Helena Kennedy QC appointed Director of IBAHRI

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC has been appointed as the new Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), it is announced today. She will be the IBAHRI’s third Director since its foundation in 1995 under the Honorary Presidency of Nelson Mandela. Baroness Kennedy QC will assume the post in January 2019, succeeding Dr Phillip Tahmindjis AM who has established the IBAHRI as a preeminent human rights entity and is retiring after 16 years at the Institute.

Baroness Kennedy QC commented: ‘I feel very honoured and excited to be taking on this new role. The International Bar Association (IBA) constitutes almost 200 bar associations and more than 80,000 individual lawyers from across six continents that include the world’s most significant international law firms. It is a truly global force, with formidable heft across all areas of law and unmatched convening power in the legal profession and beyond. Its groundbreaking Human Rights Institute is one of its great achievements and to lead it is truly a privilege.’ She added: ‘The rule of law is currently under threat in many parts of the world and this new role will allow me to play my part in strengthening law and human rights globally.

IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis said: ‘Independent of spirit and of thought, free-speaking and resolute, Baroness Kennedy brings a wealth of experience to the IBAHRI on issues concerned with human rights, liberties, social justice and much more. There is no one better qualified to lead the IBA in our human rights advocacy work. A seminal force, Baroness Kennedy’s dynamism will further the influence of the IBAHRI as it continues to engage with the global legal community to promote and protect human rights and the independence of the legal profession worldwide. As she builds on the excellent foundation of her predecessors, I am looking forward to witnessing the Baroness Helena Kennedy IBAHRI era.

A British barrister, broadcaster, Labour member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and the founding force behind the creation of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford University, Baroness Kennedy QC has held many prominent positions throughout her career, including: Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford (2011–2018); Chair of Justice, the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists; bencher of Gray’s Inn; President of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; Chair of Charter 88 (1992–1997) a British pressure group that advocated constitutional and electoral reform; Chair of the Human Genetics Commission (1998–2007); and Chair of the British Council (1998–2004). She also chaired the Power Inquiry, which reported on the state of British democracy and produced the Power Report in 2006.

In Baroness Kennedy’s practice of law as a barrister – she is a member of the Doughty Street Chambers in London – she has acted in many of the most prominent cases of the last 30-plus years, including the Brighton bombing, the Michael Bettaney espionage trial, the Guildford Four appeal and the bombing of the Israeli embassy. She has also acted in many homicide trials with a domestic setting, and chaired an inquiry for the Royal College of Pathologists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health into sudden infant death, in the aftermath of miscarriages of justice where mothers were wrongly convicted of murdering their babies.

IBA President Martin Šolc commented: ‘I am delighted that, in this year of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Helena Kennedy QC is becoming the new Director of IBAHRI. At a time when the rule of law, ergo human rights, are universally under threat, the appointment of Baroness Kennedy is of paramount importance. Her unflinching advocacy and passion for justice for all and for equal and just societies will bolster lawyers everywhere to protect human rights.

Baroness Kennedy QC is a past Co-Chair of the IBAHRI (2013–2017) during which time she consistently argued for the rights of lawyers who had been unfairly detained to practise freely and to engage in human rights advocacy, as provided for in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. She also respectfully reminded the heads of nations of the necessity to demonstrate commitment to the human rights instruments to which their countries are party, and of the need to send the message to citizens that a fair and functioning justice system is in place. In addition, Baroness Kennedy was the UK member of the IBA’s Task Force on Terrorism (2002) which considered how international communities should counter the growing threat of terrorism without diminishing respect for human rights.

Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell, IBAHRI Co-Chair, commented: ‘It is with great satisfaction that I note that Baroness Helena Kennedy has been appointed the new Director of the IBAHRI. As a former Co-Chair of the Council of the IBAHRI she is well acquainted with the work performed by the Institute. With her background as a member of the House of Lords, and as a prominent barrister with special expertise in human rights law and constitutional matters, she will bring with her a very special capacity to contribute to the work of the IBAHRI. Among its objectives, we find practical implementation of human rights and the rule of law worldwide through capacity building initiatives. This work needs increased attention by the IBA at a time when human rights and the rule of law are under attack even in Western democracies.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair Michael Kirby AC CMG said: ‘Baroness Helena Kennedy QC is a magnificent appointment as Director of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute. She is a splendid lawyer, experienced and creative. She is an authentic human rights lawyer – an inspiration and example to young and not so young lawyers around the world. She has taken a bold step in her own career and the IBAHRI is the beneficiary. We will all arise to this new opportunity and challenge. I welcome the chance to work with her closely in her new capacity. The message is clear, human rights is at the heart of the work of lawyers worldwide. In Helena Kennedy, we have someone who will challenge us. There are great expectations!

Baroness Kennedy QC has received honours for her work on human rights from the governments of France and Italy and has been awarded more than 30 honorary doctorates. Other accolades include: The Times newspaper's Lifetime Achievement award in 1999 for her work for women, which included championing women in the legal profession and calling for research into the experience of women lawyers and particularly their absence on the Bench; and The Spectator magazine’s Parliamentary Campaigner of the Year Award in 2000 for having led the opposition to encroachments on the right to jury trial and for her courageous stand against the UK government.


Notes to the Editor

  1. IBAHRI Directors
    1995–2012: Fiona Wilson (nee Paterson)
    2013–2018: Dr Phillip Tahmindjis (2002– 2012 including Deputy, Acting and Co-Director)
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) was established in 1995 under the Honorary Presidency of Nelson Mandela. It is an autonomous and financially independent entity that works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies, it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The work of the IBA began in 1947 in New York, alongside the founding of the United Nations, in the firm belief that an association of the bars, the law societies and the lawyers of the world could make a difference to the cause of justice and peace globally. The IBA’s work is concerned with the development and the upholding of international law. A fundamental belief of the IBA is that the interests of human rights and commercial prosperity share the same dependence on a stable environment for justice and the rule of law, in which people and their businesses can find the freedom to flourish.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association
4th Floor, 10 St Bride Street,
London EC4A 4AD

Mobile: +44 (0)7940 731 915
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091

Email: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org