Andrew Clapham in conversation with Martin Scheinin

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Andrew Clapham is currently Director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. In the first of our in-depth alumni interviews, he discusses the influence of the EUI on his career and enters into discussion with Martin Scheinin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the EUI, about his current work on the human rights obligations of private security companies.

Andrew Clapham

Andrew Clapham, Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

“My research has grown out of the work and the issues I was exposed to in Florence,” says Clapham who, while at the EUI, worked alongside professors Joseph H.H. Weiler, Steven Lukes and Brian Bercusson, in his research on the privatisation of European human rights.

“[But] the man who influenced me most was my supervisor Antonio Cassese, he was incredibly inspirational. Committed to changing the world through his academic, UN and Council of Europe work, he was determined but also effective.”

After growing up in a small town in the UK, Clapham admits his motivations for coming to the EUI were more to experience the world, than to change it: “I wanted to study something a bit different and was interested in comparative and international law. I wanted to get out of my provincial living in England and see a bit more of the world.”

However, since defending his thesis in 1986, Clapham has worked extensively to promote human rights both through private practice and alongside international organisations. He has worked with Amnesty International on certain missions in Africa representing the organisation at the United Nations in New York. He has also been Special Adviser on Corporate Responsibility to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Adviser on International Humanitarian Law to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Iraq.

“The EUI helped me not only to be scientifically rigorous but to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures and understand how international organisations work. The institute shows you the advantages of looking beyond your own discipline, including in Bar Fiasco where I learned quite a lot about life!”

A former director of the Academy of European Law, he has returned to teach courses and seminars a number of times at his alma mater. And despite the scale of his own achievements, when asked about the aspect of his career he is most proud of, he comes back to teaching: “[It’s] Getting students who have given up hope through their PhDs.”

His current work is focused on his continued interest in holding private actors accountable for human rights violations, and he is currently working on the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, aiming to ‘to set private security industry principles and standards based on international human rights and humanitarian law’.

In conversation:

Martin Scheinin

Martin Scheinin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, EUI, Florence

Martin Scheinin: Why did you choose the format of a code of conduct (for private security companies)? And what are its benefits compared to other possible forms of regulation?

Andrew Clapham: Well it was not really my choice but rather that of the companies.  There were already a number of codes of conduct on a regional and sectoral level. The concept and format of a code of conduct was a familiar one for these companies, the problem was that the codes were not very detailed with regard to human rights.

MS: What can you tell about developments towards an independent oversight mechanism envisaged in article 11? 

AC: This is one of the most divisive areas as of course the expectations of civil society do not necessarily match the commitments of the companies. It is now too early to tell how this will develop but a lot of energy will go into elaborating this mechanism in the coming months.

MS: The Code of Conduct includes a provision on non-discrimination (article 42) which applies to the hiring of personnel at security contractors. How does this provision relate to practices of ‘profiling’ that may be in place when hiring security personnel for instance at sensitive locations such as airports, or that may be applied by private security service providers themselves in respect of the general public?

AC: The non-discrimination clause does not include as a prohibited ground nationality, so companies may be able to advertise for a particular citizenship should the inherent requirements of the contract require this. Similarly distinctions could possibly be made when hiring if the contract requires it. One could imagine a contract to guard a Mosque specifying a particular religion and this might not be unreasonable in the circumstances.  In short ‘profiling’ candidates would, I imagine, have to be justified by the contract to be fulfilled.

 In light of article 67 of the Code, what are your thoughts about whistleblower protection for personnel of security service providers who disclose and possibly make public practices that are incompatible with human rights?

AC: I think that should the oversight mechanism or any other entity show that a signatory company does not have an effective protection scheme this will be the beginning of a case that the company is in violation of the code.  If whistle blowers are punished or inadequately protected the code ought to provide a standard to hold companies to.

MS: In the elaboration of the Code of Conduct, was there involvement or input by the EUI?

AC: Yes, the parallel project at the EUI was influential in thinking about the content of the code and the need for complementary actual regulation at the national, regional and international levels.


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