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Ben Emmerson QC is an international lawyer, specialising in European human rights law, public international law and international criminal law. He was a founder member of Matrix Chambers and has 25 years’ experience litigating before international courts and tribunals including the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Within the UK he is a deputy High Court Judge, a Master of the Bench of Middle Temple and an Honorary Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford.

Current and previous international appointments

Emmerson is currently the British judge on the Residual Mechanism of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

He has previously acted as Special Adviser to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and Special Adviser to the international judges of the UN backed Khymer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia.

In June 2011 he was elected by the UN Human Rights Council as UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights. In this capacity he reports annually to the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council and relevant entities established by the Security Council. He also conducts country visits and reports, and provides technical and other advice to States.

Publications

Emmerson has written and lectured widely on the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. He was formerly the editor of the European Human Rights Law Review and is co-author, with Professor Andrew Ashworth QC of the leading text on the application of the Convention in criminal cases (Human Rights and Criminal Justice, Sweet & Maxwell, 2nd Edn). Since 1995 he has been human rights editor of Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice (Sweet & Maxwell), the criminal practitioner’s bible.

Career at the Bar

In his career as a barrister Emmerson specialises in cases involving human rights, international humanitarian law, criminal law, and public law. He has been described as “one of the ten best silks in the country” and “a leading presence in the field of human rights” (Chambers & Partners Directory).

He has conducted more than 30 cases as an advocate appearing before the European Court of Human Rights, acting both for and against the government of the United Kingdom and other Council of Europe Member States. Whilst he has a particular reputation in the application of international standards to criminal law and procedure, he has extensive experience in all aspects of ECHR litigation, and has acted in cases covering a wide range of international law issues including diplomatic and state immunity, parliamentary privilege, judicial independence, and discipline within the armed forces. He has been particularly recognised for his work in developing the law governing the protection of the right to life in Article 2 and the state’s duty to prevent torture and inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3. He has a record of representing media clients in free speech cases, and has also acted in most of the major cases over the last decade concerning limits on the right to demonstrate.

Directory Assessments

Chambers & Partners 2012 describes United Nations special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC as a “superb lawyer, who is extremely intelligent”. He has “market-leading tactical expertise” and is “massively in demand” for human rights cases. Commentators note that he has “the ability to put together fantastic packages of ideas” and “is able to work minor miracles” with the cases before him. Many of his matters are international in nature and he has vast experience of handling cases in the European Court of Human Rights.

Ben accepts instructions under the Bar Council Standard Contractual Terms, details of which can be found here.

DIRECTORY RECOMMENDATIONS
WHAT THEY SAY:

United Nations special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC is a “superb lawyer, who is extremely intelligent”. He has “market-leading tactical expertise” and is “massively in demand” for human rights cases. Commentators note that he has “the ability to put together fantastic packages of ideas” and “is able to work minor miracles” with the cases before him. Many of his matters are international in nature and he has vast experience of handling cases in the European Court of Human Rights.

Chambers & Partners (2012)

In the field of human rights, he is “one of the best in terms of courtroom performance. Extremely lucid, clear and forceful, he sweeps the judges along with him”. He is “one of the ten best silks in the country”.

Chambers & Partners (2011)

“When it comes to international human rights law, his vast knowledge and experience place him at the top of the tree. He is the man to plump for if you have a criminal law case with a strong human rights angle to it”.

Chambers & Partners (2011)

Ben Emmerson QC is a “formidable opponent due to his mastery of the issues”, and is “pre-eminent in his field and impossible not to look up to”. As a criminal lawyer he is “exceptionally gifted, with a wonderfully analytical, first-class brain”.

Chambers & Partners (2009)

“Absolutely at the top of his game,” Ben Emmerson QC elicits rave reviews from all corners. Sources marvel at his “ability to read the court and harness his leviathan intellect to tackle the facts of a case.” Ben Emmerson QC enjoys a stupendous reputation. Brilliant on civil liberties and public law issues, he possesses a “first-rate knowledge of the law and prepares arguments well.”

Chambers & Partners (2008)

Recommended in Human Rights and Civil Liberties, Ben Emmerson QC is “beyond praise” and takes “an intellectual approach to cases”.

Legal 500 (2008)

Ben Emmerson QC is “the first person to call on” and “a beneficiary of enormous respect” in public and administrative law. He is “a leading presence in the field of human rights”.

Chambers and Partners (2007)

Ben Emmerson QC is “outstanding”. He is “clearly a real leader” in the human rights field and has a “massive reputation”.

Chambers & Partners (2006)

Ben Emmerson QC has “a reputation founded on an astonishing series of cases” before the ECHR. He can “turn his hand to anything, deploying beautifully constructed arguments”. In the field of human rights law, he has “a pedigree that doesn’t need endorsement”. A combination of “incredible determination” and “encyclopaedic knowledge” makes him a force in European human rights law.

Chambers & Partners (2005)

Ben Emmerson QC is “head, shoulders and everything else” above the rest for European human rights law.

Chambers & Partners (2003)