Inaugural hearing of the Airspace Tribunal in London

  "Flight Path with Ash" by Shona Illingworth.

Kent Law School Professor Nick Grief will be sharing his expertise in international airspace law and human rights at the inaugural hearing of the Airspace Tribunal in London.

The Airspace Tribunal is an innovative research collaboration between Professor Grief and visual artist Shona Illingworth (a Reader in Fine Art at Kent’s School of Music and Fine Art). Its aim is to consider a new human right to protect peoples’ freedom to exist without physical or psychological threat from above. An opinion piece published recently in the European Human Rights Law Review explains the project’s background:

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.

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’ [2018] European Human Rights Law Review, Issue 3, 201

The Airspace Tribunal is inviting representations from experts across a broad range of disciplines and lived experience, such as human rights, contemporary warfare, new media, environmental change, neuropsychology, conflict and forced migration. Together with Professor Grief and Shona Illingworth, speakers will include: Martin A Conway, cognitive neuropsychologist and expert on human memory and the law; Conor Gearty, professor of human rights law who has published extensively on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights; Andrew Hoskins, media sociologist known for his work on media, memory and conflict; Maya Mamish, psychologist researching integration and well-being of Syrian youth affected by armed conflict and displacement; and William Merrin, a specialist in digital media and author of Digital War.

The Tribunal’s inaugural hearing in September will also see the launch of Topologies of Air, a body of work by Shona Illingworth that features an immersive, multi-screen sound and video installation examining the impact of accelerating geopolitical, technological and environmental change on the composition, nature and use of airspace. Topologies of Air, commissioned by The Wapping Project, challenges the narrow terms by which airspace is currently represented and defined in law. It will invite the audience to look up and consider the air above our heads not as a void, free space, but as a multi-layered, complex cultural and legal space that is both shared and personal, with a long history and rapidly changing future.

The event, supported by the University of Kent, The Wapping Project and Doughty Street Chambers, will be held at Doughty Street Chambers in Doughty Street from 10am – 4.30pm on Friday 21 September. Anybody interested in attending is asked to register online via the Eventbrite page (places are very limited).

Professor Grief specialises in international law and human rights. He teaches Public International Law and EU Law at Kent Law School and also practises at the Bar from Doughty Street Chambers. He was a member of the legal team which represented the Marshall Islands in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in cases against India, Pakistan and the UK concerning the obligation to negotiate in good faith towards nuclear disarmament. The team was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in the ICJ.

Shona Illingworth is a Reader in Fine Art at Kent’s School of Music and Fine Art. She is a Scottish-Danish artist who works across a range of media including video, sound, photography and drawing. She is known for her immersive video and multi-channel sound installations, and evocative, research-led practice in which she explores the dynamic processes of memory and construction of histories in situations of social tension and conflict.

Image credit: Flight Path with Ash – Blue, North Atlantic Airspace, Working Still (2017) by Shona Illingworth. With thanks to NATS.