Which human rights practitioners do you find most inspiring?
People like Mandela, Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi – people who were involved in changing the course of their countries through the force of human rights and freedoms. I also find the work and dedication of people such as Shami Chakravarti and Professor Anna Lawson very inspiring.
When did you decide to follow a career in human rights? Was there one defining moment?
There was no single defining moment. Before I decided to study for a law degree at the age of 14, I had read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and that started me thinking about human rights, racism and justice. While studying for my first degree, my favourite topics were International Law and Constitutional Law, as human rights was not offered as a separate course at that time. However it was after studying human rights at masters level with David Harris at the University of Nottingham, that I realised what an amazing but complicated area it is to study and work in. My doctorate thesis was on the subject of torture and United Nations monitoring. By then I was hooked.
Did you do any internships or voluntary placements on your route into human rights work?
When I was 16 I shadowed a criminal law solicitor for one afternoon a week and got to visit prisons, detention cells and court hearings which opened a whole new world and made me realise how easy it is to lose your freedom and rights and become hidden from the rest of the world.
What has been the high-point of your human rights career so far?
A couple of years ago I gave a paper at a conference in Lucknow, India which was attended by many young people. Some of them, many of them young women, told me that I had inspired them to pursue further studies in law and human rights. I felt extremely privileged to be a position to have that impact and it also inspired me to do more.
What has been the low-point?
There are moments when it seems that there can be no progress or solution to a problem in human rights and when you can make no difference. However my students often provide me with ideas and approaches that help me overcome these blocks.
Is there a current human rights debate that you are particularly interested in?
I am really interested in two areas at the moment – the debate on universal jurisdiction and immunities of state officials and also in the rights of Adivasi communities in Jharkhand, India.
What is your favourite human right?
The human right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.
Do you support the work of a particular human rights NGO?
There are many NGOs that I admire and some that I have worked with which have provided me with fresh perspectives towards my work.
What is your dream job?
I already have it.
When was the last time that you pulled an all-nighter?
About one month ago. Not good at these!
What was the last book you read?
Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalisation of Democracy, by Francis Fukuyama