School of Arts and Kent Law School collaborate on The Berlin hearing of the Airspace Tribunal

By Sam Wood from the University of Kent Press Office.

A virtual people’s tribunal, established by academics from the School of Arts and Kent Law School, will hear expert testimony and lived-experience witness accounts concerning a proposed new human right to live without physical or psychological threat from above.

The Airspace Tribunal’s Berlin hearing, following similar hearings in London (2018), Sydney (2019) and Toronto (2020), is being hosted by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The Tribunal is examining the case for and against the proposed new human right.

The Berlin hearing took place virtually via Zoom from 9-11 June. Invited speakers brought their personal and professional expertise to the Tribunal to develop the discourse around this proposed human right. Each speaker was questioned by Counsel to the Tribunal, Kirsty Brimelow QC, who then facilitated questions from the audience.

Nick Grief, Emeritus Professor of Law at Kent Law School and an Associate Tenant at Doughty Street Chambers, said: ‘There is a clear and immediate need to address the concerns felt worldwide regarding our relationship with airspace and outer space. These hearings present a great opportunity for vital insights to be shared.’

Experts invited to give testimony include: Chris Woods, conflict specialist and Founder and Director of Airwars; Pratap Chatterjee, investigative journalist; Omar Mohammed, historian, journalist and creator of Mosul Eye; Lisa Ling, former Air Force Technical Sergeant of drone surveillance systems; Jutta Weber, science & technology studies scholar; Alirio Uribe Muñoz and Sebastián Escobar Uribe, lawyers at Jose Alvar Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR), Colombia, and Andreas Schüller, Program Director, International Crimes and Accountability, ECCHR.

The Airspace Tribunal’s hearings will lead to formal recommendations on the proposal to formalise the human right to live without physical or psychological threat from above, with the speakers’ insights included in the evidence submitted to governments and international organisations.

Shona Illingworth, Reader in Film and Media in the School of Arts said: ‘The sky and our relationship to it is being radically transformed by technologies such AI and surveillance systems, pollution and global warming.  We are all now increasingly vulnerable to commercial and military exploitation of airspace and to environmental change. The Airspace Tribunal brings a wide range of expertise and lived experience into discussion to address the urgent and accelerating challenges we face from threats from above.‘

The Airspace Tribunal will also form a central part of Shona Illingworth’s new body of artwork that will be exhibited at The Power Plant, Toronto, in 2022. This will include Topologies of Air, a video and sound installation commissioned by The Wapping Project. The exhibition will then tour internationally to stimulate further public discussion. The Airspace Tribunal will also feature in a book to accompany the exhibition, to be published by Sternberg Press with The Power Plant, and in a special issue of the Journal of Digital War in 2022.