Human Rights Centre Speaker Series: What place for human rights in the UK’s COVID-19 response?


Co-hosted by the Human Rights Centre and the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, University of Essex

Oct 21, 2020 1400

Online event

To register.

Chair: Judith Bueno de Mesquita (Co-Deputy Director, Human Rights Centre)



This panel will ask the question: what is the place for human rights in the response to COVID-19 in the UK? With the Government’s response guided by the central aim of protecting lives, which has clear relevance in terms of the right to life, other human rights and fundamental freedoms including education, privacy and family life, and movement have been restricted. Meanwhile, the impact of COVID-19, falling disproportionately on vulnerable and marginalized groups, raises significant questions about equality and non-discrimination, whilst other rights including food, protection from violence and work, not to mention the rights to life and health, have been put at risk. Acknowledging the problematic situation for human rights, which has been recently highlighted in the findings of the Joint Committee on Human Rights COVID-19 Inquiry, this panel will showcase perspectives from leading human rights and public health experts highlighting not only what has been at stake for human rights, but also how human rights norms and standards can actively shape and reinforce public health measures to support effective, equitable and sustainable responses.


Adam Wagner (Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers; and Specialist Advisor to the Joint Committee on Human Rights COVID-19 Inquiry)

Lorna McGregor (Professor of Law and Director of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, School of Law and Human Rights Centre; Essex University)

Allyson Pollock (Professor, and Co-Director of the Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science; Former Member of Independent-SAGE)

Rajat Khosla (Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy, Amnesty International).

Panellist Biographies

Rajat Khosla
Rajat Khosla is Senior Director, Research, Advocacy and Policy at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London. He previously worked as Human Rights Adviser at the World Health Organisation in Geneva (2013-20), leading research and normative work on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, guiding countries and WHO regional offices on policy and legal analysis, and representing the organisation in high-level negotiations and processes related to human rights. He has also previously worked at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the International Environmental Law Research Centre and as a consultant with UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA. He holds a LLM in International Human Rights Law (University of Essex), a LLB (Faculty of Law, Delhi University), Bachelor’s degree in commerce and economics (Delhi University), and was admitted to the Bar in 2002.

Professor Lorna McGregor
Lorna McGregor is a Professor of International Human Rights Law and PI and Director of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project. Her current research focuses on human rights, data analytics and new and emerging technologies; all forms of detention under international law; access to justice and remedies under international law; and the position and effects of international human rights law within public international law and in dealing with global challenges. Her research has been funded by the British Academy, the ESRC and the Nuffield Foundation. Lorna is a Co-Chair of the International Law Association’s Study Group on Individual Responsibility in International Law and a Contributing Editor of EJIL Talk!. She has held positions as the Director of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex (2013 – 2019), a Commissioner of the British Equality and Human Rights Commission (2015 – 2019) and as a trustee of the AIRE Centre. Prior to becoming an academic, Lorna held positions at REDRESS, the International Bar Association, and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka.

Professor Allyson Pollock
Professor Allyson Pollock is Co-Director of the Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science. She was a member of Independent Sage, a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public on how to minimise deaths and support Britain’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. She was previously director of Newcastle’s Institute of Health & Society; Head of the Public Health Policy Unit at UCL and Director of Research & Development at UCL Hospitals NHS Trust. She trained in medicine in Scotland and became a consultant in public health medicine in 1991.

Adam Wagner
Adam Wagner, a Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, is an experienced human rights and public lawyer. He was Specialist Advisor to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Covid-19 Inquiry, whose report was released in September 2020. Adam is well-known for his human rights advocacy work, amongst others he founded both the multi-award winning human rights charity EachOther and the acclaimed UK Human Rights Blog. He set up and hosts the Better Human Podcast. Adam is currently a Visiting Professor of Law at Goldsmiths University.

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