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Dr Frederick Cowell

  • Overview



    Frederick is a senior lecturer in law and the currently the Acting Assistant Dean for Recruitment. He completed his PhD at Birkbeck in 2015 a year after joining the department, which looked at Postcolonial theory and the legal powers of international institutions. Since then he has developed a general specialism in Public International law and the institutional protection of human rights.  

    He is the convenor of the Tort law module for the LLB, LLM QLD and forthcoming GDL programmes. He is also the head of the undergraduate Human Rights law module. Previously he was the examinations officer for the School of Law and chair of the undergraduate examinations board and disability officer for the school. 

    Currently, he is working on a book entitled 'Exiting: The Law and Politics of Treaty Withdrawal' due to be published by Hart Publishing in late 2022. It examines international relations theory in relation to exit clauses in treaties and attempts a general synthesis of the legal principles of treaty withdrawal.

    Ongoing research projects include looking at the role of international law in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council and the politics of the Human Rights Act in the United Kingdom. He is interested in research supervision of students working on international organisations, the history of the European Convention on Human Rights and customary international law. 

    Previously Frederick worked as a legal advisor for NGOs specialising in International Human Rights Law. Prior to working at Birkbeck he was a lecturer in law at Greenwich School of Management where he was the head of Tort Law on the LLB Programme and lectured in Human Rights. Outside of academic life Frederick is currently serving as a Councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth. 

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Assistant Dean (Recruitment and International)
  • Research


    Research interests

    • Treaty Withdrawal
    • The History of the European Convention on Human Rights
    • Universal Periodic Review
    • Politics of the Human Rights Act
    • Cultural Relativism in International Human Rights Law

    Research overview

    Frederick’s research interests generally focus on human rights and public international law. Most of his published work focuses on the protection of human rights by international organisations and anti-discrimination in international human rights law.

    He is currently working on the following research projects

    1) The Politics, Law and Theory of Treaty Withdrawal 

    This is a monograph examining the theory of treaty withdrawal and why states comply with the international law of treaty withdrawal. The book aims to use insights from international relations theory to examine state behaviour and looks at a range of case studies from Brexit to ICC withdrawal. It is due to be published by Hart Publishing in late 2022. 

    2) Universal Periodic Review and International Law

    The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the UN Human Rights Council has, since 2008 has provided a forum for reviewing and protecting states human rights performance and enforcing International Human Rights law. Recent work in this area included a paper at the European Society of International Law (ESIL) 2021 conference looking at the UPR's role in international law making and a research paper in the International Journal of Human Rights on treaty reservations in UPR recommendations. 

    3) Politics of the Human Rights Act

     Political issues surrounding the Human Rights Act (HRA), which brings the ECHR into UK law, have taken a number of different forms and been a feature of debates on migration, Brexit and the UK constitution.  Frederick was the contributor and editor of Critically Examining the Case Against the 1998 Human Rights Act (Routledge 2017) has published a number of articles in this area and recently submitted evidence to the Ministry of Justice review of the HRA. 

    Other research interests include the history of the European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights Treaty bodies and postcolonial theory and the law. Frederick is also interested in international institutions and the formation of legal argument - next year Defensive Relativism: The Use of Cultural Relativism in International Legal Argument is set to be published in 2022 by University of Pennsylvania Press. 

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Current doctoral researchers



    Teaching modules

    • Tort Law (LADD037S5)
    • Human Rights (LALA003S6)
    • Human Rights (level 5) (LALW007S5)
    • Tort Law (GDL) (LALW115H6)
  • Publications




    Book Review

    Book Section