By Professor Nick Grief
A public forum to consider the case for and against the recognition of a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without physical or psychological threat from above.
Inaugural hearing: Friday 21 September 2018, 10am – 4.30pm at Doughty Street Chambers.
‘Over the last century, humans have radically transformed airspace: chemically, territorially, militarily and psychologically. Technological developments mean that this transformation is accelerating and growing in complexity. There is widening disparity in the global landscape of power, with civilians increasingly subject to expanding commercial and military exploitation of technology in airspace and outer space and to the consequences of environmental change. The associated threats are not adequately addressed by the contemporary legal framework. There is an urgent need for new thinking. One aspect of airspace requiring development is the human rights dimension.’
Against that background, the hypothesis that we need a new human right to protect the freedom to exist without physical or psychological threat from above will be tested at a series of public hearings beginning in London with further hearings anticipated in locations around the world. Conceived and developed by Nick Grief (associate tenant at Doughty Street who represented the Marshall Islands in nuclear disarmament cases against India, Pakistan and the UK in the ICJ) and his University of Kent colleague Shona Illingworth (internationally acclaimed visual artist), the Airspace Tribunal will invite representations from experts across a broad range of disciplines and lived experience, such as human rights, contemporary warfare, new media ecologies, environmental change, neuropsychology, conflict and forced migration. The idea is to engage the audience and the wider public in dialogue and debate about the rapidly changing composition and nature of airspace, consider future pressures/impacts and interrogate and challenge the narrow terms by which airspace is currently defined and represented in law.
Alongside Nick and Shona, the speakers/advocates will include Conor Gearty (LSE), professor of human rights law who has published extensively on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights; Andrew Hoskins (University of Glasgow), media sociologist known for his work on media, memory and conflict; Martin A. Conway (City, University of London), cognitive neuropsychologist and expert on human memory and the law; Maya Mamish (LSE), psychologist researching the integration and well-being of Syrian youth affected by armed conflict and displacement; and William Merrin (Swansea University), a specialist in digital media and author of Digital War.
As Nick and Shona explained at a British-Albanian Lawyers Association event on the Airspace Tribunal at Doughty Street in June, the process will be led by Counsel to the Tribunal who will question each of the experts after they have delivered their statements and then facilitate comments and questions from the audience of invited participants and members of the public. The audience will be the judges, challenging the traditional state-centric view of how international law is created. The hearings will be recorded and transcribed to document the drafting history of the proposed new human right.
The Airspace Tribunal is part of Topologies of Air, a major new artwork by Shona, commissioned by The Wapping Project, that will be exhibited at The Power Plant, Toronto in 2020. The Wapping Project (http://thewappingproject.org) is a London based arts organisation that commissions and produces contemporary art. The Power Plant is Canada’s leading public gallery devoted exclusively to contemporary visual art. The London hearing of the Airspace Tribunal is supported by the University of Kent, Doughty Street Chambers and The Wapping Project.
The organisers would welcome contributions to this project in the form of comments, criticism, suggestions and/or expressions of interest in attending the London hearing (firstname.lastname@example.org). Further information about the Airspace Tribunal and its developing work can be found at www.airspacetribunal.org.
 Nick Grief, Shona Illingworth, Andrew Hoskins and Martin A. Conway, Opinion, ‘The Airspace Tribunal: Towards a New Human Right to Protect the Freedom to Exist Without Physical or Psychological Threat from Above’  European Human Rights Law Review, Issue 3, 201.