Doughty Street International (DSI) is at the cutting edge of public international law. It has long been recognised internationally for its breadth and depth of expertise in related and cross-cutting fields of international law, including international human rights law, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law.   

Our members practise in all areas of public international law, with specific expertise in immunities, diplomatic protection, the law of international organisations and diplomatic service, climate and environmental protection, the return of cultural property, the law of the sea including piracy, land and maritime disputes, State responsibility for human rights violations and international crimes including genocide and torture, and the law on the use of force.

Many members are globally recognised specialists in their fields, with extensive experience in advising and representing sovereign States and international organisations in some of the world’s highest-profile cases. They regularly appear in inter-State and investor-State proceedings before a wide range of international fora, including the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, and the European Court of Human Rights. Members also advise governments on drafting, negotiation and interpretation of treaties.

Members lecture on public international law and investment treaty arbitration at some of the world’s leading universities and law schools.

For further information on these areas of the groups work, and other specialist areas, please contact the Senior Civil Clerk, Sian Wilkins or Practice Manager, Naomi Smith.

Representation before International Courts and Tribunals

Recent notable cases include: 

  • International Court of Justice (ICJ) - Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v Israel) (Pending)

  • ICJ - Alleged Breaches of Certain International Obligations in respect of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (Nicaragua v. Germany) (Pending)

  • ICJ -Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change (Request for Advisory Opinion) (Pending)

  • ICJ - Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar) (Pending)

  • ICJ -Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) Reparations (2022)

  • ICJ - Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, Request for an Advisory Opinion (2019)

  • ICJ - Maritime Delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) joined with Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) (2017-2018)

  • ICJ - Application on the Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to the Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v UK & ors) (2016)

  • ICJ - Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Croatia v. Serbia) (2015)

  • ICJ - Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand) (2013)

  • International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) - Request for an Advisory Opinion submitted by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (2024) 

  • European Court of Justice - Polisario Front v. Council and Commission of the European Union, French Republic, Kingdom of Spain and Moroccan business associations intervening, joint cases C-778/21 P and C-798/21 P (2021).

  • European Court of Justice - Advisory Opinion 1/17 on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU and its Member States (2019)

International Law in Domestic Courts

Public international law and private international law issues increasingly feature in domestic cases or dispute resolution mechanisms that form part of regional organisations. Members of the group have played a leading role in developing these areas of law. For instance, members have been involved in drafting and advising on legislation concerning public international law, such as the Genocide Determination Bill and amendments to legislation concerning state responsibility for international crimes.

Members have led major cases on national security and the armed conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine, and Afghanistan, and have been instrumental in advising on the creation of international courts, panels, tribunals, and inquiries (for instance, on the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine). Visit our International Criminal Law page for more information. 

Representative cases: 

  • Supreme Court of British Columbia - The Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the United States of America v Wanzhou Meng 2020 BCSC 785 – provision of expert witness testimony on questions of public international law.

  • Brussels Court of Appeal -Tavares a.o. v. Kingdom of Belgium (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Case 22/AR/262 – the treatment of children of mixed African and European descent during the colonial era, the temporal scope of application of crimes against humanity, and continuous violations of fundamental human rights. 

  • French courts and tribunals- Lafarge S.A. a.o. – criminal proceedings for corporate complicity with crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State against the Yazidi.  

  • England and Wales Court of Appeal - London Borough of Barnet v AG (A Child) [2022] EWCA Civ 1505 – diplomatic immunity, child protection and the positive obligation of the State to prevent torture. 

  • The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom- R v Reeves Taylor [2019] UKSC 51 – application of the definition of torture under the UN Convention against Torture to non-state armed groups.

  • Constitutional Court of South Africa- National Commissioner of the South African Police Service v Southern African Human Rights Litigation Centre & Anor Case (CCT 02/14) [2014] – universal jurisdiction in international law, and South Africa’s obligations to prosecute the international crime of torture. 

  • The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom -R v Gul [2013] UKSC 64 –  the scope of the definition of terrorism in situations of armed conflict, and its application to military attacks by non-state armed groups in a non-international armed conflict.

  • United Kingdom House of Lords- R (on the application of Bancoult (No. 2)) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Chagos Islands) [2008] UKHL 61 – concerning the removal of the Chagos Islanders and judicial review.

  •  United Kingdom House of Lords - Jones v Saudi Arabia [2006] UKHL 26 – state immunity for torture. 

  •  United Kingdom House of Lords - A v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No. 2) [2005] UKHL 71 – national security, terrorism, and detention without charge.

International Advisory Work and Conflict Resolution

Members have served in roles fundamental to the United Nations and to the diplomatic corps of the UK and foreign governments, and have acted as mediators in international disputes, such as in conjunction with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva.

Members also serve in high-level advisory roles for a breadth of institutions, including the UK Government, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Criminal Court, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the Legal Task Force on Accountability for Crimes Committed in Ukraine. 

Current and former roles include: the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the former counsel to the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, former advisors to the United Nations and League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, former member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, former member of the International Law Commission, the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Envoy on Media Freedom, Special Advisors to the Prosecutor of the ICC, members of the Attorney General’s Public International Law Panel.

International Training

Members, in addition to litigation and legal advice, regularly conduct advocacy and human rights training for judges, prosecutors, and defence counsel, as well as government officials, NGOs, police, and military personnel around the globe.

Members have provided training, particularly by outlining best practices in line with international law, to the British and US military, NATO, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and judges and lawyers in countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Czech Republic, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Nigeria, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Ukraine. 

Members frequently teach public international law and have published leading practitioner guides in this area. Many also regularly appear on television and other media as experts on issues relating to international law.