Professor Marie-Bénédicte Dembour joined the Human Rights Centre in 2019.
She graduated with a law degree from ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles) in 1985. With the support of a Wiener-Anspach scholarship and a doctoral fellowship from the Belgian Research Foundation (FNRS), she took the MPhil (1987) and the DPhil (1993) in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford.
Whilst researching the Belgian Congo and the memory of colonialism for her DPhil, she started a Lectureship in Law at the University of Sussex in 1991. Teaching an interdisciplinary course on human rights set her on a course of research which, marrying her legal skills, anthropological reflection, and passion for social justice, came to define her scholarship.
She started to research the European Court of Human Rights as a Jean Monnet Fellow (1996). A Leverhulme Research Fellowship allowed her to bring the monograph Who Believes in Human Rights? (2006) to fruition. A subsequent Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, complemented by a visit at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, led to the award-winning book When Humans Become Migrants (2015).
Her move in 2013 to the Law Subject Group at the Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, became the perfect opportunity to study the human rights and business field.
In 2019, she was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to lead a five-year research project on ‘DISSECT: Evidence in International Human Rights Adjudication’. DISSECT explores the evidentiary regimes of the world’s three regional human rights courts and two UN quasi-judicial bodies. It asks questions of special relevance in our ‘post-truth’ era: how and when are facts considered to be established, and how do human rights judges navigate factual uncertainty? A great communicator, Professor Dembour has been invited to teach and to speak all over the world.