Iain Byrne

Iain Byrne is an international human rights lawyer with over 25 years of experience of working in the field. He is a founding member of the IJRC Board of Directors. Since November 2011 he has worked at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in the Economic and Social Justice (previously the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR)) team. 

For four and half years, he led the economic and social rights work of the organisation managing the ESCR team as a Deputy Programme Director in the Global Issues Programme (GIP). In addition, he has also managed the Refugee and Migrants Rights team in GIP and was Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme in the Law and Policy Directorate. In all three roles he has managed a range of major research outputs including for Global Campaigns. He is a Special Advisor on Strategic Litigation and a member of Amnesty International’s Strategic Litigation Unit and Litigation Committee. 

In his role as a Law and Policy Advisor and Researcher he carries out quality assurance on the organisation’s research reports as well as other outputs, combined with advising on and conducting ESCR research, most notably segregated education and housing of the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe and the state of education in South Africa. Amnesty International’s Roma work was recognised in 2016 when it was awarded the Council of Europe’s European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma. He has authored or contributed to a range of resources to enhance the organisation’s capacity and work on economic and social rights including a guide on austerity and human rights. 

From September 2001 until November 2011 he held various positions at INTERIGHTS, the international centre for the legal protection of human rights, including Legal Practice Director and Senior Lawyer developing the organisation’s work on economic and social rights including litigation and capacity building. This included being a resource person for the drafting of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of ESCR. From 2001 until 2008 he led INTERIGHTS’ work in the Commonwealth, including editorship of the Commonwealth Human Rights Law Digest and judicial capacity building in the Pacific region.

He has been involved in litigation in both domestic fora and before international and regional bodies including the European Committee of Social Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee and ECOWAS. Recent cases include Savran v Denmark (ECtHR GC) Bourmouz et al v Spain (CESCR) and Waves v Sierra Leone (ECOWAS). His Social Charter litigation includes the landmark cases concerning sexual and reproductive health rights education in Croatia (INTERIGHTS v Croatia) and the housing rights of the Roma in Greece (INTERIGHTS v Greece) addressing systematic and ongoing forced evictions.  He recently led the filing of Amnesty International v Italy – the first collective complaint under the Social Charter filed by the organisation. European Court of Human Rights cases include co-representation in Catan v Moldova and Russia regarding denial of education in Transnistria and in the Campeanu v Romania and the Poine Mare Hospital cases; third party interventions in Orsus v Croatia concerning the education rights of linguistic minorities and Jones v UK concerning foreign state immunity for torture. UN Human Rights Committee cases include Sanjeevan v Sri Lanka and Toussaint v Canada. He has played a key role in Amnesty International’s work on infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Italy under the Race Equality Directive with respect to segregated education of Roma children and housing respectively. He is a member of the ESCR-Net’s Strategic Litigation Working Group Steering Committee.

Since 2000 he has been a Fellow of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex from where he graduated with MA (distinction) in 1994 after obtaining a LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Manchester. He has a diploma (distinction) from Abo Akademi University, Turku in advanced human rights law.

He has taught and lectured at a number of universities across the world including Brasilia; Essex; the Global Campus for Human Rights, Venice; Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; Kent; LSE; the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Malta; Nottingham; the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa; Charles University, Prague and the UN University of Peace, Costa Rica. He has conducted training courses for amongst others the United Nations, European Union, the OSCE, Council of Europe and the British Council. 

He was previously a Senior Researcher at the King’s College Human Rights Incorporation Project; Research Officer and then an Associate of Essex University’s Democratic Audit project, including carrying out British Council consultancy projects on parliamentary capacity building in Palestine and constitutional reform in Zimbabwe. Prior to that he worked in the development and public sectors.

He has authored and co-authored numerous articles, papers, reports, book chapters and books on human rights and democracy issues including The Human Rights of Street Children: A Practical Manual for Advocates; Blackstone’s Human Rights Digest with Keir Starmer QC; Democracy Under Blair: A Democratic Audit of the UK and Unequal Britain: an ESR Audit of the UK both with Stuart Weir et al and most recently Broken and Unequal: The State of Education in South Africa for Amnesty International. 

He has sat on numerous NGO boards and advisory groups including the Open Society Foundation’s public health programme technical advisory committee. He is currently a trustee of the Right to Education Initiative and International Justice Resource Center and also served as the latter’s founding Chair from 2009 until January 2018. He has been involved in the governance of a number of civil society networks including the Steering Committee of the Privatization of Education and Human Rights Consortium; the Executive Committees of the Consortium for Street Children and the Euro-Med Human Rights Network, including participating in the Network’s mission to Israel and the Occupied Territories during the second intifada.