School of Law

Contact Details

Dr Oliver Lewis

Professor of Law and Social Justice

I am an international human rights lawyer and associate barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, London. I am a visiting professor in law at the Central European University and teach an international diploma on mental health and human rights law with the Indian Law Society. From 2006 until May 2017 I served as Executive Director of ‘Validity’ (formerly the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre MDAC), an international NGO that uses law to advance rights of people with mental health issues or intellectual disabilities worldwide, and from 2001 to 2006 its Legal Director. I am a trustee of the Avon and Bristol Law Centre, and a member of PILnet’s Hungary board.

I gave my inaugural lecture at the School of Law on 3 November 2016. Entitled “Disabling legal barriers”, the lecture drew on my experience of litigation and advocacy in central and eastern Europe over the previous fifteen years. Developing the themes of anguish, activism and argument, I called on law students to become social justice activists, whatever area of law they choose as a career. The video is available to watch here, and an article based on the lecture was published in the European Human Rights Law Review, No. 1 of 2017.

I have a PhD from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, an MA in Medical Ethics and Law from King’s College London, an MPA (Master of Public Administration) from the Open University Business School and an LLB (Hons) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA).

Research Interests

I am interested in how law serves both as a barrier to social inclusion and as method of addressing injustice. My research focuses on international human rights law and mechanisms, human rights monitoring (including monitoring closed institutions such as psychiatric hospitals), strategic litigation, legal capacity, detention, torture and ill-treatment (including psychiatric coercion and violence against women), the right to health, political participation and access to justice.

I am currently looking into the role of mental health professionals in advancing rights. With colleagues from King’s College London, I am involved in a Wellcome Trust funded project on independent living of people with mental health issues in Ghana and Palestine. I served as scientific director for the first disability project of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, and have been a consultant to several NGOs and organisations such as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.


I lead an LLM module on “Global human rights advocacy” and teach on the LLB “Disability Law” module.

PhD Supervision

I am happy to consider PhD proposals on international human rights law, disability law, mental health law and the challenge of human rights implementation.

Key Publications


  • P Bartlett, O Lewis and O Thorold, Mental Disability and the European Convention on Human Rights, (Martinus Nijhoff, Brill Publishing, the Netherlands, 2007), foreword by Sir Nicolas Bratza

Book chapters

  • O Lewis, ‘The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Council of Europe Jurisprudence’ in A Lawson and L Waddington (eds) Interpreting and Domesticating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Courts, OUP (forthcoming 2017)
  • A Hendriks, and O Lewis, ‘Disability and Medical Law’, in B M Knoppers and Y Joly (eds) Routledge Handbook of Medical Law and Ethics, Routledge, 2014
  • O Lewis, ‘The Role of Global Psychiatry in Advancing Human Rights’ in Juan Mendez (ed) Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report, 2014
  • O Lewis and N Munro, ‘Civil Society Involvement in Mental Health Law and Policy Reform’ in M Dudley, D Silove, F Gale (eds) Mental Health and Human Rights, OUP, 2012
  • O Lewis and P Bartlett, ‘Human Rights and Community Mental Health’ in G Thornicroft et al (eds) Oxford Textbook of Community Mental Health, OUP, 2011
  • O Lewis, ‘The expressive, educational and proactive roles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, in B McSherry and P Waller (eds) Rethinking Rights-Based Mental Health Laws, Hart Publishing, 2010
  • J Fiala and O Lewis, ‘Investigations After Death and European Law’ in L Clements and J Read (eds) Disabled People and the Right to Life: the protection and violation of disabled people’s most basic human right, Routledge, 2008

Journal articles

  • O Lewis and A Campbell (2017) ‘Violence and abuse against people with disabilities: a comparison of the approaches of the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (forthcoming)
  • O Lewis and F Callard (2017): The World Psychiatric Association’s “Bill of Rights”: A curious contribution to human rights, International Journal of Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/00207411.2017.1278963
  • O Lewis, ‘Disabling legal barriers’ (2017) 1 European Human Rights Law Review,
  • O Lewis, ‘Case analysis: Nyusti and Takacs v Hungary: decision of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, (2013) European Human Rights Law Review, 4, 419-424
  • D Karsay and O Lewis, ‘Disability, torture and ill-treatment: taking stock and ending abuses’, (2012) International Journal of Human Rights, 16(6), 816–830
  • O Lewis, ‘Stanev v. Bulgaria: On the Pathway to Freedom’, Human Rights Brief, Winter 2012, 2-7
  • O Lewis, ‘Advancing legal capacity jurisprudence’, (2011) European Human Rights Law Review, 6, 700-714
  • N Drew, M Funk, S Tang, J Lamichhane, E Chávez, S Katontoka, S Pathare, O Lewis, L Gostin and B Saraceno, ‘Human rights violations of people with mental and psychosocial disabilities: an unresolved global crisis’, The Lancet, 17 October 2011
  • M Rasmussen and O Lewis, ‘Introductory Note to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, 46 (2007) I.L.M. 441
  • O Lewis, ‘Right to life: European Convention on Human Rights: Case Commentary on Paul and Audrey Edwards v. The United Kingdom (2003) Journal of Mental Health Law, 75-84
  • O Lewis, ‘Mental Disability Law in Central and Eastern Europe: Paper, Practice, Promise’, (2002) 8 Journal of Mental Health Law, 293-303, re-printed in J Peay (ed) Seminal Issues in Mental Health Law (Ashgate, London, 2005)
  • O Lewis, ‘Protecting the Rights of People with Mental Disabilities: the European Convention on Human Rights’ (2002) European Journal of Health Law, 9(4), 293-320

Media Contact Areas

I am willing to speak to the media on any aspect of my areas of interest.

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