Terrorism and recent developments in Human Rights

The decades following the Second World War saw hopes rise that humanity had learnt its lesson and that a new age had begun, guided by a body of universal law based on human rights. International courts held to account those found guilty of crimes against humanity. Countries that had been long-standing enemies came together in Europe and elsewhere to cooperate on economic, legal, cultural, scientific and political challenges, as well as on the emerging global threats to the environment. The end of the Cold War saw serious efforts to reduce stockpiles of nuclear and other weapons of mass effect and limit their further proliferation to new states. Then came 9/11. Many countries had been experiencing terrorism for decades, but as we watched the unfolding atrocity on our screens, we sensed that something different was happening. In addition to the individual casualties there was an unspoken victim. This devastatingly symbolic event would almost certainly provoke a violent response – as the terrorists had intended – resulting in powerful punitive actions that would test the limits of human rights globally. In this lecture, Lord Alderdice will explore the human rights elements of the story of how 9/11 came about, how the military and political responses to 9/11 have led to a world where the concept of human rights is under threat. He will ask questions about where this leaves us as the world spins down into another global conflict – the very conflict the United Nations was created to prevent.

John Alderdice is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. From 1987 to 1998 he was Leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party and one of the negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement. He was first Speaker of the new Northern Ireland Assembly until 2004 and then one of four international commissioners overseeing the standing down of the terrorist groups and normalization of security in Ireland. He was President of Liberal International from 2010 to 2014 (now President of Honour) and Convenor (Chair) of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords during the Conservative/Liberal Coalition. A doctor and psychiatrist, he lectures and consults widely on the psychology of religious fundamentalism and violent political conflict.

A sandwich lunch will be served at 12.45.