How (not) to counter extremism

By Prof Julian Rivers, Professor of Jurisprudence (University of Bristol Law School).*

The ‘Peace Window’ memorial to Dag Hammarskjøld, by Marc Chagall

Earlier this year, the Government fulfilled one of its General Election Manifesto commitments by appointing Sara Khan as the first chair of a new Commission for Countering Extremism. The Commission’s task is not an enviable one, since if not exactly an admission of failure, its establishment represents at least a significant pause for thought. Its job will be to support society in countering extremism and to advise the Government on new policies and powers. We have some idea of what it aspires to achieve, and how it will work, but as yet no concrete proposals have emerged.

The creation of the Commission is the latest stage in a fairly rapid process of policy development. In its current guise, the idea of countering extremism first emerged in the 2011 version of Prevent, the counter-terrorism strategy. Extremism was defined there as ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’. It was identified as a problem because, it was claimed, extremist ideologies can lead to terrorism – the use or threat of serious violence or other damaging attacks on the public to advance a political, religious, racial or ideological cause. However, at that point the only thing the Government suggested should be done about it was ‘challenge’ – in other words the use of informal social and political pressure to reinforce liberal values in the face of illiberal ones.

In October 2015 – after the ending of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition – the Government’s counter-terrorism policy took another turn. A new counter-extremism strategy identified extremism as a harm in its own right, requiring new legal responses and new Government powers. Ever since, the Government has been trying to work out what these should be. (more…)

Smart technology and patient safety – a double-edged sword?

By Dr Oliver Quick, Reader in Law (University of Bristol Law School) and Prof Anita Ho, Associate Professor of Bioethics (University of British Columbia).*

This blog explores the implications of a specific type of information and communication technology on healthcare delivery: direct-to-consumer (DTC) self-monitoring devices and smartphone apps. The use of such technology is central to healthcare systems delivering more personalised care, and may be useful given an ageing population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, and the aim of reducing hospital admissions. However, smart technologies may create a double-edged sword for therapeutic relationships and patient safety. When used properly, these technologies may promote safe and effective care by empowering patients to take charge of their own health and promote efficient sharing of relevant health information.  However, if not regulated or incorporated appropriately into clinical care, smart technologies can pose significant ethical and safety concerns. (more…)

Sex Work, Labour Unfreedom, and the Law

By Dr Katie Cruz, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

On 2nd June, sex workers and activists gathered globally to mark the struggle for sex workers’ rights. International Sex Workers Day is just one day of the year dedicated to the struggle for sex workers. Activists gather on March 3rd to mark International Sex Worker Rights Day and on December 17th to mark International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. These dates occur because of the historical and ongoing violence against, and exclusion of, sex workers. Sex workers are subject to interpersonal forms of violence, from police officers and clients, and the structural violence of criminal justice and immigration institutions. They are criminalized and affected by often-punitive anti-trafficking laws and policies, and they are subject to heightened immigration controls, including the criminalization of movement and working. The Tory government’s hostile environment has created additional layers of institutionalised insecurity for many migrant sex workers, including restrictions on access to housing, healthcare, education, and banking services.

In a recent article I wrote for Feminist Legal Studies, I argue for a Marxist feminist methodology capable or describing and opposing these intersecting exclusions and oppressions as they apply to migrant sex workers in the UK. However, this method can be used to understand the precarious living and working conditions of all (sex) workers. In this post, I make some remarks in relation to citizen sex workers in the UK and Jamaica, where I am currently conducting fieldwork with Prof Julia O’Connell Davidson and Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor. (more…)

Human Rights in the Council of Europe and the European Union: Achievements, Trends and Challenges

By Prof Steven Greer, Professor of Human Rights (University of Bristol Law School), Prof Janneke Gerards, Chair in Fundamental rights law (Utrecht University), and Miss Rose Slowe, Barrister (Middle Temple) and Honorary Research Fellow (University of Bristol Law School).

In our experience the general public, some of our students, and even some of our colleagues, are confused about the differences between the 47-member Council of Europe, the parent body of the European Court of Human Rights, and the 28 (soon to be 27)-member European Union, in human rights and other fields. Confusion about the differences between the two organizations has also been compounded by increasing interaction between them, particularly over the past decade or so. The human rights-related literature is also dominated by separate studies, largely concerning their respective legal systems. As a result, more integrated accounts are increasingly required. This is the primary objective of our recently-published book – S. Greer, J. Gerards and R. Slowe, Human Rights in the Council of Europe and the European Union: Achievements, Trends and Challenges (Cambridge University Press, 2018). (more…)

Scarce regulatory resources: tactical enforcement and hybrid data governance in the cloud

By Dr Asma Vranaki, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

© Ben O’Bryan

European data protection authorities (EU DPAs) play crucial roles in protecting personal data rights. However, many EU DPAs do not have adequate access to resources in order to be effective data privacy protectors. Although the data privacy law literature recognizes that many EU DPAs operate within such constraints, to date, there has been a dearth of empirical studies on how limited resources can impact on enforcement. A new article* makes a modest attempt to address this empirical gap by analysing selected empirical findings of a recent project which examined the investigations of multinational cloud providers by EU DPAs (Cloud Investigations).

This article draws on the fields of socio-legal studies and regulation to interpret these empirical findings and advances three arguments. First, due to their fiscal constraints, some EU DPAs often have to make tactical enforcement decisions about initiating Cloud Investigations as well as the foci and methods of Cloud Investigations. The decision-making process can be very complex for some EU DPAs as they have to not only consider but also at times balance a broad range of factors including external pressures, law and enforcement styles. Second, hybrid forms of data governance can often emerge during Cloud Investigations as EU DPAs delegate their regulatory tasks to private and governmental (other than EU DPAs) actors due to the limited resources. Finally, this article suggests that hybrid data governance needs to be carefully designed in order to ensure effective and robust data governance. Suggestions are made on how the ‘regulatory space’ can be designed in order to promote accountability, trust, robust data protection and effective multi-actor collaboration.

* This article is derived from the work which Dr Vranaki undertook for the ‘Accountability for Cloud’ research project which was funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme. It can be freely downloaded from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325451273_Scarce_regulatory_resources_tactical_enforcement_and_hybrid_data_governance_in_the_cloud.

Analysis of the New EU General Data Protection Regulation

By Mr Andrew Charlesworth, Reader in IT Law (University of Bristol Law School).

On Friday 25 May 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679), commonly referred to by its acronym of GDPR, comes into force across the EU. In the UK, this will be accompanied by the coming into force of the Data Protection Act 2018 which received Royal Assent on 23 May 2018. The new Act repeals the existing Data Protection Act 1998 and revokes the secondary legislation made under the 1998 Act.

The GDPR is directly applicable, which means that with the exception of limited areas of Member State discretion, it applies in the UK without further need for national legislation. The Data Protection Act 2018 addresses those areas of Member State discretion, and also implements the new Data Protection Directive for Police and Criminal Justice Authorities (Directive (EU) 2016/680), which is designed to protect individuals’ personal data when their data is being processed by police and criminal justice authorities, and to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism and cross-border crime in the EU by enabling police and criminal justice authorities in EU countries to exchange information necessary for investigations efficiently and effectively.

Andrew Charlesworth, Reader in IT law at the University of Bristol Law School, is currently actively engaged in the analysis of the new rules through a series of short articles on the GDPR in conjunction with Cloudview (UK) Limited. Andrew is also providing key expertise in the development of the Privacy Flag initiative. You can access Andrew’s analysis and other work through the links provided in this post. (more…)

Working together to combat global health inequalities

By Prof John Coggon, Professor of Law, and Dr Judy Laing, Reader in Law, co-Directors of the Centre for Health, Law and Society (University of Bristol Law School).

The World Health Organization (WHO) celebrated its 70th anniversary last month, on 7th April 2018, which is World Health Day. The WHO was established in 1948 and one of its founding principles provides that:

the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

The WHO has achieved a considerable amount in that time by focusing on many of the key challenges to reducing global health inequalities. Some of the most recent challenges faced by the WHO are the rise in drug resistance across the globe, as well as the threat of global pandemics, as witnessed with the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, and the burdens of noncommunicable disease. International organisations such as the WHO have a crucial role to play in tackling these threats to our health fairly and effectively, but it cannot achieve change alone. The WHO must do so in partnership with national governments and other key actors. Within these agendas, there are crucial roles for law and governance as levers to help create the conditions in which people can enjoy good physical and mental health.

One of the world’s leading global health law scholars, and one such key actor and WHO collaborator, Professor Larry Gostin, visited the Centre for Health, Law, and Society (CHLS) at the University of Bristol in April 2018 as a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor. He came to talk about his collaborations with the WHO, and to explore some of the key global health challenges with staff and students from across and beyond the university. A key focus throughout his visit was the ways that we can and should link scholarship with activism, policy, and practice: a question at the heart of the mission of CHLS. (more…)

Food as a Commons: why Law Matters?

By Dr Tomaso Ferrando, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

Since Hardin’s publication of the Tragedy of the Commons in 1968, the perception of ‘the commons’ has been closely intertwined with food and agricultural production. As a matter of fact, Hardin was worried that common land which was openly and unrestrictedly accessible to livestock would have been quickly impoverished and eventually lost its economic potential. According to Hardin, livestock production should take place on the basis of a well-defined and individualist proprietary regime which allocates the land to all users, so that the cost of idiosyncrasy and over-exploitation is borne by those who act irresponsibly and negative externalities do not affect the amount of resource that is available to the other members of society.

Through the years, the flaws and ineffectiveness of Hardin’s theory have been uncovered. For example, David Harvey has suggested that Hardin only considers the implication of commons-owned land (the natural resource), while the crucial element is represented by the commons-ownership of the means of production. Similarly, the research conducted by Elinor Olstrom through the lenses of economics and governance led to the identification of several examples in the natural world where commons-pooled resources are maintained, reproduced and shared by members of society through the introduction of rigorous forms of governance and collective discipline. Moreover, the idea that private titling and private exploitation of resources reduce the risk of over-consumption and unsustainability has been proven wrong in numerous cases of socio-environmental disasters and by the depletion of soil produced by corporate farming. (more…)

Unleashing the Force of Law: The Role of Lawyers in Times of Conflict

By Dr Devyani Prabhat, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

In this blog post, Dr Devyani Prabhat provides the context for her first book Unleashing the Force of Law: Legal Mobilization, National Security, and Basic Freedoms (Palgrave Publishers, 2016), which won the Peter Birks prize of the Society of Legal Scholars (UK and Ireland) for best book in 2017. It was also shortlisted by the Socio-legal Studies Association (SLSA) in 2016 for the best book prize. Dr Prabhat is on Twitter @DrDPrabhat. (more…)

Dignity or Discrimination: What paves the road towards equal recognition of same-sex couples in Europe?

By Dr Jule Mulder, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

EU and Rainbow flag

Dr Jule Mulder’s article ‘Dignity or Discrimination: What paves the road towards equal recognition of same-sex couples in Europe?’ has been published in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. The article explores whether the principle of dignity can help advance the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) approach towards same-sex couples’ rights within the EU non-discrimination law framework, considering dignity-based arguments in a comparative perspective.

The European courts’ approach, mostly focusing on the concept of direct discrimination, seems insufficient to ensure the equal treatment of same-sex couples. The comparative experience, successfully invoking the dignity-principle to advance same-sex couples’ rights, challenges us to review the EU non-discrimination law and invites us to reconsider the concept of dignity and its value to foster substantive equality and equal treatment within the EU legal framework. Accordingly, recognising the limited reach of the CJEU current approach that focuses on direct sexuality discrimination only and adheres to the comparator paradigm, the article analyses possibilities to challenge de facto discrimination within the EU legal framework going beyond the concept of direct discrimination. In doing so, the article evaluates the potential of the dignity-centred approach within the context of EU equality law. Hence, the article evaluates whether the CJEU case-law’ limited substantive reach could be remedied by a more detailed engagement with the concept of dignity to provide substantive meaning to the analysis. Ultimately rejecting the usefulness of dignity, the article proposes that a more consistent application of the concept of indirect discrimination could push courts towards legal recognition of rights of same-sex couples.  (more…)