights. To this effect, states may be held responsible for failing to take appropriate action to prevent environmental degradation even in situations, as in this instance, where such degradation is caused by non-state actors.

The intervention aims to assist the Court in identifying the applicable legal principles in determining the issues before it. Amicus Curiae Research Briefing  (PDF: 660KB)

  •  The Newcastle Forum for Human Rights & Social Justice is very pleased to welcome Dr Elena Fasoli, Trento University, as one of its newest member. 

Dr Fasoli is an expert in international environmental law and has recently collaborated with the Newcastle Forum for Human Rights & Social Justice and the Newcastle Environmental Regulation Research Group for the submission of a third-party intervention in the case of Di Caprio and others against Italy before the European Court of Human Rights. Dr Fasoli's expertise will enrich the research activities, projects and initiatives already undertaken by the Newcastle Forum for Human Rights & Social Justice, and it will open the way for stronger collaboration with the Forum's members, furthering in this way both the Forum's international research standing and the existing partnership between Newcastle Law School and the Faculty of Law at Trento University, one of the top Universities in Italy. 

  • Jo Smith Finley’s recent key moments over the last year have all been focused on China's 'counter-terror' measures and human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, NW China: 

1. Op-ed for Chinafile: ‘Now We Don’t Talk Anymore’: Inside the ‘Cleansing’ of Xinjiang, December 28, 2018
2. Guest-edited Special issue (Central Asian Survey, March 2019): 'Securitization, insecurity and conflict in contemporary Xinjiang' [NW China] 
Guest editor's introduction:'Securitization, insecurity and conflict in contemporary Xinjiang: has PRC counter-terrorism evolved into state terror?'
3. "Fear, Trauma, and State Violation in Xinjiang, China" - Talk to the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, 28 May 2019
4. "How Sheep Become Tigers: Securitization and Mass Internment in Xinjiang" - paper presented at the British International Studies Association (BISA) annual conference in London, 14 June 2019. Forthcoming as book chapter in Contested Religious Identities. The Politics of Muslim Societies in Asia, edited by Mohamed Nawab Osman and Iulia Lumina.

  • Our Ph.D Student Raffaella D’Antonio presented papers at the following conferences:

1. North East Law Forum Conference
In July 2018 she presented a paper on the green human rights jurisprudence of the ECtHR and the right to life during the North East Law Forum Conference. In this context she was awarded one of the two prizes for best presentation. She is now part of the Organizing Committee for the 2019 NELF Conference.
2. Association of Human Rights Institute 2018th edition
In September 2018 she presented a paper during the Annual Conference of the Association of Human Rights Institute (AHRI) in Edinburgh on the emerging norm of a right to a healthy environment in international law.
3. Workshop on the ECtHR in collaboration with Dr Chenal (lawyer at the Court) and Libera (Italian NGO). October 2019.
Thanks to the networking created during her internship at the CoE and during the months of field research spent in Italy, she has successfully proposed to Dr Chenal and to the Italian NGO Libera to organize a workshop on the functions and structure of the ECtHR to be delivered in a high school in Naples. The workshop also addressed sensitive doctrinal issues and relevant case-law concerning the concepts of dignity, universality of human rights and balancing of rights. The proposal was positively welcomed by both parties and the workshop received positive feedback from the students and teachers participating.
4. Being Human Festival of Humanities 2018.
In November 2018, she was shortlisted to deliver a public talk during the Festival of humanities held in Newcastle. In this occasion she has discussed the role that civil society has played in the advancement of environmental regulations in the Land of Fires, an area in Campania (south Italy) where systematically since the end of the ‘80s, toxic wastes have been illegally burnt and buried.
5. Conference ‘Cultural Heritage Protection in Armed Conflict’, Newcastle University 1 & 2nd March 2019.
From November to March 2019 she has actively contributed in several aspects of the organization for the Conference on ‘Cultural Heritage Protection in Armed Conflict’. This experience allowed me to further develop professional skills extremely useful for her future career.
6. PGRs Seminar Series Presentation
In May 2019 she has been invited to present her research and preliminary findings for the PGRs Seminar Series.

  • Josh Jowitt has produced the following conference papers:
    • Aug 2018: Presentation on rights for nonhuman animals, with focus on the Argentine case of Cecilia the Chimpanzee, delivered at the Finnish Society for Human/Animal Studies Conference, University of Turku, Finland
    • Oct 2018: Paper on the desirability of legal personhood for AI, Wellcome Collection, London
    • May 2019: Paper on the desirability of legal rights for animals, 6th Conference of the European Association of Critical Animal Studies, Universitat Pompeu-Fabra Barcelona
    • June 2019: Paper on the desirability of legal personhood for animals, Episteme e Logos Ethics Conference, University of Porto, Portugal
    • July 2019: Paper on the desirability of legal rights for animals, IVR World Congress, hosted at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Ted Schrecker, Professor of Global Health Policy has published the following:
    •  T. Schrecker, ‘The political economy of public health: Challenges for ethics,’ in A. Mastroianni, J. Kahn and N. Kass and A. Mastroianni, eds. Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019);  doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190245191.013.73. 
    • T. Schrecker, ‘Critical approaches to international political economy and global health,’ in C. McInnes & K. Lee, eds., Oxford Handbook of Global Health Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018);  doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190456818.013.29.
    • T. Schrecker, ‘The state and global health,’ in C. McInnes & K. Lee, eds., Oxford Handbook of Global Health Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190456818.013.18.
    • T. Schrecker, ‘The Commission on Social Determinants of Health: Ten years on, a tale of a sinking stone, or of promise yet unrealised?’ Critical Public Health doi.10.1080/09581596.2018.1516034 (2018).
    • T. Schrecker, A-E. Birn, L. Shipton and T. Schrecker, ‘Canadian mining and ill health in Latin America: a call to action,’ Canadian Journal of Public Health doi.10.17269/s41997-018-0113-y (2018).
    • T. Schrecker, A-E. Birn and M. Aguilera, ‘How extractive industries affect health: Political economy, underpinnings and pathways,’ Health and Place 52 (2018): 135-147;
    • A. Kapilashrami and T. Schrecker, ‘Global Health Watch: Challenging entrenched ideas in global health’ [Editorial], BMJ 360 (2018): k956 doi: 10.1136/bmj.k956.
  • Elenie Poulos' paper presented last year is now available on Inherently Human's website!
  • Our Ph.D Student Raffaella D’Antonio has been selected to deliver a short public lecture as part of the national 'Being Human' Festival of the Humanities, which took place in November.

Since Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which formulates a link between human rights and environment in procedural terms, the international community has recognized that because of their paramount importance, environmental issues should not be left only to the discretion of the governments but handled with the participation of all concerned citizens. In the occasion of the Being Human Festival, Raffaella's talk discusses the need for a shared responsibility of civil society to work together for the preservation of the environment and for the sake of present and future generations.  Thus, Raffaella's lecture focuses on the role that civil society has played in the advancement of environmental regulations in the Land of Fires, an area in Campania (south Italy) where systematically since the end of the ‘80s, toxic wastes have been illegally burnt and buried.

  • Dr Joanne Smith Finley's online blog article was published in June:

Smith Finley, J. (2018) ‘Islam in Xinjiang: “De-Extremification” or Violation of Religious Space?’ Asia Dialogue, Asia Research Institute, University of Nottingham.

  • The following article was published during the summer:

Wallace S, Mallory C. Applying the European Convention on Human Rights to the Conflict in Ukraine. Russian Law Journal 2018, 6(3), 8-78.

  • Prof. Gary Craig gave oral evidence to the government inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act, on the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Three weeks ago he submitted evidence to the Home |Affairs Select Committtee on their inquiry into the Act The North East Race Equality Forum is holding a major conference on 25 years since Stephen Lawrence in November. He also has two books coming out in the next months, details TBC.

  • Raffaella D'Antonio is a Ph.D student and joined the Newcastle Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice since July 2017.

Her project focuses on the relationship between states' human rights obligations and environmental protection in the light of a specific case study, the Land of Fires (South Italy). After having successfully completed her tranship at the department of execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and having conducted field research in Italy, Raffaella has disseminated her findings during the North East Law Forum Conference. In this occasion, Raffaella was awarded one of the two prizes for best papers.

Raffaella has also presented a paper titled ‘The Right to a Healthy Environment as an Emerging Norm of International Law’ during the Annual Conference of the Association of Human Rights Institute (AHRI), held in Edinburgh in September 2018. 

  • Ph.D. student completes her Traineeship at the Council of Europe

 Our Ph.D. student Raffaella D’Antonio has just successfully completed her traineeship at the Council of Europe.

During her traineeship Raffaella worked as an intern at the Department of Execution of Judgments and Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The Department assists and advises the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in supervising that Member States effectively comply with the judgments of the European Court. Her work aimed at providing preliminary assessments of several judgments of the European Court and drafting reports on the practice of the Committee of Ministers regarding specific aspects of the execution process.

Raffaella also carried out comparative researches on complex legal issues of particular importance for the work of the Department and actively participated in a training course organized for legal officers of the European Court on the environment in the Court’s case-law. She was also invited to assist during Italian hearings before the Court and to attend the December 2017 Human Rights meeting of the Committee of Ministers. Working for the Department of Execution of Judgments allowed her to gain first-hand knowledge of the functioning of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and of the work of the European Court as a supra-national international court. Similarly, Raffaella gained deep understanding of the work of the Committee of Ministers related to the supervision of the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Such traineeships are very competitive and difficult to secure so well done to Raffaella for such a big accomplishment!

  • Dr Ellie Smith's work on Victims in the Witness Stand: Socio-Cultural and Psychological Challenges in Eliciting Victim Testimony has been published as a book chapter!

(in Tibori-Szabó K., Hirst M. (eds) Victim Participation in International Criminal Justice. International Criminal Justice Series, vol 11. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague.)

The chapter explores socio-cultural and psychological barriers that inhibit testimony for victims of international crimes. These barriers can arise at the time of the crime, during the period between the perpetration of the crime and testimony, and during testimony itself, where the psychological impact of trauma has affected the ability of the victim to recall or coherently articulate their experiences. While many of these barriers stem directly from the abuse suffered, actions of the courts, including collective approaches to victim representation, the use of interpreters and intermediaries, and the nature and style of questioning, also have the potential to mediate or inhibit individual testimony. These barriers pose challenges not only for the victim themselves, but also for Prosecution and Defence counsel, victims’ lawyers, victim support personnel and judges in the attainment and assessment of victim evidence.

Part of this research work was presented at a staff seminar organised and supported by the Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice in February 2017.

Dr. Ellie Smith is a consultant and trainer specialising in medico-legal and psychological issues affecting victims of international crimes within the justice process and members of the Forum for Human Rights and Social Justice.

Current Seminars

 Programme of activities 2018-19

  •  Wednesday 28th November 2018, 1-5pm - Regional Human Rights Network Workshop

The newly established Regional Network for Human Rights invites participation from individuals undertaking research in human rights and related areas at universities across North East England and Scotland. The network’s purpose is to create a collegiate environment where academics can present working papers, network with others researching in their field and explore potential collaborations.

There is no registration fee for attendance at the workshop. If you would like to attend, or if you have any queries relating to the network, please contact Conall Mallory.

Regional human rights network poster


Staff Seminars - 'Rights and Responsibilities in Times of Transition: Opportunities and Challenges'



Past Seminars

Previous seminars: