University of Bristol Human Rights Implementation Centre in partnership with Doughty Street Chambers ran an event on 9th May. Jennifer Robinson and Nicola Peart discuss the main concerns involved with Global Security since Trump's time in office.
From women's and reproductive rights to national security, targeted killings, climate change, privacy and free speech, participants at last night's University of Bristol and Doughty Street Chambers "Trump Administration and Global Security" event each shared their own "Top Trump" concern arising from his first 100 days in office. The event brought together barristers, academics, campaigners and activists to discuss in themes the key global security issues that have arisen during the Trump administration.
Hosting the event, Angela Patrick and Dr Cian Murphy from Bristol University, started by giving a broad overview of events, characterised by Trump's unpredictability and shifting approach which we have seen in relation to national security, immigration, foreign relations, the bombing of Syria, engagement with Russia and North Korea, amongst others. Respect for the rule of the law was highlighted as major concern: one that was borne out overnight by Trump firing the Director of the FBI, James Comey.
Rupert Skilbeck from Open Society discussed possible litigation strategies – particularly in a European context – to push back on US government action at home and abroad. A rich discussion on creative legal and advocacy strategies followed, with input from Doughty Street Chambers’ Steve Powles, Tatyana Eatwell, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Susie Alegre and Jen Robinson, about possibilities for international and regional litigation, amicus brief intervention and support for lawyer colleagues and civil society in different jurisdictions. Other commentators in the room recognised the work done to date by the US federal courts on protecting constitutional rights in the face of discriminatory measures such as the travel ban.
Silkie Carlo from Liberty discussed concerns about US government surveillance, US-UK information sharing, privacy and concerns related to recent border control issues such as the laptop ban. Jen Robinson from Doughty Street Chambers raised concern about protecting free speech and the precedent set for national security reporting and public interest publishing in light of Trump’s description of the media as "the enemy of the people" as well as hostile comments made by CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Susie Alegre noted that the scale of the information that can now be extracted and manipulated through big data analytics raises issues that go beyond privacy and into
freedom of thought.
Fiona de Londras from Birmingham University discussed the change in approach under the Trump administration to targeted killings and drone strikes. She noted how the use of executive power was expanded under President Obama through the work of progressive lawyers and academics in the Obama administration, and she identified more recent changes to procedural frameworks recommended by advisers to the new President. Commentators raised concerns about the outsourcing of executive powers, such as those used to authorise drone strikes, to non-democratically elected government staff.
A dynamic general discussion concluded the event, bringing to light a few overarching themes: the importance of legal knowledge sharing networks to enable lawyers in other jurisdictions; the importance of protecting rights and freedoms in Europe in light of, and also to place pressure on, the Trump administration; and the recognition that much of the existing institutional framework and legal tools now available to the President are a product of both former US administrations and European governments. Issues that have long been of concern to human rights lawyers are being given renewed attention in light of the change in US governance.