Plans of the new Bonavero Institute of Human Rights in Mansfield College
Plans of the new Bonvero Institute of Human Rights in Mansfield College grounds.

Credit: Rick Mather Architects

New dedicated institute for the study of human rights law

The Faculty of Law in the University of Oxford, already the largest law school in the UK, has announced the creation of a dedicated institute for the study of human rights law. 

Building work is to start within weeks in the grounds of Mansfield College, where the new institute will be located. This joint initiative between the Faculty of Law and the College is led by Mansfield's Principal, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a barrister well-known for championing civil liberties and human rights.

The new institute will be called the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, named after the Bonavero family. Yves Bonavero and his wife, Anne, founded the A B Charitable Trust to defend and promote the cause of human dignity. The Trust has provided the Institute with an endowment to fund its Director and core staff.

Yves Bonavero said: 'My family is delighted to support the timely creation of a world-class Institute of Human Rights and cannot think of a better home for it than the internationally-renowned Law Faculty at the University of Oxford. Under its aegis, the new Institute will produce, and deploy in the field, academic research of such calibre that the lives of men, women and children worldwide will be improved.'

Under its aegis, the new Institute will produce, and deploy in the field, academic research of such calibre that the lives of men, women and children worldwide will be improved.

Yves Bonavero

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, said: 'Research and teaching in the field of human rights has never been more important. The creation of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights will enable us to bring renewed focus to our existing activities in this field. We are immensely grateful to our donors for their generosity and commitment.'

£22 million has already been raised to fund the building work, the endowment for the core staff and operating costs of the Institute. Other generous and engaged donors are supporting the project including the A G Leventis Foundation and the H K Leventis Family.

The Institute is expected to begin work in late 2016, with the building due to be completed for the start of the following academic year. The Institute will serve as a focal point for human rights law scholarship in Oxford. Its chief aim will be to foster greater academic and public understanding of human rights law through teaching, research, and working with other disciplines with an interest in human rights. The Institute will also provide students and others in the Law Faculty with additional opportunities to gain practical experience and to enhance the impact of their research by working more closely with lawyers and policy-makers in the field. 

The Institute is now seeking to appoint its first director, who will be responsible for leading this landmark institution which will foster links between research and practice in the field of human rights. Other new posts at the Institute will include a programme director, a research co-ordinator, a post-doctoral researcher and support staff.

The new building has been designed by internationally-renowned Rick Mather Architects. Spread over two floors, the institute will include a lecture auditorium (to be shared with Mansfield College), study rooms and a seminar room. There will also be 74 student rooms for undergraduates at Mansfield College

Leading human rights lawyers in the Faculty include Professor Sandra Fredman, who has published widely on anti-discrimination law, human rights law and labour law; Professor Liora Lazarus, whose work focuses on human rights in the field of criminal justice; and Professor Dapo Akande, who researches human rights issues in public international law. Professor Fredman is the director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, which hosts a blog on international human rights issues and organises seminars and other events in the field. The new Institute will build on the Faculty's established reputation in human rights law.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said: 'The Rule of Law and the protection of human rights is fundamental to stable societies. We only have to look at fragile legal systems around the world to see why law and independent lawyers and judges matter. On arriving at Oxford to be Principal at Mansfield College I knew that this had to be the big goal - to leave behind an Institute for Human Rights in one of the greatest law faculties in the world, located in the most perfect of colleges and supported by people who care about justice. The Institute will be at the heart of one of the greatest conversations of mankind – how to make a better world.'

Professor Anne Davies, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Oxford, added: 'We are delighted that such generous donors have made it possible to create the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford in association with Mansfield College. Oxford is now positioned as one of the top places in the world to study the important field of human rights law at an international, European and domestic level.'