Podcast recommendations – legal, non legal and pure escape

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

As an academic, I’m often the one imparting information in the form of lectures and curating discussions among students. Podcasts give me the joy of switching roles and becoming the audience: listening to other people drawing out discussions and opinions, hearing stories unfurl and learning about lives on the other side of the world.

In this post, I’m sharing some podcast recommendations in the hope that they are helpful for people stuck at home in these strange days. When I was putting together this list, I hesitated. Should I only give recommendations on armed groups and international law, non-international armed conflicts, global politics and humanitarian affairs? Or should I also give some non-legal recommendations? In view of the extraordinary times, I have included personal podcast recommendations because I think that compelling story-telling may be just what is needed. Please feel free to send in more recommendations or put them in the comments boxes! Thanks to all the people who sent in recommendations via the Armed Groups and International Law twitter feed @armedgroupsintlaw.

NB: I listen to podcasts on an app called ‘Podcast Addict’ but you can find most of the ones that I list below on Spotify and Apple Podcast.

Starting with international law:-

Asymmetrical Haircuts – This is a wonderful podcast for people interested in the cases before the courts in The Hague. In each episode, the hosts Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg ask interviewees to discuss the context and complexities of cases seeking justice for international crimes at international and national level. Check out this episode where Lisa Clifford explores the story of Germain Katanga’s return to the DRC after serving his sentence in The Hague.

Better Human – In this podcast, Adam Wagner explores some of the big human rights debates in a way that makes them accessible to non-lawyers. He conducts fascinating interviews with guests such as Philippe Sands, Susie Alegre and Aiofe Nolan. I particularly enjoyed this episode where Jonathan Cooper OBE discusses the landmark cases on LGBT+ rights in the UK and Europe.

Declarations – This is a human rights podcast run by the Centre of Human Rights and Governance at Cambridge University. It covers a range of human rights topics. Have a listen to this episode on Amnesty’s investigation into the coalition’s military campaign in Raqqa.

EJIL:the Podcast – The aim of this brand new podcast is to provide a forum for in-depth, expert but accessible discussion of international law issues in contemporary international and national affairs. It is hosted by Sarah Nouwen, Philippa Webb, Dapo Akande and Marko Milanovic.

EJIL: Live!I haven’t figured out how to get this fantastic series onto the platform where I listen to podcasts, but you can find these great audio files and video interviews on the EJIL:Talk website. The interviews include conversations with scholars, commentary on cases and in-depth examination of legal developments.

Intercross podcast – This Washington D.C. based ICRC podcast is a must-listen for people interested in humanitarian affairs. It provides a platform for conversations about IHL, protection of civilians and situations of crisis around the world. Listen to this episode where Polvina Levina discusses protecting cultural property in Syria with guest host Ellen Policinski.

Jus Cogens – There are only five episodes of this podcast from Leiden University law school but they are well worth a listen. I particularly liked the episodes with Helen Duffy on strategic litigation (see here and here).

Justice Visions – This podcast which is hosted by Ghent University is linked to the Justice Visions research project run by Tine Destrooper. Every month, the researchers connected to this project talk to experts and practitioners about cutting-edge research and practice regarding victim participation in transitional justice.

LawPod – LawPod is a weekly podcast, based in the Law School at Queen’s University Belfast, that provides a platform to explore law and legal research in an engaging and scholarly way.  If you haven’t listened to it yet, here is the link to the conversation that Luke Moffett and I had in November about armed groups and international law.

More Perfect – Another great series from RadioLab about the US Supreme Court. I found this episode about the death penalty fascinating. It takes a detailed look at what constitutes ‘cruel and unusual’ in the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Oxford University Public International Law Discussion Group – a series of podcasts presenting lectures on international law by scholars, practitioners and judges of national and international courts.

RightsCast – RightsCast brings provides discussion on a wide range of contemporary and enduring human rights issues from the University of Essex Human Rights Centre. I haven’t listened to them all, but there are some great ones here. Check out this episode where Daragh Murray is joined by Francoise Hampson and Charles Garraway to discuss how human rights investigations are conducted, particularly within the framework of UN mandated fact-finding missions. 

Non-law, but relevant to non-international armed conflicts:

Caliphate, with Rukmini Callimachi – This fascinating series on the Islamic State was published by the New York Times in 2018. It follows the story of one young Canadian jihadi, Huzaifi, who was recruited into the group, and ended up committing acts of terror in Iraq. It weaves togther interviews with Huzaifi, with interviews with Yazidi victims – and allows the reader to accompany Callimachi as she realises that Hazaifi’s repentence is not to be trusted.

Conflicted – this podcast is unlike anything I’ve ever listened to before. It is a far-ranging conversation about the Middle East, with specific episodes devoted the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The conversation is between ex-Al-Qaida member turned MI6 spy, Aimen Dean with Thomas Small, ex monk turn Islamic Studies scholar.

The Other Latif – This podcast is made by Radiolab reporter Latif Nasser. Latif Nasser had always believed his name was uniquely his own, until he discovered that he shares his name with another man: Detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. This podcast follows Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, trying to uncover what ‘the other Latif’ actually did or didn’t do.

Off the Page – Off the Page is a podcast by International Security, a quarterly journal edited and sponsored by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, and published by the MIT Press. Check out this episode on how and when international criminal tribunals deter wartime atrocities.

Trend Lines – This podcast from the World Politics Review gets my thumbs-up for its mission to cover the smaller stories that often don’t make the front pages. It combines in-depth interviews/ reports, with briefings on situations around the world.

War and Peace – I haven’t listened to this one yet, but it was sent in via the Armed Groups and International Law twitter thread asking for podcast recommendations and it looks good. It is a new podcast from the International Crisis Group in which experts are interviewed about all things in Europe and its neighbourhood, including Russia.

Non law:

Catch and Kill Podcast – Made by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ronan Farrow, this podcast tells the story of investigative reporting that led to the investigation of Harvey Weinstein. The podcast has interviews with many of the people involved in the investigation, from brave whistleblowers to undercover operatives.

Fake Heiress – I didn’t pay much attention when the story of Anna Sorokin – a Russian born fake heiress living it up in New York – hit the newspapers last year, but this podcast tells the incredible story of how she got away with swindling acquaintances, hotels and banks out of nearly 300, 000 dollars.

My Mother’s Murder – This podcast tells the story of an investigation into the assassination of Maltese investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. The story is all the more poignant as it is told by the late journalist’s own son, Paul Caruana Galizia

Revisionist History – In this podcast, Malcolm Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

Rough Translation – Produced by NPR, this podcast has been going for a couple of years now. It’s an ultimate story telling podcast, exploring issues and stories through the lives of real people all over the world. I haven’t listened to all the episodes, but my favourites are: The Congo We Listen To (about rape allegations in the DRC), DIY Mosul (about body collectors in Mosul, which prompted me to write this blog post) and The Search Part I and II (about a journalist who is missing in Iraq).

S-town – I think this remains my all-time favourite podcast. It follows a real-life investigation into a murder in the town of Woodstock Alabama. During the making of the podcast, the journalist Brian Reed talks to a vivid cast of characters in Woodstock, including John B. McLemore – a character you’ll never forget, who shockingly commits suicide in episode two. Deeply misanthropic and unceasingly critical of the town’s residents, John is also a surprisingly sympathetic character with deep anxieties about climate change, a love of clocks and an ongoing struggle with depression.

Serial – This is another great podcast from the makers of This American Life, who also made S-Town (above). Season One (which I liked the best) investigates the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999. Season Two follows the story of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who was captured by the Taliban and then charged with desertion. Season Three follows the ordinary working of the criminal justice system in the US in Cleveland.

The Drop Out – This podcast tells the story of the investigation into Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos which fraudulently claimed to have developed revolutionary blood testing technology. The podcast shows how the elaborate, long-running fraud was finally uncovered, with interviews with whistle blowers and employees.

The Ratline – In this podcast (which has just come out as a book) Philippe Sands provides an account of the daily life of a senior Nazi and fugitive, and of his wife after the second World War, when he is being hunted by the Soviets, the Americans, the Poles and the British, as well as groups of Jews.

The Shrink Next Door – This is a dark and true story about a therapist in The Hamptons who traps his patients into complete dependency, to the extent that they turn over their financial affairs over to him and even let him live in their house. Believing that they are engaged in ‘therapy’, they provide him with services such as gardening and administrative assistance – all the while paying him an hourly rate.

What are YOU going to do with that? – This is a podcast with Danni Reches, a PhD candidate at the University of Haifa. Danni interviews young researchers and scholars to learn about their process, their success stories, obstacles and the way they overcame them. And everything is over a glass of Amaretto.

White Lies – In 1965, Rev. James Reeb was murdered in Selma, Alabama. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held to account. This podcast is about two journalists from Alabama returning to the city where it happened fifty years later, to expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved.

Where Should We Begin? – This is a podcast made up of one-off marriage guidance sessions with couples in need of help. When someone first told me about the format of this podcast, I shuddered at the intrusion of privacy that I was sure that this must entail. I was convinced I would hate it. But after listening to the first episode, I got hooked. Gentle and wise, Esther Perel works wonders at coaxing people to share their problems and reconnect.

Edited on 7th April, to add My Mother’s Murder and What are You Going to do With That?. Updated on 20th April to add EJIL:the Podcast. Updated on 21st May, to add Justice Visions.

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4 thoughts on “Podcast recommendations – legal, non legal and pure escape”

  1. Pingback: Justice Update – Lockdown Podcast Recommendations – asymmetrical haircuts

  2. Pingback: Most Read Posts in 2020 | Armed Groups and International Law

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