Friday in Focus: Chris McConnachie
I get a little jolt of excitement when I see the Oxford Human Rights Hub pop up in my inbox or Twitter feed. Between 2012 and 2013, I had the privilege of working under Sandy Fredman in launching and developing OxHRH. In those days, the website was still a prototype and updates could only be made from an ancient Mac in the Law Faculty. We were still experimenting with Twitter, which was lucky as the account had just a handful of followers (compared with 11.3k today). We also worked hard to convince sceptical academics of the merits of blogging. Five years on, it is wonderful to see how OxHRH has grown.
I studied at Oxford between 2010 and 2014, where I did the BCL, MPhil and DPhil as a Rhodes Scholar. My DPhil explored the South African Constitutional Court’s unfair discrimination jurisprudence, supervised by Tarunabh Khaitan. I was also heavily involved in Oxford Pro Bono Publico, as deputy-chairperson from 2011 and 2012 and then chairperson from 2012 to 2013.
After finishing the DPhil in 2014, I moved back to South Africa to do pupillage at the Johannesburg Bar. I am now practising as an advocate (the equivalent of barrister) at Thulamela Chambers in Johannesburg. I primarily work in public interest law, with a special focus on refugee law, education rights, discrimination law and environmental rights. This work has included stopping South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, bringing the first successful climate change litigation in South Africa, protecting the anonymity of children in the criminal justice system, and representing asylum-seekers in strategic litigation aimed at fixing South Africa’s broken asylum process. I also write and publish on discrimination law and education rights as an honorary research associate at Rhodes University.
Three years after leaving Oxford, I am grateful to OxHRH for providing a way to stay connected with the global human rights community. I have such admiration for Sandy and the team for all the hard work that has gone into building this network.