Kasey McCall-Smith

Doctor of Laws, DR

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

International Law, International Human Rights, Comparative Human Rights, International Governance

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Personal profile


Dr McCall-Smith is a senior lecturer in Public International Law and programme director for the LLM in Human Rights. She is a US qualified lawyer and holds a BA in Architectural Studies (1998) and a Juris Doctor (2001) from the University of Arkansas. Dr McCall-Smith was awarded an LLM (2002) and a PhD (2012) for her thesis on 'Reservations to Human Rights Treaties' by the University of Edinburgh. 


My research in a nutshell

Dr McCall-Smith's research focuses primarily on treaty law and how treaties are interpreted and implemented at the domestic and supranational levels including through incorporation. Ensuring clarity in the law of treaties, specifically in reference to reservations to human rights treaties, is a major theme that she has pursued. She interested in the role of the UN human rights treaty bodies as generators of law. The increasingly blurred distinction between public and private international law in terms of human rights protection is another of her research interests.


Current Research Interests

Torture on Trial

US detention operations at Guantanamo Bay present a vivid example of the manipulation of international law in an effort to root out terrorists. The 2014 Senate Torture Report confirmed that many men detained in Guantanamo were tortured during the highly controversial US anti-terrorism campaigns. Five of these men are on trial in relation to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US in the KSM trial. The military commission tasked with hearing these charges is proceeding in Guantanamo where the defendants have been held as suspected terrorists for over ten years. This project will evaluate the legal framework ensuring the complete prohibition against torture in an under-examined trial setting. Specifically, the project will evaluate whether violations of the rules prohibiting torture impact a trial in real-time. Fundamentally, the project seeks to reaffirm that maintaining the prohibition against torture far outweighs arguments for allowing exceptions to the rule. This project is generously funded by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Arts and Humanities Small Grant. You can read blogs on the preliminary observations here.

The project builds upon a previous project, 'Getting to Grips with Guantanamo' which provided a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective of Guantanamo coupled with an evaluation of US and UK international legal obligations. A primary focus was the military commission proceedings against defendants charged with the planning of the 9/11 attacks on the US and the way in which the issue of torture influenced every aspect of the trial. Parts of the project were funded by the ESRC through an Impact Grant. Preliminary observations can be read here in addition to the public facing news article 'Inside notorious Guantanamo' in The Scotsman from January 2017.

Incorporating Human Rights in Scotland

The First Minister of Scotland recently committed to incorporating international children’s rights and other international human rights treaties into Scots law, and her Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership has further recommended that Scotland should incorporate all human rights treaties. Recent research shows that incorporation is complex and that civil society groups are often confused by how incorporation can be done and what it can achieve in practice. Working with key partners (Human Rights Consortium Scotland, Amnesty International and Together), this project brings academic research together with civil society expertise to develop resournces and best practice on incorporation, ensuring that civil society organisations have the information and training they need in order to influence key decision-makers at this opportune time. Developments on the project can be found here

Dr McCall-Smith will also pursue a second project aligning with the theme of incorporation in conjunction with Professor Kay Tisdall of Moray House at the University of Edinburgh. Their joint project Making Children's Rights Real through Implementation of the UNCRC runs January-May 2021.



Administrative Roles

Dr McCall-Smith is the programme director for the LLM in Human Rights. She is the Director of the Global Justice Academy and serves on the University's Modern Slavery Working Group. In April 2017, she assumed the position of Executive Chair of the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) commensurate with the AHRI Secretariat moving to Scotland and the Global Justice Academy in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law at the University of Strathclyde. She organised the AHRI 2018 conference under the theme 'Renewing Rights in Times of Transition'. She is also the Deputy Director of Internationalisation for the Law School and supports the School as a member of the Ethics, Library and REF Review Committees.


Office Hours

Thursdays 9.45 - 10.45 during teaching weeks.


SSRN papers can be viewed here

You can follow Kasey on Twitter @KMSonIntlLaw

Follow the LLM in Human Rights programme on Twitter @HumRtsLLMinEdi


Education/Academic qualification

Law, Doctor of Laws, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 2 Jul 2012

External positions

Chair, Association of Human Rights Institutes

28 Apr 201730 Sep 2020


  • K Law (General)
  • International Law
  • Human Rights Law


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