Geoffrey Robertson QC is one of Britain’s leading human rights champions. Twenty years ago he helped fuel the global justice movement with his ground-breaking book Crimes Against Humanity. In April 2021, alongside fellow human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and campaigner Bill Browder, he took part in a special Intelligence Squared online event in partnership with Doughty Street Chambers to set out what he calls his ‘plan B for human rights’. This would involve countries introducing and enforcing fresh laws to name, blame and shame human rights abusers, stripping them of their right to enter democratic nations, of the ill-gotten funds they seek to deposit in global banks, and barring them and their families from schools and hospitals in these countries.
Expanding on the themes of his new book Bad People And How To Be Rid Of Them, Robertson makes the case for a group of laws known as Magnitsky legislation after Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in a Russian jail after exposing state corruption. Early versions of these laws have already been introduced in Britain, the US and Canada. As Robertson argues, the Magnitsky movement offers an effective way to punish people who have committed crimes against humanity, whether in America, Russia, China or Belarus. Good people, he urges, need to fight for them – in their own countries and elsewhere in the world.
As nationalism strengthens its grip across the world and governments retreat from international courts and refuse to comply with their rulings, urgent action is needed. These three leading figures in the fight for human rights discussed a way forward for the global justice movement in the twenty-first century.