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Rights and Freedoms Cluster

Rights and Freedoms Cluster

Led by Professor Jill Marshall, Professor Steve Peers and Dr Marton Ribary, the Rights and Freedoms research cluster is active in a variety of international, national and local projects producing excellent research.

We are proud that Royal Holloway’s stunning main campus is located close to Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. The Magna Carta is recognised as one of the foundation stones of justice and the international rights movements.

Building on this important heritage, our cluster engages in impactful research spanning a number of disciplines. The cluster comprises a mixture of academics from law, criminology, social work and social policy, conducting research in the following themes:

  1. the role law, society and culture play in the creation and protection of personal freedoms and corresponding rights, globally and nationally, from theoretical, doctrinal and critical perspectives;
  2. access to justice and private law rights in their social context;
  3. the relationship between law and technology, both (a) in terms of technologies used in support of legal services and (b) the legal framework within which technologies are used, including IP, laws against tech-based violence and digital crimes, and the regulations of drones and surveillance methods;
  4. human rights, both in a theoretical and practical perspective, with special focus on select age groups, genders and cultures;
  5. foundational and philosophical perspectives on constitutional as well as private law matters.

The Cluster provides a forum for members to exchange ideas, share information and support one another's research through collaboration and peer review.

Our recent and current projects

Prof. Jill Marshall (co-I) was awarded an EPSRC, SPRITE+ research grant. Jill is part of a  three person team for the Trust, Rights, and Identity in the Metaverse ('TRIM') project. This seeks to understand how individuals’ identities in the Metaverse might be exploited for harm, and how human rights in the Metaverse might be preserved, including protection against discrimination/harm based on someone’s identity/identity expression. Together the team draw on their inter-disciplinary strengths and expertise from computer science, psychology and law using a novel combination of methods. See further: Trust, Rights and Identity in the Metaverse Professor Jill Marshall funding announced ( 

Dr Eugenio Vaccari – together with Prof Laura Coordes (Arizona State University), Prof Yseult Marique and Dr André Lino (University of Essex), Prof Emanuele Padovani (University of Bologna) and Prof Geo Quinot (Stellenbosh University) – has been awarded several small grants (worth c. £ 28,545) to establish the Research Network on Public Authorities and Financial Distress (RPAFD) and run the 5th International Symposium at Royal Holloway, University of London.

RPAFD is a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectorial network of more than 60 academics and practitioners, lawyers, economists, accountants and experts from other disciplines based all over the world with a common interest on local authorities in financial distress. RPAFD promotes the development of comparative and iterative research based on concrete case studies. Its ultimate goal is to design an insolvency and restructuring framework to ensure public money is spent for the benefit of vulnerable stakeholders at a local level and to promote sustainable development (mitigating climate change). RPAFD is organized in various working groups (WGs) dealing with specific topics that are relevant for developing a more informed understanding and a principled approach to the treatment of local authorities in financial distress.

The Index 2.0 project is co-led by Dr Marton Ribary, Dr Giuseppe Di Donato (Edinburgh Napier) and Dr Joanna Kulawiak-Cyrankowska (Lodz) with the assistance of Mr Julien Danneau (Louvain). The project aims to trigger a new wave of text-based computational research in Roman law that would complement doctrinal and historical approaches. We set out on this journey by bringing the invaluable resource of the Index interpolatiounum into the digital age. This gigantic early 20ᵗʰ century work brings together hundreds of years of scholarship on the authenticity of juristic sources included in the Digest, the authoritative Roman law compendium (533 CE) commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (527-565 CE). We are planning to build an interactive digital platform with a relational database of the Index at its core. We have secured smaller pots of money to kickstart our project and we are currently applying for a multi-year large grant.

In the current economic climate, questions around rescuing distressed enterprises and insulating corporate insolvencies from personal bankruptcies are on the minds of many individual entrepreneurs and directors of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Before engaging the services of legal professionals, it is vitally important for these players to assess the merit of their cases and form a general idea about the available legal options.

Our five-strong interdisciplinary team, Marton Ribary (RHUL), Eugenio Vaccari (RHUL), Paul Krause (Surrey), Thomas Wood (Fast Data Science) and Miklos Orban (OPL-gunnercooke), has developed a prototype legal advice tool, the Insolvency Bot (IB), which provides free, immediate and accurate advice on the laws applicable to distressed MSMEs. It harnesses recent developments in generative AI combined with a reliable legal knowledge base of statutes and case law.

At its core, the tool is currently based on the conversation deployment of the Large Language Model (LLM) gpt-4, widely known to the public as ChatGPT. The tool uses standard Natural Language Processing (NLP) methods to “triage” the user query and match it with the relevant legal resources (statutes, case law and HMRC forms) from a curated knowledge base we have built. The tool then uses prompt engineering methods to build a structured query to be fed into the gpt-4 model directly via an Application Programming Interface (API). The tool’s design avoids so-called “hallucination” when a language model makes up non-existing pieces of information with false confidence.

The paper reporting about the experiments and evaluation of the prototype first version of the tool has been accepted to the highly competitive JURIX conference (Maastricht, December 2023). The second version will improve the tool’s knowledge base, its NLP-based triaging layer, and the methods used for evaluating outputs.

Our impact

Professor Jill Marshall has worked with Global South actors reaching out to vulnerable communities, connecting human rights law and participatory methods, with cultural studies. For example, she led the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) college cluster on human rights during 2018-2021. GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Royal Holloway’s Global Challenges Research Fund strategy submitted to Research England was highlighted in 2018 as one of ten commended university strategies. The Human Rights cluster was one of the areas championed under this strategy. Independently, Dr Josephine Ndagire (Makerere University) and Professor Marshall were awarded a GCRF/Academy of Medical Sciences networking grant from 2019 to 2021 “Infusing Law and Policy with the Voices of Displaced Survivors of Sexual Violence in Conflict”. An art exhibition of the stories of the survivors portrayed by a young Ugandan artist King took place in Kampala in April 2021 showcasing the project which involved workshops with trainers of judges and officials on gender sensitivity in the Great Lakes area of Central/East Africa, and with survivors of sexual violence from Northern Uganda. Related papers were presented at the Law and Society Association conference and the Research Network for Law, Gender and Sexuality (Research Lex) in 2021. The project impacted the social well-being of survivors of sexual violence in the regions and linked the arts to social sciences and law at a national and international level. Jill contributed to a curated Talking Humanities blog with IALS in 2022.


In the current REF cycle, Dr Eugenio Vaccari has been involved in a multitude of impact-related activities. His research on local entities in financial distress has appeared in several articles on The Times, The Conversation (here and here), on INSOL Europe Inside Stories and The Oxford Business Law Blog. He also delivered a lecture at the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple on the topic of “Municipalities in Financial Distress: An Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Critique” (24 April 2024).

Dr Eugenio Vaccari’s research on how to integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies within insolvency and restructuring regimes was cited by the Work Bank in the briefing paper ‘The Effects of Climate Change on Firms’ Solvency and the Role of Insolvency and Restructuring Frameworks in Addressing Climate-Related Risks’ (A Menezes and A Gropper, 2023). Eugenio has also been appointed as a senior consultant for the World Bank on a project on insolvency law and climate change. As part of this project, he co-authored the ‘Discussion Paper for the Insolvency and Climate Change Working Group’ (23-24 February 2024). Eugenio is currently working towards the publication of the final report containing a list of policy recommendations for national governments (June 2024).

Eugenio has been invited to give expert evidence to Longitude  - the monthly magazine issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and circulated to Italian ambassadors across the world -, as well as to deliver a keynote address at the Roundtable on Insolvency and Climate Change organised by the Insolvency Law Academy (19 April 2024).

In terms of publications, his article ‘Harmonising insolvency law in the EU: New thoughts on old ideas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’ (2021) 30(3) I.I.R. 427-459 was cited by J Garrido, C DeLong, A Rakesh & A Rosha, ‘Restructuring and Insolvency in Europe: Policy Options in the Implementation of the EU Directive’, IMF Working Paper, 2021/152; and by  the European Commission in the Impact Assessment Report accompanying the Proposal for a Directive harmonising certain aspects of insolvency law (SWD/2022/395 final).

The Insolvency Bot project, led by a five-strong interdisciplinary team, Marton Ribary (RHUL), Eugenio Vaccari (RHUL), Paul Krause (Surrey), Thomas Wood (Fast Data Science) and Miklos Orban (OPL-gunnercooke), envisages generating impact for three sets of stakeholders:    

(1) small businesses in distress seeking for reliable legal information interacting with our tool;  

(2) insolvency professionals interested in providing imminent and accurate advice; 

(3) public bodies responsible for record keeping and providing accurate information (e.g. The National Archives, Citizens Advice, local government).  

We conducted an unmoderated user test of the prototype system on the Prolific research platform funded by the RHUL’s Reid Research Fund. More than hundred entrepreneurs of MSMEs resident in the UK interacted with the Insolvency Bot reflected on the generated response and provided comments on further development in a structured survey. We are in the process of analysing the evidence gathered from this study, in order to further improve the advice provided by the Insolvency Bot.

Events and presentations

18 October 2023: Dr Anish Chakravarty (University of Delhi) - ‘Spinoza on Human Freedom and Human Rights’

8 November 2023: Dr Cecilia Juliana Flores Elizondo (Manchester Metropolitan University) - ‘Promoting "sustainable" food systems through international trade agreements: the missing link for transformations into ecologically healthy food systems’ 

24 January 2024: Dr Craig Prescott (RHUL) - 'Regency, Counsellors of State and the Future of the Modern Monarchy’

14 February: Dr Christos Marneros (RHUL) - ‘The non-existence of human rights’

28 February 2024: Dr Irene Antonopoulos (RHUL) - ‘What is a home to a refugee? Redefining ‘home’ in the context of war related displacement’ 

2 May 2024: Dr Renate Grossi (University of Technology Sydney) - ‘I am not my friend’: When contract law goes to therapy

22 November 2022: Dr Marton Ribary (RHUL) and Dr Antony Starza-Allen (University of Surrey) - 'Computing legal analysis: A guided approach to problem solving in contract law

7 December 2022: Dr Rachel Maguire (RHUL) - 'Non-Fungible Tokens' 

23 March 2023: Janina Pescinski (UN/QMUL) - 'From the Border to the Courtroom: the Criminalisation of Migration and Solidarity'

13 October 2021: Dr Irene Antonopoulos (RHUL) - ‘“Climate change” and “human rights” finally meet before the European Court of Human Rights. What to expect when you are expecting a court decision?’

27 October 2021: Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci (British Institute of International and Comparative Law) - ‘Determinants of Anti-Trafficking Efforts: How far does international law go?’

10 November 2021: Dr Eugenio Vaccari (RHUL) - ‘On the Nature of Admiralty and Cross-Border Insolvency Law, and on their Interaction’

24 November 2021: Dr Jane Marriott (RHUL) - ‘On Human Rights, the pandemic and care homes’

2 February 2022: Sapan Maini-Thompson (No5 Barristers Chambers) - ‘Implementation of facial recognition technology in British policing’

4 April 2022 - Half-day conference on contemporary issues in Business and Human Rights, with a particular focus on the Afghan situation. Speakers: Prof Jill Marshall, Dr Alexander Gilder, Dr Mohammad Sabuj, Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, Dr Irene Antonopoulos, Dr Sufyan El Droubi, Mr Paul Kinninmont.

Our Autumn seminar was led by Dr Mark Berry who presented his work on the ethics and challenges of semi-covert research with active offenders.

At our Winter seminar, in January 2021, we heard from Dr. Ryan Hill, Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University. Dr. Hill’s paper "Challenging the Right to Offend Religious Sensibilities in the Face of Foreseeable Harm" was based on his article published in the Law & Justice - Christian Law Review.

Research news

Dr Irene Antonopoulos is the chief editor of a new open-access online journal, Environmental Rights Review

Dr Pinar Canga co-authored an article with Dr Simon Behrman titled 'The Impact of the European Union on Turkey’s Policy of Immigration Detention', published in the European Journal of Migration and Law in 2022.

Dr Alexis Artaud de la Ferriere was appointed in September 2021 to the FoRB Working Group, G20 Interfaith Forum. He recently became board member of the Association Française de Sciences Sociales des Religions and an editorial board member of the peer-reviewed journal Social Sciences and Missions. Alexis is co-convenor of the Religious Liberty and Covid-19 Research Project, and was recently appointed as member of the "Group of Experts" in the International Religious Liberty Association. He was the co-editor of a special issue of Fides et Libertas on the impact of COVID-19 restriction on religious liberty in Europe and North America (2022). 

Victims of Stalking: Case Studies in Invisible Harms by Dr Evgenia (Jenny) Korkodeilou has recently been published. Her monograph provides an in-depth look at the impact of stalking and criminal justice system responses to this form of abuse. 

Dr Rachel Maguire has recently published an article on copyright and the Internet: ‘”It doesn’t belong to the internet”: Copyright reform for user-generated content’ in Intellectual Property Quarterly.

Dr Mashuq Kurt has published a recent article in Current Anthropology, on  trajectories and sociopolitical drivers of youth radicalization in Turkey in the context of the Syrian war and the Kurdish national struggle.

Dr Christos Marneros is the author of a recent book, Human Rights After Deleuze: Towards an An-archic Jurisprudence (Hart Publishing, Bloomsbury, 2022), which was nominated for the prestigious “Political Theory Prize” awarded by the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR).

Professor Jill Marshall has been appointed a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) for 2021-22. She has recently published: Personal Identity and the European Court of Human Rights (Routledge 2022) - available here. Jill is editor and author of two chapters in this edited collection. It is the first book in her new series Routledge Studies in Law and Humanity. Please contact Jill if you have a book proposal in this area. She has also recently published a co-authored book chapter, ‘Pregnancy: Transformations in Philosophy and Legal Practice’ in G. Anthony Bruno and Justin Vlasits Transformation and the History of Philosophy (Routledge 2024).

Dr Foivi Mouzakiti was recently awarded a small grant from the Society of Legal Scholars Small Projects and Events Funds.

Dr Aislinn O'Connell, together with Dr Ksenia Bakina of Privacy International, have developed a project highlighting the lack of mechanisms available to victims of image-based sexual abuse (so-called ‘revenge porn’) to remove their images from online. The project was published in Legal Studies, where it was one of the most-downloaded outputs of 2021. Dr O’Connell has also published a related paper on Image Rights, which is among the 5% of all outputs scored by Altmetric.

Together with Sara Hourani, Dr. Leonardo De Oliveira has recently co-edited the book Access to Justice in Arbitration: Concept, Context and Practice (Wolters Kluwer, 2021). This is a compendium of essays by arbitral practitioners, academics, and arbitral institution officials presenting, for the first time, an in-depth analysis of the role access to justice plays in arbitration. He has also co-written the chapter titled  ‘The Brazilian Cooperation and Facilitation Investment Agreement as a model for Latin America?’, available in S el Droubi and CJ Flores Elizondo (eds), Latin American Perspectives to International Investment Law, Melland Schill Perspectives to International Law (Manchester University Press 2022). He has also recently published a chapter on inequality and bargaining power in the book Quo vadis Commercial Contract? Reflections on Sustainability, Ethics and Technology in the Emerging Law and Practice of Global Commerce (Routledge, 2023).

Professor Steve Peers has published a fifth edition of his monograph on EU Justice and Home Affairs Law, a two-volume comprehensive analysis of EU legislation on immigration, asylum, border controls, and criminal law, in 2023 (OUP). A second edition of the Commentary on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, co-edited by Prof Peers, Tamara Hervey, Jeff Kenner and Angela Ward, was published in 2021 (Hart Publishing).

Dr Marton Ribary presented on a team project developing an insolvency-related tool at the prestigious JURIX AI and law conference (December 2023). He was the founding member of the Index 2.0 project which aims to create a digital platform for the text-critical study of Roman law taking the Index Interpolationum as a starting point (April 2023). Marton has published a handbook chapter which questions the relationship between Rabbinic and Roman law (February 2024). He co-authored a recent article in Legal Education Review on a five-stage approach to problem-solving in contract law (November 2023), and he has been awarded to be a guest editor of a special issue of The Law Teacher (Summer 2025), on ‘New Trends in Teaching Contract Law (June 2023)’. In the space of open research, Marton also co-author of an award-winning feature article called “Deep impact: A study on the impact of data papers and datasets in the humanities and social sciences” published in Publications 10(4):39.

Dr Mohammad Sabuj recently published a monograph titled Legitimacy of Use of Force in Public and Islamic International Law (Palgrave Macmillan 2021). The monograph explores the legitimacy of Use of Force, one of the most contested topics in current international affairs. It analyses the differences between two potentially conflicting legal systems, proposing how the two could be complementary. It argues how different cultural and religious views can lead to different interpretations of what forms of power people believe to be justified.

Dr Eugenio Vaccari has been appointed a lead consultant on a World Bank project on climate change and insolvency law. Dr Dr Irene Antonopoulos is an expert adviser to the group. He is the co-author of a forthcoming book from Elgar: Municipalities in Financial Distress: An Environmental, Social and Governance Critique. He has also co-authored English Corporate Insolvency Law: A Primer (Elgar, 2022), and he was awarded a silver medal for ‘International Insolvency Studies’ in 2022.

Professor Jill Marshall has been re-appointed as Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) for 2023-24. Her edited collection: Personal Identity and the European Court of Human Rights (Routledge 2022) - available here is part of a new series Routledge Studies in Law and Humanity. Please contact Jill if you have a book proposal in this area. Jill recently delivered aspects of this research at the University of Bergen (see here). She will be visiting Strasbourg and taking part in a feminist judgments workshops with judges from the European Court of Human Rights in May 2024 (see the related collection).

Our staff

Dr Irene Antonopoulos: human rights, ‘home’, right to private and family life, displacement

Dr Malak Benslama-Dabdoub: forced displacement; refugees; anti-colonialism; terrorism; Article 1F

Dr Pinar Canga

Prof Rita D’Alton-Harrison: Fertility, Human Rights, Trans Rights

Dr Plamen Dinev: AI; IP law; copyright; patents

Dr Jinu Carvajalino Guerrero: Transitional justice, amnesties

Dr Pascal Gotthardt

Dr Maja Grundler: Refugee law, irregular migration

Prof Anna Gupta

Dr Carlos Herrera-Martin

Prof Rob Jago

Prof Frank Keating

Dr Evgenia Korkodeilou

Dr Shailesh Kumar: Gender-based violence; Child sexual violence; youth justice; court ethnography

Dr Mashuq Kurt

Dr Rafael Lima Sakr

Dr Rachel Maguire: Tech-based violence

Dr Christos Marneros: Human Rights, philosophy (esp. The thought of Panajotis Kondylis) political theory

Dr Jane Marriott: Human Rights; Art 5 ECHR

Prof Jill Marshall: feminist jurisprudence, human rights, gender and race, law and humanities

Dr Aislinn O’Connell: Copyright, artificial intelligence, LLMs, ChatGPT, predictive text

Prof Steve Peers

Prof Konstantinos Alexandris Polomarkakis: labour rights, EU law, migrant agriculture, care workers

Dr Craig Prescott: Parliament; Monarchy; Judiciary; Constitutional History; Legislation; Electoral Systems 

Dr Marton Ribary: legal reasoning, legal tech, Roman law, legal education, contract law 

Dr Mohammad Sabuj

Dr Rebecca Smith: Conflicts of rights and values theory; incommensurability in practical reason; Kant, feminism, and oppression studies

Prof Renata Uitz: comparative public law, illiberal democracy - illiberal practices, human rights, law and religion, academic freedom

Dr Eugenio Vaccari: ESG; human rights; insolvency; business; local entities

Dr Leonardo Valladares Pacheco De Oliveira: Arbitrators’ impartiality, English law, fair-minded observer, reasonable person

Prof Sylvia Walby

Dr Eliza Watt: state use of drones, surveillance, non-lethal weapons; law enforcement paradigm, soft law; drones and targeted killings

Our PGR students

Isabella Da Re: Conceptualising ‘Female Suffering’: Reconciling Gynocentric Realities of Suffering with the International Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Kenneth Ghartey: Reconciling Arbitrability, Party Autonomy and Promotion of Justice in the Arbitration of Cross-Border Insolvency Disputes

Sarah Al Sahlawi: Counterfeit medicines under the TRIPs Agreement: Comparative analysis of the situation between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia in terms of the infringement of intellectual property rights, particularly patent rights. 

Jeremy Woloszyn: Catholicism and collective identities among Poles in Britain International Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

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