Britain must commit to upholding civil liberties if the EU is to agree on security co-operation after Brexit


Ermioni Xanthopoulou, University of Hertfordshire

Originally published on the Conversation

The British government has made it clear it wants a new kind of security deal with the European Union after Brexit. In a speech in London on June 6, David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU, set out five aims for a new security partnership. He highlighted the need for a “lasting, positive” agreement, “a stable relationship, built on trust” – a relationship that “doesn’t need to be revisited or renegotiated”.

Davis promised that the UK would make appropriate contributions to the costs of programmes that underpin continued cooperation. And he added that the UK “would respect the remit of the European Court of Justice” when participating in EU agencies, without explaining exactly how.

But Davis’s comments came a week after a senior EU official suggested that the UK would not be able to make use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) after Brexit – which allows for the speedy extradition of suspects and convicted persons across EU countries. The official said Britain’s continued involvement could jeopardise “the lives and liberty of citizens”.

Part of the reason for this reluctance to allow Britain access to the EAW after Brexit is a question of trust – one of the key requirements for ongoing security cooperation.

European security

The EU framework on security is associated with protecting citizens against terrorism and serious forms of cross-border crime, such as drug trafficking and exploitation of irregular immigration. The narrative of the “War on Terror” after 9/11 radically influenced the concept of European security and was the catalyst for the adoption of counter-terrorism measures – which the UK was very active in helping to formulate.

The goals of European security are achieved by police and judicial corporation, including measures on extradition, intelligence databases, sharing information, and the quick recognition of orders and decisions.

One key example of this cooperation is the European Arrest Warrant, implemented by the UK in the Extradition Act 2003. The procedure is automatic and quick – judicial authorities complete a form and operate within a limited time frame and strict deadlines. A report published in 2013 by the Home Affairs Select Committee of the UK’s decision to join the EAW, said extradition under the process now takes on “average three months”, compared to around 10 months for a non-EU extradition.

As a member state of the EU, the UK has been able to opt in or out of EU-wide measures on criminal justice policy that it liked, which has been called cherry-picking.

But after Brexit, the UK won’t have automatic access to the security corporation framework. As a result, it will default to the inefficient, costly and politicised extradition treaties under international law, that the EAW replaced, unless a security partnership is concluded that will allow the UK access to the EAW scheme.

Police check vehicles on the French/German border in 2015. Hadrian/

Mutual trust remains elusive

The law surrounding police cooperation is based on the so-called model of mutual recognition. In contrast to other areas of EU law which require harmonisation, in this area security measures are recognised across member states – even if they are different. May has also used the term “mutual recognition” as a model of the kind of cooperation she wants with the EU post-Brexit.

But, crucially, the key precondition for this mutual recognition is mutual trust – which is what is currently missing in negotiations towards a new security partnership. This is why Davis keeps referring to the “decades of trust … that have existed” and wishes for “a stable relationship built on trust that doesn’t need to be revisited” – as if trust can be a static element. Yet trust requires some common ground to be generated. It requires certainty and consistency of patterns in that the other side will respect the freedom you risk for them.

The uncertainty of the UK’s position in Brexit negotiations does nothing but hurt trust and make security cooperation unlikely. This is because this area of security cooperation is so sensitive to civil liberties and the future protection of such liberties seems quite precarious. An example of this is the refusal, in February, of Irish judges to extradite several people requested by the UK under the EAW due to the uncertainty in relation to the law and their rights in the future UK.

It is not yet certain whether the UK government wishes to retain measures which are protective of rights. They include the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the EU victims’ protection framework, and the extensive EU procedural safeguards which act as common minimum standards for defence rights across the EU.

A chance to show willing

On the contrary, the government has repeatedly expressed its wish to retain many of the security measures that the EU offers which limit people’s freedoms, such as the European arrest warrant, Europol, European Criminal Records Information System. It is safe to say that the government is more interested in security than freedom.

The UK should now be doing its best to recover the trust of its EU partners by showing a strong and consistent position that human rights will be protected. To do this, the UK government should demonstrate an eagerness to retain all the EU measures which are protective of civil liberties.

On June 12 and 13, MPs are expected to vote on the 15 Brexit amendments from the Lords, one of which would put the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights directly into UK law. The government argues this is unnecessary, arguing that human rights are already protected in UK by other sources of law. But May is infamous for her hostility towards human rights law – and not retaining the EU Charter would fuel the sense of uncertainty around civil liberties after Brexit.



The right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right

Sharn Kaur Gill, Hertfordshire Law School Student

The importance of ecological conservation to better the quality of human life is indisputable; as a result, the issue of environmental protection and environmental rights have become an exceedingly significant global discussion. Among global protection programs is the debate of the human right to a healthy environment. Although it does not currently feature as a fundamental human right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to a healthy environment has been a catalysis in the protection of the existing rights. This right has been included in the national constitutions of over 90 nations in some form or another. Due to an increase in global awareness and pushes from international human rights courts it will be argued that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right and should be recognized as such.


‘There is no environment ‘out there’ separate from us. The environment is embedded in us. We are as much a part of our surroundings as the trees and birds and fish, the sky, water and rocks.’[1] The idea that we are one with our environment has been the foundation for existence for the indigenous peoples of North America. This concept of environmental whole-ness resonates into ecological studies as ‘ecosystem services’;[2] there are amenities provided to humans from the earth’s natural ecosystem. Direct effect ecosystem services are the easiest to perceive; they include food, clothing, medicines, shelters and natural energy sources.[3] A stunning example of the need for conservation of the environment comes from a small species of flowering plant found on the island of Madagascar, known as Catharanthus roseus or Rosy Periwinkle.[4] This plant provides the basis of the medications we know as Vincristine and Vinblastine;[5] used to treat childhood leukaemia and Hodgkin’s disease respectively.[6]

The importance of ecological conservation to better the quality of human life is indisputable; as result, the issue of environmental protection and environmental rights have become an exceedingly significant global discussion. Among global protection programs is the debate of the human right to a healthy environment. Although it does not currently feature as a fundamental human right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[7] the right to a healthy environment has been a catalysis in the protection of the existing rights. This right has been included in the national constitutions of over 90 nations in some form or another. Due to an increase in global awareness and pushes from international human rights courts it will be argued that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right and should be recognized as such.


The first substantial blip on the radar of international environmental law occurred during the 1972 United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) when the Stockholm Declaration was formed.[8] The declaration symbolized the beginning of changes in international policy-making and a much wider global shift towards a green initiative. Environment as a key proponent of human rights was brought to the international forefront through Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration:

‘Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations’[9]


The explicit connection between fundamental human rights and the preservation of the environment, at an international level, was paramount in starting discussions about the right to a healthy environment.  The significance of imposing the responsibility to protect the future environment, on man, cannot be overlooked; this forces society to take preventative and rehabilitative measures along with the reduction of present destruction of the biosphere. It would be ill-advised to not discuss that the notion of ‘permanent sovereignty’ was reinforced by Principle 21 of the Stockholm Declaration;[10] This principle informs on a State’s sovereign control over its natural wealth and resources, so long as they are acting in the best interests of their citizen and overall global development.[11] Although the principles set out in the declaration were not legally binding they created the parameters in which States could formulate public policy regarding environmental protection and rights. The impact of this declaration can be seen in the creation of United Nations Environment Program – an organ of the United Nations dedicated to the environment.[12]

Perhaps the most impactful result of the UNCHE was the consequent meeting of 172 world nations in Rio at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, Earth Summit).[13][14]  During this conference, the Rio Declaration was created to advance and supplement the Stockholm Declaration with advancements in science and technology and incorporating sustainable development.[15] The declaration proclaimed: ‘Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.’[16] By acknowledging sustainable development, this declaration brings forward the idea that developing nations are less likely to comply with environmental regulations when they impede the development and progression of a nation. The push for sustainable development accounts for the global protection of the environment for future generations by encouraging states to share knowledge and technologies with one another.[17]

Since the Rio Declaration, there have been significant innovations in the scientific understanding of the environment and an evolution of international environmental laws. These legal changes include states taking the initiative to incorporate policies that govern acceptable regional environmental standards as they comply with the international protocol.[18] A prominent example of this can be seen in the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC); this agreement encompasses the environmental and ecological concerns of Canada, Mexico and the United States.[19] Insurance for complying with this agreement is made by potential detrimental economic effects possible from political fallout, including impairment of the North American Free Trade Agreement.[20]

It is evident the international attention has been brought to environmental concerns globally, however no notion of including environment as a fundamental human right appears to be on the United Nations’ strategy, following the Earth Summit.


            The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR, Banjul Charter) was adopted in 1986 as a regulator of human rights as they pertain to the nations of the, then, Organization of African Unity.[21] The Charter identifies and protects the rights of individuals’ as well as peoples’ rights as a whole. Article 24 of the charter provides: ‘All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.’[22] This article defines the right to a healthy environment as a human right, subject to the populations within its governance.

The case of Social Economic Rights Action Center and the Center for Economic and Social Rights (SERAC) and another v Nigeria defined the scope and legal interruption of the Banjul Charter,[23] specifically in relation to the right to a satisfactory environment. This case brought to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (African Court) by two NGO on behalf of the Ogoni peoples;[24] the Ogoniland oil reserves were exploited by the Nigerian government for economic gain at the cost of disproportionate pollution and habitat devastation.[25] These environmental catastrophes resulted in determents in agriculture due to the, now, usable land.[26] The citizens also alleged that they experience negative health effect due to the actions of the government and no preventative or rehabilitative actions were taken to remedy the health complications.[27]  The African Court augmented Article 24 of the ACHPR in this case when stating:

‘[article 24] imposes clear obligations upon a government. It requires the state to take reasonable and other measures to prevent pollution and ecological degradation, to promote conservation, and to secure an ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.’[28]


This expansion on Article 24 clearly shows the that the courts interpret the law to impose responsibility on the state to maintain sustainable development which does not impact the right to life or the right to a healthy environment, of its citizens.

Presently, the ACHPR governs all 55 nation states of the African continent and consequently all of these nations recognize and legally codified the right to a healthy environment as a human right.[29]


A more recent and radical development in environmental law occurred on 7 February 2018, in an Advisory Opinion (AO) released by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR);[30] the AO came as a response to Columbia’s request for an interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), in March 2016.[31] Although not explicitly stated, the request made by Columbia has undertones pertaining to its quarrel with Nicaragua.[32] Nicaragua plans to develop a possible transnational canal system; the environmental damage the biodiversity loss would be most substantive along the coastal populations of the Caribbean.[33]

In addition to this proclamation, the AO remarked that where transboundary damages where concerned ‘the exercise of jurisdiction arises when the state of origin exercises effective control over the activities carried out that cause harm and consequent violation of human rights.’[34] This transboundary approach forces States to expand their scope for environmental damages and sustainable development from a local regional range to a global range. Additionally, the concept of ‘effective control’ holds States legally accountable for their destructive actions, even if the resultant ecological damage does not occur within its physical boundaries.[35] The application of this ruling would subsequently hold Nicaragua legally accountable for the violation of the fundamental right to a healthy environment.

This AO is the first international court ruling which segregates and defines the right to a healthy environment as its own independent human right.[36] The AO explicitly states that the right to a healthy environment is ‘fundamental to the existence of humanity.’[37] The implications of this decision are significant and far-reaching; decisions made by this court carry a huge weight in the further development of international law. The Center for International Environmental Law’s Carla Garcia Zendejas commented ‘this historic precedent will bolster communist seeking justice not only in Latin American but around the world.’[38]


The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does not explicitly protect the right to a healthy environment, however, there are numerous cases in which rights protected by the ECHR are used as a vehicle for the protection of the environment.[39] An exemplary case of this is Lopez Ostra v Spain, in this case, Mrs Lopez Ostra experience a violation of her right to private life due to the pollution created by a water treatment plant by her home.[40] The Court held that there had been a violation of article 8 of the Convention;[41] this additionally protected Mrs Lopez Ostra’s privilege to a healthy environment.

The United Kingdom being under the jurisdiction of the ECHR does not recognize the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right for its citizens.


It is abundantly clear that the environmental rights are human rights and should be recognized as such, by all international human rights courts. Judicial pressures from smaller human rights courts and human rights cases involving environmental components represent the ‘foot in the door’ for the right to a healthy environment. With the changing global climate and the clear shift towards environmental protection and awareness, the protection of this right is paramount in progressing science, technology and politics.


[1] David, Suzuki, The David Suzuki Reader: A Lifetime of Ideas from a Leading Activist and Thinker’ (2nd edn, Greystone Books Ltd 2014).

[2] Tim Daw and others, ‘Applying ecosystem services concepts to poverty alleviation: the need to disaggregate human wellbeing (2011) Vol 38 EC 370.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Paul V Licciardi, ‘ Plant- derived Medicines: A novel class of immunological adjuvants’ (2011) 11 II 390.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Steven M Rubin and Standwood C Fish ‘Biodiversity Prospecting: Using Innovative contractual Provisons to Foster Ethnobotanical Knowledge, Technology and Conservation’ (1994) IELP.

[7] Neil Parpworth, Constitutional & Administrative Law (9th edn, Oxford 2016).

[8] John McEldowney and Sharon McEldowney, Environmental Law (1st edn, Pearson 2010) 116.

[9] Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (adopted 16 June 1972).

[10] ibid.

[11] UNGA Res 1803 (14 December 1962) Resolutions adopted on the reports of the second committee 15.

[12] David A. Wirth, ‘The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development: Two Steps Forward and One Back or Vice Versa’ (1995) 29 GLR 599.

[13] United Nations, ‘UN conference on Environment and Development (23 May 1997) <; accessed 6 March 2018.

[14] Michael Keating, ‘The Earth Summit’s Agenda for Change’ (1992) EST.

[15] McEldowney (n 8) 115.

[16] Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, UNGA (1992) A/CONF.151/26.

[17] Keating (n 14).

[18] Edith Brown Weiss, ‘The Evolution of International Environmental Law’ (2011) ELC 12.

[19] Commission for Environmental Cooperation, North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (1993) <; accessed 3 March 2018.

[20] Weiss (n 18) 14.

[21] Kaniye SA Ebeku, ‘The right to a satisfactory environment and the African Commission’ (2003) 3 AHRLJ 149.

[22] African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3.

[23] [2001] AHRLR 60 (ACHPR 2001).

[24] Weiss (n 18).

[25] SERAC (n 23).

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] African Union, ‘Member State Profiles’ <; accessed 9 March 2018.

[30] Giovanny Vega-Barbosa and Lorraine Aboagye, ‘Human Rights and the Protection of the Environment: The Advisory Opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ (EJIL: Talk! 26 February 2018) <; accessed 7 March 2018.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Monica Feria-Tinta and Simon Milnes, ‘ The rise of environmental law in international dispute resolution: Inter-American Court of Human Rights Issues Landmark Advisory Opinion on environment and human rights’ (EJIL: Talks! 26 Feburary 2018) <; accessed on 7 March 2018.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Feria-Tinta (n 32).

[35] Ibid.

[36] Monica Feria-Tinta and Simon Milnes, ‘How international law could help victims of environmental degradation’ The Guardian (21 Feburary 2018) <; accessed 7 March 2018.

[37] Ibid.

[38] ESCR-Net, ‘Inter-American Court Upholds Healthy Environment as Human Right’ (15 Feburary 2018) <; accessed 10 March 2018.

[39] Parpworth (n 7).

[40] [1994] ECHR 46.

[41] Ibid.

The Law of Studying: Location! Location! Location!

Sharn Kaur Gill, Hertfordshire Law School Student



With the annual flood of coursework and exams looming nearer, we’ve all desperately googled “how to stop procrastinating” and then drag ourselves begrudgingly off to the LRC with hopes a study environment will force focus. It would seem that becoming accustomed to a designated study area would be the best way to learn – WRONG! According to the New York Times, studies show that finding novel places to grind help benefit memory recall and increase your overall grades.

So, if you’re anything like me, you’re now stressing about finding fantastic new places to study. Well, have no fear I’ve done the research for you and come up with the top 5 places on De Havilland Campus to get some serious reviewing done.

#1. Silent Study Rooms in the LRC


This is one by far the most obvious study space. Not only does that library make you feel like you have to study it also provides all you with infinite resources just steps away, so you can power through any assignment.  I find the best places for me to focus are the silent study rooms on the 1st floor; these rooms have card access entry, which minimizes that amount of traffic moving around you. They also feature individual study carrels as well as individual study rooms so you can really get into the zone. They also have a wall of windows that look out into a courtyard, which is great to help keep from going stir crazy. This is a great location if you’re looking for little or no distractions.


#2. Law Court Building Meeting Rooms


These rooms are almost always free and a great place to get some collaborative studying happening. They feature power sources and doors which close to block out any distractions. The rooms vary in size, allowing any number of people to study together. They’re excellent for group presentations or just a central location for a study group between classes. They’re significantly less intimidating than the silent study rooms on the LRC but still feature a quiet, contained environment to maximize revision.


#3. Empty Classrooms


If you can manage to find an open, empty classroom, you’ve hit the jackpot! There’s so much room for activities! Classrooms provide another great space for study groups or even just change of pace for the LRC. The familiarity of the room may make it easier to recall the information from lectures you forgot to pay attention to. This is a great place to study but be aware: you may get kicked out by security.

#4. Above the Weston Auditorium

Although it is a slightly more unconventional study space, the couches and tables are extremely comfortable and the distractions are minimal. A great spot for listening to lectures or reviewing your notes, whether alone or with a mate. Its location makes it easy to get to between classes and the more casual environment is guaranteed to reduce the stress and pressure of studying.


#5. Café Moot

Another great location if you are not easily distracted by your environment. The tables are abundant and the large windows make for great people watching (on your study breaks of course). The café also features a wide array of Starbucks drinks to keep you caffeinate enough to power through last-minute coursework or late study sessions. This is also a good place to get in a short study session between classes without the pressure of finding the perfect place in the LRC, eating lunch and making it your next lesson all in an hour.


If none of these are tickling your fancy, here are a few honorable mentions:

Café Study

Café Study is located on the ground floor of the LRC and provides a more casual study space with couches and chairs – did I mention that they have food! An ideal location if, like me, you must snack while you study. This space is great for group meetings and again study groups as well as individual study. If you can handle the hustle and bustle of a café without becoming overly distracted than this is the place for you.


Club De Havilland

If you’ve given up all hope, I recommend drowning your sorrows at Club De Havilland. (P.S. Also a great location for a lunch beer between study sessions)


Happy Studying! And may the odds be forever in your favor!




5 Summer Reads for a Law Student

Sharn Gill

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those novels often read in secondary school but not truly absorbed. Lee transports her readers to the Depression-era American South and follows the trail of Tom Robinson. The novel compels its reader and forces one to take a critical look at the difference between what is just, and what is fair.


  1. Madame Prosecutor by Carla Del Ponte


Carla Del Ponte was the UN chief prosecute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.  Madame Prosecutor takes you behind the scenes and into the brilliant mind of Carla as she navigates the law in order to bring justice to those wronged by genocide and crimes against humanity.


  1. How to Argue and Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday by Gerry Spence


Everyone can agree that some of the best lawyers are those that can argue their point in an indisputable manner. This engaging and informative ‘self-help’ book should be highlighted and marked up by all aspiring lawyers; Spence provides guidelines for communication and the key to formulating a winning argument both in and out of the court room.


  1. Letters to a Law Student: A Guide to Studying Law at University by Nicholas McBride


This book takes a look behind the curtain of law school in the UK and is an invaluable guide to studying law. Its full of tips and tricks for finals, writing legal essays and just dealing with the ups and downs that come with university. Nicholas has developed a book that really is useful before, during and years after attending law school.


  1. Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman


This blog style novel is a brutal insight into the highest echelons of corporate law. Anonymous Lawyer encompasses the wicked stereotypes of lawyers and serves them in a comical satire of the workplace. A light easy read guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.

Review of Research Seminar on Post-Mortem Privacy by Edina Harbinja

Jordan Grice, 1st year LLB student, Hertfordshire Law School

The seminar on post-mortem privacy, which I am certain students were not originally intended to attend, was the first research seminar I attended. I came by the pamphlet quite by chance and took a photo of every page as I wanted to widen my knowledge and broaden my horizons, legally speaking. I encourage each and every student to learn everything they can, for as long as they can, from everyone they can.

The seminar hosted Dr. Edina Harbinja and was chaired by Dr. Virginie Barral.  Her presentation concerned intellectual property and privacy– her passion and speciality – and how an individual’s privacy is retained, or not and if so how/why – after death.

She spoke at length on the topic as it is a very new area of law – it is really our generation who is so immersed into the world of social media and online presence although we are far too young to begin thinking about what we wish to occur after death.  Yet, in my view, we must all do this!  Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  Well, actually, tomorrow is guaranteed, what is not guaranteed is whether or not you will be present to enjoy it.

It really got me thinking as, before now, I have never given much thought to my intellectual property, data protection and what I want to happen to it after death.  This seminar also introduced me to the concept of intellectual property and how it extends and goes beyond patents and products.  We invest our hearts and minds into our online portals and, once we are gone, what will be left of them?  Our photos, posts, rants, likes, shares – what will happen to them once we are no longer around to make them?  Is cyberspace endless or will there eventually be some sort of cyber Dawn of the Dead one day?

I confess, the only thing I have seen in relation to such affairs is the horror film, Unfriended, where Facebook will, allegedly, suspend and/or remove the account of a deceased individual if proof can be provided that they are indeed deceased.

One thing that Dr. Harbinja found in her research is that indeed not many people have thought about it as it truly is, in legal terms, cutting edge and brand new.  Additionally, she found that there is a Californian  Bill making its way through Congress which has quoted her and a colleague of hers. This has allowed her to demonstrate “impact” with her research. It is true that there is relatively little lying around out there as the law hasn’t caught up yet.

The only thing I have heard in the media is the case of a man, German I believe, who was fatally trapped in a collapsed building and, on this one-off occasion, his final text message of “give my assets to my kids” (paraphrased) was accepted as a last will and testament, that is to say, an express desire of his wishes.

This seminar, as with others, has been slightly difficult for me to access as I, a first-year law undergraduate, am not yet affiliated with this legal research and methodology.