Professor Damien Short

Contact details

Professor Damien Short
LLB (University of Wales), MA, PhD (Essex)
Director: Human Rights Consortium and Reader in Human Rights
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
020 7862 8836
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Civil Rights, Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Cultural memory, Globalization & Development, Human rights, International Law, International Relations, Journals, Law, Political Institutions, Politics, Social Sciences, Socialism, Communism, Anarchism
Research keywords:
Human Rights, Green Criminology, Indigenous Rights, Extreme Energy, Fracking, Environmental harm, Genocide, Settler Colonialism, Environmental Sociology, Sociology of Human Rights
Australasia, North America, United Kingdom
Summary of research interests and expertise:
Professor Damien Short is Director of the Human Rights Consortium (HRC) and a Professor of Human Rights and Environmental Justice at the School of Advanced Study. He has spent his entire professional career working in the field of human rights and environmental justice, both as a scholar and advocate. He has researched and published extensively in the areas of indigenous peoples’ rights, genocide studies, reconciliation projects and environmental human rights. He is currently researching the human rights impacts of extreme energy processes (e.g Tar Sands and Fracking - see our designated HRC website . Professor Short is a regular academic contributor to the United Nation’s ‘Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and an academic consultant for the ‘Ethical Trade Task Force’ of the Soil Association. He is also the Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Human Rights (Taylor and Francis) and Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Human Rights in the Commonwealth (University of London) and convenor of the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Rights Study Group and an active member of the International Network of Genocide Scholars. Professor Short has also worked with a variety of NGOs including Amnesty International, War on Want, Survival International, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs; and with a range of campaign groups including Eradicating Ecocide, Biofuelwatch, Climate Justice Collective and the UK Tar Sands Network. He currently advises local anti-fracking groups in the UK and county councils on the human rights implications of unconventional (extreme) energy extraction processes such as fracking. 

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
28-Aug-2019 The Human Right to Water and Unconventional Energy


Access to water, in sufficient quantities and of sufficient quality is vital for human health. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (in General Comment 15, drafted 2002) argued that access to water was a condition for the enjoyment of the right to an adequate standard of living, inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and thus a human right. On 28 July 2010 the United Nations General Assembly declared safe and clean drinking water and sanitation a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. This paper charts the international legal development of the right to water and its relevance to discussions surrounding the growth of unconventional energy and its heavy reliance on water. We consider key data from the country with arguably the most mature and extensive industry, the USA, and highlight the implications for water usage and water rights. We conclude that, given the weight of testimony of local people from our research, along with data from scientific literature, non-governmental organization (NGO) and other policy reports, that the right to water for residents living near fracking sites is likely to be severely curtailed. Even so, from the data presented here, we argue that the major issue regarding water use is the shifting of the resource from society to industry and the demonstrable lack of supply-side price signal that would demand that the industry reduce or stabilize its water demand per unit of energy produced. Thus, in the US context alone, there is considerable evidence that the human right to water will be seriously undermined by the growth of the unconventional oil and gas industry, and given its spread around the globe this could soon become a global human rights issue.

30-Aug-2018 Ecocide, genocide, capitalism and colonialism: Consequences for indigenous peoples and glocal ecosystems environments


Continuing injustices and denial of rights of indigenous peoples are part of the long legacy of colonialism. Parallel processes of exploitation and injustice can be identified in relation to non-human species and/or aspects of the natural environment. International law can address some extreme examples of the crimes and harms of colonialism through the idea and legal definition of genocide, but the intimately related notion of ecocide that applies to nature and the environment is not yet formally accepted within the body of international law. In the context of this special issue reflecting on the development of green criminology, the article argues that the concept of ecocide provides a powerful tool. To illustrate this, the article explores connections between ecocide, genocide, capitalism and colonialism and discusses impacts on indigenous peoples and on local and global (glocal) ecosystems.

17-Mar-2017 Geoforum: 'Fracking Lancashire: The planning process, social harm and collective trauma'

Journal articles

 Damien Short and Anna Szolucha, 17th March 2017

05-Dec-2016 Greening Criminology in the 21st Century: Contemporary Debates and Future ...

Edited Book

 edited by Matthew Hall, Angus Nurse, Tanya Wyatt, Nigel South, Jennifer Maher, Gary Potter

15-Jun-2016 Redefining Genocide: Settler Colonialism, Social Death and Ecocide


In this highly controversial and original work, Damien Short systematically rethinks how genocide is and should be defined. Rather than focusing solely on a narrow conception of genocide as direct mass-killing, through close empirical analysis of a number of under-discussed case studies – including Palestine, Sri Lanka, Australia and Alberta, Canada – the book reveals the key role played by settler colonialism, capitalism, finite resources and the ecological crisis in driving genocidal social death on a global scale.

11-May-2015 Extreme Energy, Fracking and Human Rights: A New Field for Impact Assessments?


with J Elliot, K Norder, E Lloyd-Davies and J Morley, International Journal of Human Rights, 11th May, 2015. DOI

30-Jun-2014 Burying Genocide: Official Remembrance and Reconciliation in Australia


 in Remembering Genocide - Remembering the Modern World, N. Eltringhan and P. Maclean (eds) Routledge, June, 2014.

23-Jun-2014 Marx, Lemkin and the Genocide-Ecocide Nexus


with Martin Crook, International Journal of Human Rights, Special Issue, 'Genocide and Climate
Change', Jurgen Zimmerer (ed) Vol. 18, No. 3, 298–319,

02-Jun-2014 Burying Genocide: Official Remembrance and Reconciliation in Australia


 ‘Burying Genocide: Official Remembrance and Reconciliation in Australia’, in Remembering Genocide - Remembering the Modern World, N. Eltringhan and P. Maclean (eds) Routledge, June, 2014.

01-May-2014 Nakba Memoricide: Genocide Studies and the Zionist/Israeli Genocide of Palestine


with Haifa Rashed and John Docker, Holy Land Studies. Volume 13, Issue 1, Page 1-23, ISSN 1474-9475

22-Apr-2014 Ecocide and the polluter pays principle


with K. Hulme, Environmental Scientist

01-Jan-2013 The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation


Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice Cambridge University Press

01-Jan-2013 Protecting the Planet: a Proposal for a Law of Ecocide

Journal articles

with Nigel South and Polly Higgins, Crime Law and Social Change,

01-Jan-2012 Special Issue: The Sociology of Human Rights - Editorial Forward

Journal articles

with Patricia HynesMichele Lamb and Matthew Waites Sociology October 46: 787-79

01-Jan-2012 Genocide and settler colonialism: can a Lemkin-inspired genocide perspective aid our understanding of the Palestinian situation?

Journal articles

with Haifa Rashed, International Journal of Human Rights, Vol 16, Issue 8

01-Jan-2012 ‘When sorry isn’t good enough: Official remembrance and reconciliation in Australia’

Journal articles

Memory Studies, Volume 5, Issue 3 - July 2012


01-Jan-2012 ‘A slow industrial genocide’: tar sands and the indigenous peoples of northern Alberta

Journal articles

with Jennifer Huseman, The International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 16, No. 1, January 2012, 216–237


01-Jan-2011 ‘Rejoinder to Tim Rowse, “The Reforming State, the Concerned Public and Indigenous Political Actors

Journal articles


Australian Journal of Politics & History, Volume 57, Issue 2, pages 262–266, June

01-Jan-2011 State of the art in genocide studies


Patterns of Prejudice, Volume 45, Number 3, July 2011

01-Jan-2011 Sociology and Human Rights: New Engagements

Edited Book


The first collection to focus on the contribution sociological approaches can make to analysis of human rights. Taking forward the sociology of human rights which emerged from the 1990s, it presents innovative analyses of global human rights struggles by new and established authors. The collection includes a range of new work addressing issues such as genocide in relation to indigenous peoples, rights-based approaches in development work, trafficking of children, and children’s rights in relation to political struggles for the decriminalisation of same-sex sexual activity in India. It examines contexts ranging from Rwanda and South Korea to Northern Ireland and the city of Barcelona.

The collection as a whole will be of interest to students and academics working in various disciplines such as politics, law and social policy, and to practitioners working on human rights for various governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as to sociologists seeking to develop understanding of the sociology of human rights.


Edited by Patricia Hynes, Michele Lamb, Damien Short, Matthew Waites

Sociology and Human Rights: New Engagements

01-Jan-2010 Cultural genocide and indigenous peoples: a sociological approach

The International Journal of Human Rights Vol. 14, Nos. 6–7

01-Jan-2010 Australia: a continuing genocide?

Journal of Genocide Research 12 (1–2)

01-Jan-2009 Sociological and Anthropological Approaches’ Single authored

Human Rights Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press

01-Jan-2008 Reconciliation and Colonial Power: Indigenous Rights in Australia


Ashgate 2008


01-Jan-2007 ‘The Social Construction of Indigenous ‘Native Title’ Land Rights in Australia'

Journal articles

Current Sociology, Volume 55, number 6 (Nov 2007)


01-Jan-2006 ‘Reconciliation as Education: the Council and the ‘People's Movement’

Journal articles

Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, Vol 8. No 1 2006.


01-Jan-2005 ‘Reconciliation and the Problem of Internal Colonialism’

Journal articles

Journal of Intercultural Studies, Special Edition on Reconciliation, Vol. 26 Number 3 August 2005.


01-Jan-2003 ‘Reconciliation, Assimilation and the Indigenous Peoples of Australia’

Journal articles

International Political Science Review, Volume 24, Number 4, October 2003.


01-Jan-2003 Australian ‘Aboriginal’ Reconciliation: The Latest Phase in the Colonial Project

Journal articles

Citizenship Studies, Volume 7, No.3, September 2003.


Publications available on SAS-space:

Date Details
Jul-2012 Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace


The term ecocide was used as early as 1970, when it was first recorded at the Conference on War and National Responsibility in Washington, where Professor Arthur W. Galston “proposed a new international agreement to ban ‘ecocide’”2. Ecocide as a term had no strict definition at that time: “although not legally defined, its essential meaning is well-understood; it denotes various measures of devastation and destruction which have in common that they aim at damaging or destroying the ecology of geographic areas to the detriment of human life, animal life, and plant life”. What was recognised was that the element of intent did not always apply. “Intent may not only be impossible to establish without admission but, I believe, it is essentially irrelevant.” Richard A. Falk, in his draft (1973) Ecocide Convention, explicitly states at the outset to recognise “that man has consciously and unconsciously inflicted irreparable damage to the environment in times of war and peace”. By the end of the 1970s the term itself seems to have been well understood. So how was it that an international crime whose name was familiar to many who were involved in the drafting of the initial Crimes Against Peace was completely removed without determination? Documents that have only now been examined and pieced together shed a whole new light on a corner of history that would otherwise be buried forever. What is so remarkable is that the collective memory has erased this crime in just 15 years, and yet documents tell a story of engagement by many governments who supported the criminalisation of ecocide in peacetime as well as in wartime. Extensive debate over 40 years, with committees of experts specifically tasked to undertake examination of ecocide and environmental crimes, documented in the paper trail left behind tells us that this was well-considered law; early drafts, which have been referred to in some of the papers that have been uncovered, provide definitive reference to ecocide as a crime which was to stand alongside genocide as a Crimes Against Peace – both during peacetime as well as wartime.

Extreme Energy As Genocidal Method: Tar Sands and the Indigenous Peoples of Northern Alberta


In this paper we discuss the impact of the tar sands development in northern Alberta on the indigenous communities of the Treaty 8 region.[i] While the project has brought income to some, and wealth to the few, its impact on the environment and on the lives of many indigenous groups is profoundly concerning. Their ability to hunt, trap and fish has been severely curtailed and, where it is possible, people are often too fearful of toxins to drink water and eat fish from waterways polluted by the ‘externalities’ of tar sands production. The situation has led some indigenous spokespersons to talk in terms of a slow industrial genocide being perpetrated against them. We begin the paper with a discussion of the treaty negotiations which paved the way for tar sands development before moving on to discuss the impacts of modern day tar sands extraction and the applicability of the genocide concept.

Ecocide is the missing 5th crime against peace


The term ‘ecocide’, the extensive destruction of ecosystems, has been around since the 1970s when it was first recorded at the Conference on War and National Responsibility, Washington in February of that year. From the 1970s onwards many academics and legal scholars argued for the criminalisation of ecocide and debated the elements required for such an international crime. During the 1970s, 80s and 90s making ecocide an international crime was also considered by the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) for inclusion in the Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (‘the Code’), which later became the Rome Statute,1 and by the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities for inclusion in the extension of the Convention on Genocide.2 A number of questions kept arising: Should ecocide be a crime in peacetime and wartime? Does the offender’s intent to commit the crime matter or are the consequences of extensive destruction of ecosystems severe enough to warrant ecocide being a crime of strict liability regardless of the offender’s intent? This report pieces together and examines the history of the Law of Ecocide, shedding a whole new light on a corner of history that would otherwise have remained buried. Perhaps one of the most interesting issues highlighted by this report concerns the manner in which ecocide, a concept that was familiar and supported by many as one that should be enshrined in international law, was dropped by the ILC in 1996.

Throwing petrol on a fire: the human and environmental cost of tar sands production


In this opinion piece, independent researcher Jennifer Huseman and Senior Lecturer in Human Rights in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Dr Damien Short, examine Canada’s tar sands oil industry and its effect on indigenous communities. They describe how the industry ‘externalities’ of environmental degradation and pollution are seriously affecting the health of indigenous communities and threatening their physical and cultural survival. Furthermore,due to the enormous carbon footprint associated with the exploitation of the tar sands, the authors argue that they are a danger to us all. They call for a halt to tar sands expansion, the instigation of effective environmental clean-up procedures and measures to address the health issues facing indigenous peoples as a result of tar sands operations. They also call on national and international financial institutions to immediately withdraw funding from the tar sands expansion and operations.

Nov-2015 Researching and studying human rights: interdisciplinary insight


Since 1948, the study of human rights has been dominated by legal scholarship that has sought to investigate the development of human rights law, emerging jurisprudence, regional systems, the decisions and recommendations of human rights mechanisms and institutions and to a lesser extent the ‘compliance gaps’ between state commitments and actions. Even so, in all of these spheres there are elements that cannot be fully understood through a purely legal lens, moreover, if we understand ‘human rights’ more broadly, and look into the practical world of human rights work and human rights discourse, advocacy and activism, then we need to go beyond legal analysis. Indeed, to understand the world of human rights in both theory and practice requires interdisciplinary insight, as it covers an enormous range of social, political, economic and environmental issues. In this chapter, I will outline the contributions of two disciplines that were slow to contribute to the field of human rights but which offer vitally important insights that can guide both academic research and human rights advocacy.

May-2015 Extreme energy, ‘fracking’ and human rights: a new field for human rights impact assessments?


This article explores the potential human rights impacts of the ‘extreme energy’ process, specifically focussing on the production of shale gas, coal-bed methane (CBM) and ‘tight oil’, known colloquially as ‘fracking’. The article locates the discussion within a broader context of resource depletion, the ‘limits to growth’ and the process of extreme energy itself. Utilising recent secondary data from the United States and Australia, combined with the preliminary findings of our ethnographic fieldwork in the United Kingdom, the article outlines a prima facie case for investigating ‘fracking’ development through a human rights lens. Indeed, based on considerable emerging evidence we argue that ‘fracking’ development poses a significant risk to a range of key human rights and should thus form the subject of a multitude of comprehensive, interdisciplinary human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) as a matter of urgency. Finally, given the close relationships between government and extractive industries, we argue that these impact assessments must do more than bolster corporate social responsibility (CSR) statements and should be truly independent of either government or industry influence.

Additional Publications

Publications available in Senate House Libraries

Government/policy work:

Date Details
2011 United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Academic contributor

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:

Indigenous Peoples and Extreme Energy

This project investigates the effects on local indigenous communities of the new rush for 'extreme energy' - the Alberta 'Tar Sands' and 'Gas Shale Fracking'.

The social construction of unconventional gas extraction: Towards a greater understanding of Socio-economic impact of unconventional gas development

 Led by Northumbria University

Current PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
Until: 01-Apr-2012
Reconciliation in Rwanda

Jenifer Melvin

Corporate Power and Human Rights

Nick Connolly

Past PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
Oil and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria

Nelson Takon

The Rights Framed Approaches of NGOs

Hannah Miller

Available for doctoral supervision: Yes

Professional Affiliations

Professional affiliations:

Name Activity
Transitional Justice Network Numerous seminars held in London, Oxford and Essex throughout the year
British Sociological Association, Sociology of Rights Study Group Group Convenor. Bids coordinator, researcher and author.
International Network of Genocide Scholars Conference Organising Committee Executive.


Name Type Activity Start date End date
Handbook on Indigenous Rights Routledge Publication Co-editing with Dr Corinne Lennox 01-Apr-2011 01-Oct-2012
Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
01-Jan-2011 Conference Speaker and 'Rights' Stream Coordinator

Co-convened the 'Rights' stream at the 60th Anniversary conference of Sociology at LSE and presented a paper

01-Jan-2011 BSA Rights Study Group workshop paper 'Some reflections on Turner'

Co-convenor (and speaker) of one day event in collaboration with collegues at Liverpool John Moores University

01-Jan-2011 Tar Sands and Indigenous Peoples

Sussex University Paper presentation

01-Jan-2010 ICS Workshop: Conflict in Sri Lanka Workshop

Paper presentation: 'What is Genocide?'

01-Jan-2010 Genocide and Indigenous Peoples

Workshop, Bath University, October 2010

01-Jan-2010 Keynote Address - What is Genocide?

Utrecht University, December 2010

01-Jan-2009 Keynote speaker at conference

Paper 'Genocide in Reconciliation Studies' Conference at Utrecht University

01-Jan-2009 Radio Interview

BBC World Service: Interview requested in one of my research areas: Indigenous rights in Australia. The UN special rapporteur had recently visited Australia.

01-Jan-2009 Review journal submission

SUR: International Journal of Human Rights

Other editing/publishing activities:

Date Details
2012 International Journal of Human Rights: Special Issue - Indigenous Peoples' Rights

Editing a speicial issue on indigenous peoples rights which grew out of an ICS workshop in October 2010.

2012 Sociology: Special Issue - Sociology and Human Rights

Co-editing a special issue of the leading international journal 'Sociology' on the topic of human rights. The issue has recieved a record number of submissions.

2012 Memory Studies, special issue - Reconciliation and Memory

Co-editing a special issue of the leading journal in the field of memory studies on the topic of reconciliation.

2011 Assistant Editor

Appointed Assistant Editor of The International Journal of Human Rights

2011 International Journal of Transitional Justice

Frequent article reviewer

2011 American Journal of Sociology

Frequent reviewer of academic paper submissions and books

2011 International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies

Frequent reviewer of academic submissions

Consultancy & Media
Available for consultancy:
Media experience:
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