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School of Law

Compatibility of the Montreal Convention with Human Rights Norms

The School of Law hosted an event with Professor Phoebe Okowa on 'Compatibility of the Montreal Convention with Human Rights Norms. A Fresh look at Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)'

Dr Phoebe Okowa is Professor of Public International Law and Director of Graduate Studies at Queen Mary University of London. Her undergraduate law degree was completed at the University of Nairobi and her graduate law degrees at the University of Oxford. She has held visiting appointments at leading universities in Europe and the United States. She is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. She has appeared as Counsel before the International Court of Justice and lectured on practical questions of international law for the United Nations at its Regional Course on International Law for Africa. She has written on a wide range of contemporary international law topics including the interface between state responsibility and individual accountability for international crimes; Africa and the International Criminal Court; unilateral and collective responses to protection of natural resources in conflict zones and aspects of the protection of the environment. She is Kenya’s nominee to the United Nations International Law Commission for the term 2023-2027.

In this talk entitled 'Compatibility of the Montreal Convention with Human Rights Norms: A Fresh look at Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)’, Professor Okowa explored the relationship between the Montreal Convention (the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air) and the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The legal regime governing compensation for death, injury, or loss of baggage in the context of international travel is now governed exclusively by the legal framework of the Montreal Convention. The Convention was intended to unify national laws and offer a uniform framework of compensation across jurisdictions. The primary purpose of unification was to offer certainty of compensation for victims of air accidents but also to protect an infant airline industry from excessive claims. Thus in the context of any harm incurred, and where the Convention applies, the claimant must exclusively found their claim under the Convention and is left without a remedy where the Convention scheme offers none. Courts in different jurisdictions have consistently held that claimants have no remedy if they have suffered non-physical injury for instance as a result of racial or disability discrimination. This exclusivity regime is increasingly subjected to trenchant criticism as incompatible with equality and dignity provisions of national constitutions and with obligations under other equally applicable international treaties including the CERD which provides that the victims have a remedy where they have suffered humiliation, defamation or other attack against their reputation which has not resulted in physical damage.

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