(C) Lancaster University

Why Shouldn’t “Lunatics” Run the “Asylum”?: Re A (Application for DNA Testing) and Attitudes to Children in Proceedings

Dr Aoife Daly

Staff at the European Children’s Rights Unit (University of Liverpool) and elsewhere are involved in Children’s Rights Judgments – a project to progress the use of a children’s rights approach in judgment writing. Re A (Application for DNA Testing) [2015] EWCA Civ 133 concerns an appeal against a judgment of the Liverpool County Court and it provides a notable case study to consider from a children’s rights perspective. It is probably the least child-friendly judgment you are likely to see in this jurisdiction in recent times. The reaction by a judge to the application of a child for a court order makes for extraordinary reading, and serves as a reminder of the distance left to travel in terms of universal acceptance of children’s rights as legal actors and indeed as human beings.

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An image of the interior of the court chamber of the European Court of Human Rights , with the judges' blue seats arranged in a large horseshoe

Part II: The Impact of the ECtHR Ruling in the Case of Maktouf and Damjanovic vs Bosnia and Herzegovina: On Transitional Justice in B-H

Maja Kapetanovic

Part Two: Political Impact

In July of 2013 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a ruling in the case Maktouf and Damjanovic vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, concerning the non-retroactive application of criminal law to war crimes cases, which had tremendous negative consequences on post conflict justice efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B-H). The case concerned two applicants (Maktouf and Damjanovic), convicted for war crimes against civilians committed during the 1992-1995 war in B-H, who successfully claimed that their sentencing violated Article 7 ECHR because the 2003 Bosnian Criminal Code was retroactively applied to them (the case is discussed in more detail in a previous Lancaster Law blog by Prof. James A. Sweeney, and in his recent journal on ‘Non-retroactivity, candour and transitional relativism’). This blog post will deal the political fallout from this case in B-H. My previous post examined the legal consequences.

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White marble pillar gravestones marking the graves of victims of the Srebrenica massacre

The Impact of the ECtHR Ruling in the Case of Maktouf and Damjanovic v Bosnia and Herzegovina: Transitional Justice in B-H

Maja Kapetanovic

Part One: Legal Impact

In July of 2013 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a ruling in the case Maktouf and Damjanovic vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, concerning the non-retroactive application of criminal law to war crimes cases, which had tremendous negative consequences on post conflict justice efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B-H).

Part II is available here.

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Stuart Kirby part of @N8Research team awarded funding to investigate and develop policing policy and practice


Dr Stuart Kirby joined the University after completing 30 years as a police officer, retiring at the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent. His research interests are in the area of Policing; Organised crime; Crime reduction and investigation.

You can find out more about Stuart’s research at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/law/profiles/stuart-kirby


The spectre of Nazism haunts social media

Prof Paul Iganski, Mark McGlashan, and Dr Abe Sweiry

Each time there is an upsurge in the Israel-Palestine conflict there is a rise in violent and other abusive incidents against Jews around the world. This phenomenon is now well-known. So it was in 2014 with Israel’s military operation ‘Protective Edge’ in July and August. Numerous backlash incidents against Jews in the UK and elsewhere in the world were reported by news media.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has become a global phenomenon spreading from Gaza and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank into some of Europe’s major cities and other cities around the world. Jews are seemingly targeted as representatives for the State of Israel and attacked as proxies for the Israel Defence Force. It is a crude form of political violence.

In the UK we have the most robust data collected internationally on the problem of anti-Jewish incidents. Last year, such incidents reportedly more than doubled compared to 2013, according to a report published by the Community Security Trust.[1]

What was noticeable this last time around in the Israel-Gaza conflict of July and August 2014 was an apparent upsurge of abuse against Jews on social media. By the end of July 2014, some of the press were reporting an “explosion” of such abuse.

John Mann MP, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (@APPGAA), instigated a parliamentary inquiry into the lessons that could be learned from the upsurge of anti-Jewish incidents associated with last year’s conflict. The report of that inquiry was published this week. It includes some of the key findings concerning anti-Jewish abuse on social media produced by a rapid response analysis commissioned from a team at Lancaster University — Paul Iganski and Abe Sweiry from the Lancaster University Law School, along with Mark McGlashan — as part of their work with the Lancaster University ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science.

We downloaded a sample of 22 million Tweets from July and August 2014 and carried out a detailed analysis of a sub-sample of 38,460 Tweets containing the words “Israel” or “Gaza”, along with the words “Jew”, “Jews” or “Jewish”.

The results were very telling:

  • A keyword analysis – one of the core methods of corpus linguistics – showed that in the sub-sample analysed, the spectre of Nazism, with words such as “Hitler”, “Holocaust”, “Nazi” and “Nazis”, was present in the top 35 keywords for the downloaded sample. “Hitler” was mentioned 1117 times; “Holocaust” was mentioned in 505 tweets, and; “Nazi” or “Nazis” were mentioned in 851 tweets.
  • The Nazi theme was also evident in hashtags analysed for the sub-sample, with the high frequency of the hashtags #hitler, # hitlerwasright, and #genocide.

While providing a very useful indication of patterns of discourse, keyword analysis and hashtag analysis alone is never sufficient: the contexts of the tweets in which the keywords and hashtags are situated need to be interpreted. Using the linguistic technique of collocation analysis, tweets that seemed to express negative sentiment targeted explicitly at ‘Jews’ were isolated and subjected to a closer reading. Sadly, there was little interpretation that needed to be applied to our sample. The sentiments conveyed were stark:

  • Some contained explicit anti-Jewish invective which if shouted out on the streets – as does happen in many incidents – would clearly be racially or religiously aggravated public order offences.
  • Others wished violence upon Jews as proxies for Israelis, or simply just as Jews.
  • A number expressed the type of sentiment that “Hitler should have finished the job”. Some of these invoked Hitler to return for the task.
  • In other tweets, the use of gas chambers for Jews was invoked.
  • Others simply included Nazi-slogans.

Deep wounds are scratched when the Nazi-card is played in this way in discourse against Jews. Playing the Nazi-card is not simply abusive. It invokes painful collective memories for Jews and for many others. By using those memories against Jews it inflicts profound hurts. Those who play the Nazi-card know exactly what it means.

Reaction to the military practices of the Israeli state can be expressed in a variety of forceful and trenchant ways – none of which would be antisemitic. The hurts inflicted against Jews when the Nazi card is played cannot be written-off as collateral damage in the protest against Israel, just as the deaths and injuries of innocent Palestinian civilians cannot be written-off as the inevitable casualties of war. As Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, stated in his written evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Against Antisemitism, playing the Nazi-card with a statement such as ‘Hitler was right’, “invokes both a set of antisemitic stereotypes and a genocidal project targeted at Jews”.[2]

In the UK a sufficient statutory framework is arguably in place to prosecute against the types of anti-Jewish abuse we identified by proceedings under the Malicious Communications 1988 or the Communications Act 2003.[3] In such proceedings courts can treat the anti-Jewish abuse as racial or religious aggravation according to the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The inquiry’s recommendation therefore that the Crown Prosecution Service should give consideration “to the suitability of existing guidance on communications sent via social media” and “that hate crime guidance material on grossly offensive speech be reviewed to clarify what amounts to ‘criminal acts’ that ‘will be prosecuted’”[4] is opportune.

This blog also appears on the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science website, where you can also find further details of this project, and the work of the Centre (cass.lancs.ac.uk/?p=1579)

Paul Iganski (@H8Hurts) is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Lancaster University Law School, UK.  Paul is on the Management Board of the Lancaster University ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Sciences (CASS) and leads a CASS research project on The management of hateful invective by the courts. His latest book, Hate Crime. A Global Perspective, written together with Jack Levin from Northeastern University’s Brunick Center on Violence and Conflict, in Boston, will be published in May 2015.

You can find out more Paul’s work at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/law/profiles/paul-iganski;

Mark McGlashan (@Mark_McGlashan) is a Postgraduate Researcher in the Department of Linguistics and English Language (@LAEL_LU) and the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University (@SCC_Lancaster), his recent publications include ‘The branding of European nationalism: perpetuation and novelty in racist symbolism‘, and ‘Press and social media reaction to ideologically inspired murder: the case of Lee Rigby‘ (with McEnery and Love)

You can find out more about Mark’s work at http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/profiles/mark-mcglashan

Abe Sweiry (@DrAbeSweiry) is a Senior Research Associate in the Law School at Lancaster University. He is currently working within the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) (@CorpusSocialSci) applying corpus approaches to the study of racially and religiously aggravated criminal prosecutions and to the study of hate speech more generally.

You can find out more about Abe’s work at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/law/profiles/abe-sweiry


[1] Community Security Trust (2015) Antisemitic Incidents Report 2014, London: Community Security Trust, page 4.

[2] All-Party Parliamentary group Against Antisemitism (APPG) (2015) Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, London: APPG, page 103.

[3] Richard Matthews QC and Jonas Milner (2015) Addendum consideration of law and prosecution-related issues. Sub-report commissioned to assist the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into Antisemitism, London: APPG, page 12.

[4] All-Party Parliamentary group Against Antisemitism (APPG) (2015) Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, London: APPG, para. 13, page 114.


The rule of law is the common sense of global politics: often appealed to but seldom understood

Prof Christopher May

The rule of law is often presented as preferable to the rule of men or the rule of force, and in the last couple of decades has become a central part of the common sense of global politics; an unquestioned statement about the world in which we live. To understand its appeal we need to recognise that it can mean different things to different people, but also that its central normative elements underpin the dominant view of the operation of the global market economy.

As I set out in my recent book The Rule of Law: The Common Sense of Global Politics there is a continuing debate about the rule of law might actually mean, but it is easy to identify some key relatively consensual elements:

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Using the law to challenge cultures of hate: Outlawing homophobic and transphobic hate crime in Europe

Prof Paul Iganski

All crimes hurt in one way or another — emotionally, physically, or economically. Yet an accumulation of research evidence now shows conclusively that as a category of crime, hate crimes hurt more on average compared to otherwise motivated crimes. Hate crime victims are more likely to report experiencing post-victimisation emotional and psychological distress.

The greater harms inflicted by hate crimes provide the justification for hate crime laws. Any objections that such laws restrict freedom of speech fail to acknowledge that the expressive evidence by which we come to recognise hate crime rarely consists of what we might conventionally call ‘speech’. ‘Invective’ is a more accurate word. And it is likely that in a majority of hate crimes the spewing of hateful invective is the sole act by the perpetrator.

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