‘Over the last century, humans have radically transformed airspace: chemically, territorially, militarily and psychologically. Technological developments mean that this transformation is accelerating and growing in complexity. There is widening disparity in the global landscape of power, with civilians increasingly subject to expanding commercial and military exploitation of technology in airspace and outer space and to the consequences of environmental change. The associated threats are not adequately addressed by the contemporary legal framework. There is an urgent need for new thinking. One aspect of airspace requiring development is the human rights dimension.’[1]

Conceived by Nick Grief and Shona Illingworth the Airspace Tribunal considers the case for and against the recognition of a new human right to protect the freedom to live without physical or psychological threat from above. Drawing on wide expertise and experience, it engages the public in discussion and seeks to challenge the narrow terms by which airspace is represented and defined in law.

The hearings consider the changing environmental, cultural, social, psychological, political, military and historical definition, perception and composition of airspace. Its members (‘judges’) are an invited cross-section of the general public who are involved as participants in this initiative, challenging the traditional state-centric view of how international law is created.

At the inaugural hearing on 21 September 2018 in London there were short representations from key speakers/experts. The process was led by Counsel to the Tribunal, who questioned each of the experts after they delivered their statements and then invited and facilitated comments and questions from the floor—both from invited participants and from the wider audience. The hearings are recorded and transcribed in order to document the drafting history of this proposed new human right.

The Airspace Tribunal is part of and informs the development of Topologies of Air, a major new body of artwork by Illingworth, commissioned by The Wapping Project, that will be exhibited at The Power Plant, Toronto in 2021.

[1]Nick Grief, Shona Illingworth, Andrew Hoskins and Martin A. Conway, Opinion, ‘The Airspace Tribunal: Towards a New Human Right to Protect the Freedom to Exist Without Physical or Psychological Threat from Above’ [2018] European Human Rights Law Review,Issue 3, 201.