Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Kasey McCall-Smith

Senior Lecturer, Tutor

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

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

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Laws, University of Edinburgh
Reservations to Human Rights Treaties

Professional Qualifications

Member of the Bar of the State of Tennessee


Dr McCall-Smith is a 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 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. 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.

Private and Public International Law - Strengthening Connections
Developing coherent and consistent discourses whilst avoiding fragmentation in public and private international law is amongst the challenges of these disciplines in present times. This multi-year project highlights the convergence that exists between private and public international law. It focuses on engagement and ‘translation’ between the two sub-disciplines of international law and maps existing connections while exploring further linkages between these disciplines across a range of interdisciplinary topics. Specifically for this project, Dr McCall-Smith is looking at various dimensions of corporate social responsibility in terms of supply chain management with Dr Andreas Ruhmkorf (University of Sheffield) as well as the role of that treaty law plays across both fields. Along with Professor Duncan French (Lincoln University) and Dr Veronica Ruiz Abou-Nigm (Edinburgh), she has produced an edited volume entitled Linkages and Boundaries in Private and Public International Law which was published by Hart in July 2018. 


Administrative Roles

Dr McCall-Smith is the programme director for the LLM in Human Rights. She is a member of the Global Justice Academy managment committee, a CAHSS Global Justice Fellow and 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. She recently 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.

Office Hours

Mondays 10.00-11.00 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


Research outputs

  1. Treaty bodies: Choreographing the customary prohibition against torture

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Sustainable global supply chains: From transparency to due diligence

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  3. Integrating legal approaches to migration

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

View all (45) »

Research activities & awards

  1. The Guantanamo Military Commissions: An insider's perspective

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

  2. Universality Seminar

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

  3. 70 Years of the Universal Declaration: Can We Still Afford Human Rights?

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

View all (37) »

Research projects

  1. Torture on Trial

    Project: Research

  2. Getting to Grips with Guantanamo

    Project: University Awarded Project Funding

  3. Getting to Grips with Guantanamo

    Project: University Awarded Project Funding

View all (3) »

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