School of Advanced Study honour leading human rights campaigner

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Jo Metson-ScottShami Chakrabarti CBE – one of the UK’s foremost human rights campaigners – is to receive an honorary degree from the University of London in this year’s School of Advanced Study’s (SAS) graduation ceremony on 9 December.

She will be presented with a Doctor of Laws honoris causa in recognition of 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.

Professor Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), warmly welcomed the news of the award. ‘As home to the longest-running interdisciplinary, practice-oriented human rights MA programme in the UK, my institute is delighted that Shami Chakrabarti is to be honoured in this way. She has consistently warned of the dangers of eroding rights that have been built up over decades, and sometimes centuries. History will remember her as a calm and eloquent champion of this legacy, in an era when it has been constantly under threat.’

Shami Chakrabarti, who was appointed a life peer in the 2016 Prime Minister’s Resignations Honours, trained as a barrister and 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.

Ms Chakrabarti 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. As an outspoken human rights campaigner with vast experience, she is in demand as a writer, conference speaker and media commentator. Ms 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.

Commenting on the honorary doctorate she said ‘I am so honoured to be receiving this degree from the School of Advanced Study 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.’

Shami Chakrabarti served both Labour and Conservative governments during her time at the Home Office, 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.’

From 2008 to 2015 she was Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University and was recently appointed a governor of her former alma mater, the London School of Economics. She is a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, a Master of the Bench of Middle Temple, sits on the Advisory Board of the British Institute of Human Rights and the Executive Committee of the Administrative Law Bar Association and was one of the six independent assessors advising Lord Leveson in his Public Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press. 

‘Shami has combined her legal knowledge and skills with her formidable communication abilities to campaign consistently, courageously and with great effect,’ said Professor Roger Kain, CBE, FBA, dean and chief executive of SAS. ‘She is an exceptional role model for our students, particularly for women in the law, and an inspiration for all concerned with human rights.’ 

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Notes for editors:

1. For further information please contact Maureen McTaggart at the School of Advanced Study, University of London at maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk / 020 7862 8653. Images available on request.

2. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2014-15, SAS: welcomed 805 research fellows and associates; held 2,073 research dissemination events; received 23.1 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 213,456 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.

3. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. Its members are 18 self-governing institutions of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. Learn more about the University of London at http://www.london.ac.uk