Call for Contributions; Comparative Law Research Roundtable on Civil Liability for Human Rights Violations, Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford, 23-24 October 2020

The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights invites submissions for a Comparative Law Research
Roundtable on Civil Liability for Human Rights Violations and a subsequent edited
publication. The Research Roundtable will take place on 23-24 October 2020 at the Bonavero
Institute of Human Rights in Oxford, UK.
Background Information
Criminal liability for international crimes and gross human rights abuses has been the subject of
extensive research. By comparison, the possibility of bringing civil claims for human rights
violations remains underexplored. Yet, in many jurisdictions the domestic law – particularly the law
of tort/delict – is being used by litigants to seek to impose civil liability for human rights violations,
and the law in several jurisdictions has seen development in the last decade. The Bonavero Institute
has been awarded a grant by the Oak Foundation to study civil liability for human rights abuses in
various jurisdictions (“Project”).
The key focus of the Project is to analyse the substantive legal rules relevant to determining when
civil claims to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account will succeed. The proposed
research questions (“Research Questions”) cover, for example, (i) existing civil causes of action
for human rights violations, including torts and/or delicts; (ii) the elements of civil liability under
existing causes of action; (iii) parent company’s liability for the wrongful acts of its subsidiaries or
other associates; (iv) rules governing vicarious and accessory liability, etc. Questions relating to
jurisdiction and procedural matters such as rules of disclosure, standing, costs, and the possibilities
of class actions fall outside the scope of the Project. The Project thus concerns a comparative survey
of the legal systems of several jurisdictions (“Focus Jurisdictions”) and in particular the relevant
principles of each jurisdiction for bringing civil claims against states, corporations and individuals.
The Project also seeks to explore in particular the scope of liability in each jurisdiction in relation to
three specified categories of common human rights abuses (i.e. assault or unlawful arrest and
detention of protesters, environmental pollution, and harmful or unfair labour conditions). Further
details on the scope of the Project and the Research Questions will be provided to the selected
contributors in due course.
The Focus Jurisdictions currently under consideration are Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil,
Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malaysia, the Netherlands,
Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, the
United Kingdom and the United States of America. This list is only indicative. The final list of the
Focus Jurisdictions will be determined at a later stage of the Project.
Call for Contributions
The Research Roundtable will seek to explore the challenges and opportunities for using civil claims
as a mechanism for human rights accountability. The Bonavero Institute encourages scholars to
submit contributions discussing the substantive legal rules governing civil liability for human rights
violations in a particular jurisdiction. Each contribution should take a form of a country study and
discuss the relevant regulatory framework of only one jurisdiction. Multi-authored papers with up
to 3 co-authors are welcomed. Applicants from any jurisdiction in the world are encouraged to apply.
Limited funding will be available to cover, possibly only partially, economy-class travel costs to
attend the Research Roundtable, if authors do not have other sources of funding for research travel.
Application Process
To apply, please send the following documents in one PDF file to
by 12 noon (GMT), Friday 10 January 2020:
1. Completed application form (attachment);
2. Proposal of no more than 1000 words explaining how you will approach the country study of
a selected jurisdiction and highlighting recent developments in the law governing civil
liability for human rights violations;
3. CV of no more than 2 pages including a list of publications.
Publication of Contributions
Contributions presented at the Research Roundtable will be considered for publication as part of an
edited volume. Participants will be expected to make their contributions available for publication in
the edited volume.
• Selection of contributions: 31 January 2020
• Delivery of full drafts: 1 June 2020
• Circulation of editors’ comments: 20 July 2020
• Delivery of the revised drafts: 14 September 2020
• Presentation of contributions at the Research Roundtable in Oxford: 23-24 October 2020
• Final papers: 15 November 2020
• First complete draft of the edited volume: December 2020
• Peer-review, finalisation and publication of the edited volume: 2021
For more information, please contact Dr Ekaterina Aristova at