Dr Elaine Webster



Personal statement

My research interests lie in the field of European and international human rights law interpetation by judicial and non-judicial actors, including at local levels. 

I lead the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law, which is a focal point for staff and student engagement in human rights law research and teaching. I am Programme Leader for the PgCert/PgDip/LLM Human Rights Law. 

I am the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Associate Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. 

I am currently the Executive Secretary of the Association of Human Rights Institutes (since 2017). 

I have been a member of the British Medical Association's Human Rights Working Group, and the Scottish Human Rights Commission's Research Advisory Group. I was a member of the Academic Advisory Panel to the National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership in Scotland. 

I have been an Erasmus visiting teacher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, and have spent time at the Institute for Human Rights and Critical Studies at KU Leuven in Belgium, as a Royal Society of Edinburgh/Caledonian Research Foundation European Visiting Fellow. 

I have a particular interest in participatory research, public engagement, and assessment and feedback practices. 

I speak fluent French. 


Has expertise in:

    • Interpretation of human rights, including by civil society actors
    • Interpetation of the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment
    • Human rights interpretation and interactions in the environmental governance context
    • European human rights law
    • Regime interaction in international public law
    • Human dignity in human rights law
    • Human rights-based approaches, including in healthcare
    • Human dignity and human rights education
    • Human rights protection in Scotland and the UK.


I studied Law and French Language (LLB Hons) at the University of Glasgow, International Politics (MA) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and Human Rights and Democratisation (MA) at the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights, Venice, Italy/Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. In 2010, I was awarded a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where I held an Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Award. 


The Right to Cultural Life in Scotland
Mitchell Lynsey, Webster Elaine, Camps Diana
Strip searches through the lens of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment in European human rights law
Mavronicola Natasa, Webster Elaine
Body Searches and Incarceration Human Standards vs Institutional Efficiency (2023) (2023)
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-20451-7_5 Download citation
Can talking about 'dignity' support the growth of human rights culture? A view from Scotland
Webster Elaine
Human Rights Strategies (2023) (2023)
Casting the net wider? The transformative potential of integrating human rights into the implementation of the WTO Agreement on fisheries subsidies
Switzer Stephanie, Morgera Elisa, Webster Elaine
Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law Vol 31, pp. 360-373 (2022)
Integrated Implementation of Scotland's New Human Rights Framework : Workshop Series Findings
Webster Elaine, Busby Nicole, Miller Alan, Shields Sophie
Research Workshop Series Research Workshop Series (2022)
A human rights law perspective on sensory experience and dignity in detention
Webster Elaine, Mavronicola Natasa

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I have taught human rights law and public law across undergraduate and postgraduate curricula. I am the module leader for Human Rights Law in Theory and Practice at Honours level, and for European Human Rights Law on the LLM in Human Rights Law. 

Research interests

My research focuses on human rights law interpretation and implementation by a range of actors, at international and local levels.

A key strand of my research focuses on interpretation of the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment by judicial bodies and other actors. I am interested in all aspects of this right, including its understanding and implementation in diverse fields of application, such as in the socio-economic sphere, and in other areas of international law, such as in international humanitarian law. I have written a monograph entitled Dignity, Degrading Treatment and Torture in Human Rights Law: The Ends of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights

A second strand of my research focuses on human rights interpretation by a range of actors in the environmental governance context. I am currently a co-investigator on the UKRI funded One Ocean Hub. I am also intersted in the relationship between the right to a healthy environment and the concept of human dignity. 

A cross-cutting theme relates to the meaning and interpretive impact of the principle of respect for human dignity, at the level of theory but also practice. This includes an interest in the connection between respect for dignity and interpetation of economic, social and cultural rights; I have undertaken research on the rights to health, water, housing, and participation in cultural life. Past and on-going projects also consider human rights and human dignity as understood by student teachers and student nurses. 

Other cross-cutting themes relate to creative pedagogies in human rights, human digntiy, and legal education, and in methodologies of human rights research. 

Professional activities

Åbo Akademi University
Visiting researcher
Welsh Government’s Human Rights Legislative Options Working Group
The Right to Take Part in Cultural Life: Briefing Paper presentation
Being Human Lecture: Dignity in care, the human rights-based approach, and human rights culture in Scotland
Annual Kilbrandon Lecture
Internal PhD examiner

More professional activities


'Human Dignity' and Local Engagement with International Human Rights Law
Webster, Elaine (Principal Investigator)
15-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2021
Accountability and the Implementation of Self-Directed Support: Complaints, redress, and human rights principles in practice
Jack, Douglas (Academic) Webster, Elaine (Academic) Gittens, Charmaine (Research Co-investigator)
16-Jan-2019 - 29-Jan-2021
Dignity Engagement Space for Nurse Education using a Human Rights based Approach - DESNEHRA
Webster, Elaine (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2022
GCRF One Ocean Hub
Morgera, Elisa (Principal Investigator) Baum, Thomas (Co-investigator) Cathcart, Alison (Co-investigator) Clark, Bryan (Co-investigator) Da Lomba, Sylvie (Co-investigator) Heath, Mike (Co-investigator) Revie, Matthew (Co-investigator) Sindico, Francesco (Co-investigator) Switzer, Stephanie (Co-investigator) Vermeylen, Saskia (Co-investigator) Webster, Elaine (Co-investigator) Laverick, Jack (Researcher)
13-Jan-2019 - 12-Jan-2024
Putting it into action together extension
Quinn, Neil (Principal Investigator) Webster, Elaine (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2023
Legislative Study on the Right to Water for Food and Agriculture
Morgera, Elisa (Principal Investigator) Sindico, Francesco (Co-investigator) Vermeylen, Saskia (Co-investigator) Webster, Elaine (Co-investigator)
10-Jan-2017 - 31-Jan-2018

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