Research Project

Oversight and Accountability of UK Special Forces

Principal Investigator
Dr Erin Pobjie
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This project is in collaboration with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drones and Modern Conflict.

A core concern of the APPG on Drones and Modern Conflict is ensuring accountability of the use of armed force by the UK. The Special Forces are the only part of the UK military that are not subject to any form of external oversight or scrutiny. One of the reasons often given to exonerate Special Forces from this control is that any comment on Special Forces may compromise its personnel, operations or national security.

In 2021/22, this project aims to map the mechanisms for oversight, scrutiny, and accountability of UK Special Forces activities, to provide recommendations for how the UK could ensure that Special Forces activities are subject to meaningful oversight and accountability, without compromising troops’ safety or national security and provide advocacy opportunities to educate parliamentarians on investigations.

In 2022/23, the Human Rights Centre Clinic will continue mapping and carrying out an analysis of these activities, drawing from UK law and comparative practice, and in light of the UK’s international human rights and humanitarian legal obligations

The Partner

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drones was founded in October 2012 to examine the use of military drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) by governments, particularly the US and UK, with a focus on scrutiny and oversight of policy and practice, adherence to the rule of law, and understanding and mitigating civilian harm. In 2021, the Group changed its name to the APPG on Drones and Modern Conflict, drawing on its lessons from drones to scrutinise and hold to account the use of unconventional and covert force more broadly. The Group's objectives are championing the protection of civilians in conflict as a topline priority across governmental departments; ensuring the rule of law and the international rules-based system is upheld by the UK government; and strengthening Parliament’s role and ability to scrutinise policy and hold the government to account for UK and partnered operations.

The APPG on Drones and Modern Conflict is an interest group that occupies a strategic and effective position within UK Parliament. It is cross-party, with a minimum number of Parliamentarians from the Government and the official opposition; and cross-house, made up of both Peers (Members of the House of Lords) and MPs (Members of the House of Commons).


Project description

How to apply

This exciting research project is open to postgraduate human rights students as part of the Human Rights Centre Clinic Module (HU902). If you want to join the module-based projects of the Human Rights Centre Clinic in 2022-23, please submit your application by Monday 10 October at 5pm to

The application should include two attachments:

  • your CV (two pages maximum)
  • a 400-word statement explaining why you want to join the Clinic and what you expect to learn from it. The statement should include your preferred three module-based projects in order of preference. We would do our best to accommodate your choices

Interviews will take place via Zoom on Wednesday 12 October (afternoon), Thursday 13 October (all day) and Friday 14 October (morning). You would be allocated a time slot for a short conversation with the HRC Clinic Director and one of the Co-Deputy Directors.

We will communicate the decision on Monday 17 October, and we expect to have the teams in place that week itself.


  • students taking part in any of the six module-based projects will also need to enrol in HU902 (Spring Term and two sessions in Autumn Term)
  • the process described above applies to module-based projects only, not to the stand-alone project on arbitrary detention, which follows its own application process. Students on the stand-alone project do not need to take HU902
  • students are free to apply to module-based projects and to the stand-alone project at the same time, but note that the module-based projects will require approximately 8-10 hours of your time per week from late October to the end of June on top of the coursework for all other modules. We recommend you do not overstretch your commitments
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Get in touch
Human Rights Centre Clinic Human Rights Centre
Essex Law School
Dr Erin Pobjie Project Supervisor