Students Staff

05 August 2016

Chancellor of the University of Essex, barrister and human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti CBE honoured with a life peerage

Shami Chakrabarti

Her Majesty the Queen will bestow a life peerage on University of Essex Chancellor Shami Chakrabarti CBE following the publication of the latest honour’s list.

Shami, who will be known as Baroness Chakrabarti, has been appointed to the House of Lords for her outstanding contribution to public life and human rights.

A passionate and fearless champion of human rights and civil liberties, Shami was the Director of Liberty from 2003 to 2016. Chair of Liberty Frances Butler described her leadership as “transformative” as she helped the organisation to significantly extend its expertise, influence and membership.

Her time as Director saw Liberty halt attempts to impose compulsory ID cards, disrupt plans to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days, defeat the internment of foreign nationals in Belmarsh prison and challenge the divisive Section 44 stop and search without suspicion powers. Shami also helped Liberty repeatedly demonstrate the value of the Human Rights Act for all – from soldiers to protesters, the bereaved to the homeless, spied-on families to victims of modern slavery.

"Wonderful role model and inspiration"

Shami has longstanding links with the University of Essex, she has been a much-valued supporter of the world-renowned Human Rights Centre at Essex for over a decade, was awarded an Honorary Degree by Essex in 2006 and took on the role of Chancellor in September 2014. She has been an inspirational Chancellor and a proud member of the University’s diverse and global family. She has helped further raise the profile of human rights within the University including taking part in student-led events during Human Rights Week at the University in December 2015 – helping to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the steps of the Colchester Campus and discussing her work face-to-face with students in an especially organised workshop.

She also launched the first Chancellor's Appeal in the University of Essex’s history. The Women of the Future Appeal has been startlingly successful and has raised more than £500,000 so far for masters scholarships aimed at bright and inspirational women from across the world, determined to make a positive change within their own communities.

University of Essex Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “Shami is a wonderful role model and inspiration to our staff, students and alumni. We are absolutely delighted with the news of Shami’s elevation to the peerage. She is a tenacious advocate of civil liberties and human rights, striving to make the world a better place and her appointment as a life peer is wonderful news.”

Shami Chakrabarti with students

Students with Shami Chakrabarti during Human Rights Week

Wider impact on public life

Shami is hugely respected for tirelessly working to protect human rights in the face of increasingly savage attacks on the rights and freedoms of individuals.

She has been a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 4 and national newspapers on the topic of human rights and civil liberties. The Times newspaper described her as “the most effective public affairs lobbyist of the past 20 years”. In December 2005 the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 placed Shami on the shortlist of ten people “who may run Britain”. She was shortlisted in the Channel 4 Political Awards 2006 for the “Most Inspiring Political Figure” award. She was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2007. In 2011 Shami was appointed a member of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. She was a flag bearer at the 2012 Olympics. In 2013 she was described as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. In 2014 she published ‘On Liberty’, a book which explores why our fundamental rights and freedoms are indispensable and how much pressure those rights are under today. In 2016 she chaired an inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Shami is the fifth Chancellor at the University of Essex and the first woman to hold the post. The Chancellor is appointed by the Senate and Council and is the ceremonial head of the University, presiding over the Annual Meeting of the Court and degree ceremonies of the University.

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