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We are delighted to announce that Professor Martin Scheinin will join the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights as a British Academy Global Professor. His research project “Addressing the Digital Realm through the Grammar of Human Rights Law” will run for the next four academic years (2020-2024). The project will also support the work of a Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Oliver Butler.

Professor Kate O’Regan, the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute said, “We are delighted that Professor Scheinin will join us to conduct research in one of our key research areas: the human rights law implications of the digital world.  His depth of experience in international human rights law will be of special value as the Bonavero seeks to establish itself globally as a leading research institute in human rights. Moreover, the fact that Professor Scheinin has both practical experience in the field of international human rights as well as an excellent research track record in the field fits well with the Bonavero Institute’s strategic goal of fostering collaboration between human rights practitioners and scholars in order to promote human rights globally.”

Professor Scheinin’s research will address a range of interconnected challenges related to the exponential growth of information created, communicated, stored and exploited in electronic and overwhelmingly digitised form. These challenges are societal, and they have distinct and important legal dimensions that will be addressed in respect of human rights law through one overarching research question: Is human rights law, as it has developed within the post-1945 conceptual framework, capable of addressing the major challenges that characterize the current digital information age”

Dr Oliver Butler will examine whether human rights law is capable of addressing the major challenges that characterise the use of algorithmic decision-making. Those challenges include societal and structural problems related to algorithmic discrimination, democratic deliberation, and the changing roles of public and private power. Dr Butler will examine whether human rights law and other emerging digital rights can provide an adequate conceptual framework for these challenges. This will build on his current work for the "Emerging Digital Rights" project in the "Human Rights in the Digital World" research programme at the Bonavero Institute. 

The Global Professorship project will convene a series of annual workshops between conceptual thinkers, experts and policy-makers and result in several journal articles across its wide range of sub-themes, culminating in a final conference and an academic monograph in 2024. The research will consider whether both the moral principles underpinning human rights law and existing human rights law are capable of addressing the new and emerging challenges concerning the digital realm. The research project will include a focus on some of the human rights issues that arise from state responses to the current COVID-19 global pandemic, in particular questions relating to digital surveillance, privacy and discrimination.

Professor Scheinin joins the Bonavero Institute from the European University Institute where he has been Professor of International Law and Human Rights since 2008. He is the author of numerous books and articles concerning international and European human rights law, international courts and tribunals, the law of treaties, as well as comparative constitutional law. He was the leader of the EU-funded research project SURVEILLE that in 2012-2015 developed a multidisciplinary methodology to assess holistically the security benefits, cost efficiency, moral harm and human rights intrusion of a wide range of surveillance technologies, including those employed in relation to the threat of terrorism. Besides his academic expertise, Professor Scheinin will bring to the Bonavero Institute his extensive experience in the practice of human rights law, having served on the United Nations Human Rights Committee (1997-2004), as UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism (2005-2011) and as a member of the Scientific Committee of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (since 2018).

“I am delighted and excited about this new opportunity to conduct and coordinate research into some of the most burning issues of our time. I cannot imagine a better academic environment for the undertaking than the University of Oxford and its Bonavero Institute of Human Rights”, says Professor Scheinin.