Baroness Sharmishta Chakrabarti, CBE, one of the UK’s foremost human rights campaigners and Labour Party politician, was awarded an honorary degree at the School of Advanced Study’s (SAS) graduation ceremony on 9 December. She was presented with a Doctor of Laws honoris causa, which recognises her achievements in the fields of law and human rights and her support for the School’s commitment to the civil value of the humanities.
Baroness Chakrabarti, who was appointed a life peer in the 2016 Prime Minister’s Resignations Honours, says she was honoured to receive this degree from SAS ‘when the humanities and humanity are so challenged in the world. The work that happens here demonstrates hope for a more reasoned and civil discourse in our troubled world.’
A trained barrister, Baroness Chakrabarti worked as a lawyer in the Home Office for five years from 1996. In 2001 she joined human rights campaigning group Liberty as an in-house counsel and was appointed its director in 2003, a position she held for 12 years.
Now Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales, she has been well-known for her fierce and eloquent campaigning in defence of individual rights and humanitarian values during the so-called ‘War on Terror’ since the 9/11 attacks. Baroness Chakrabarti has written, spoken and broadcast widely on the importance of the post-World War 2 human rights framework which protects a free press and personal privacy as essential components of a democratic society. During her time at the Home Office she served both Labour and Conservative governments, working on policy, legislation and litigation in the counter-terror, asylum and criminal justice areas and on the implementation of the Human Rights Act within government.
While at Liberty she played a leading role in the campaign against the extension of ‘detention without charge’ from 28 to 42 days for terror suspects. She was also prominent in campaigns against the introduction of identity cards, the extension of stop-and-search powers and the use of evidence obtained by torture. After stepping down from Liberty in March, she said her successor would ‘need that rare combination of a thick skin filled with energy, integrity, sensitivity and optimism.’
Currently Chancellor of the University of Essex, she was one of the six independent assessors advising Lord Leveson in his Public Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press. In April 2016 she was invited by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to chair an inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party, and she presented her findings in June.
Fifty School graduands were awarded postgraduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences at the ceremony in Senate House, of which six were awarded Doctor of Philosophy degrees. A total of 72 degrees were conferred on postgraduate students of the School in 2016.
School of Advanced Study honour leading human rights campaigner