Portrait of Dr Gavin Sullivan

Dr Gavin Sullivan

Senior Lecturer in Law
Director, KLS Seminar and Visiting Scholar Programme


Gavin joined Kent Law School (KLS) as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in January 2016. Prior to joining KLS he worked as a doctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands). His doctoral thesis – which examined the post-9/11 terrorism listing regime of the United Nations Security Council from a global socio-legal perspective – was awarded the distinction of cum laude and nominated for numerous international prizes.
Gavin’s current research focuses on the politics of global security law and data infrastructures. He uses socio-legal and ethnographic methods to critically examine contemporary security practices and problems of transnational and algorithmic governance. Gavin is especially interested in understanding how law changes when trying to counter unknown future threats and how new technologies, forms of expertise and knowledge practices help create and shape what law is.

Research interests

Gavin’s current research interests include: Global Security Law, Algorithmic Governance and Accountability, the Politics of Expertise, Preemptive Security and Human Rights. He is currently working on three projects. First, Gavin is finalising his first book (entitled The Law of the List: UN Counterterrorism Sanctions and the Politics of Global Security Law), which will be published in 2020 in the Global Law Series of Cambridge University Press. Second, he is undertaking a British Academy-funded research project with Alejandro Rodiles of ITAM University (Mexico) entitled Global Security Assemblages and International law: A Socio-Legal Study of Emergency in Motion. The project examines how informal global security platforms (like the Global Counterterrorism Forum and Global Internet Forum to Counter-Terrorism) are transforming international security law. Finally, he is researching new security infrastructures being advanced by the UN Security Council’s push for state and non-state actors to share, collect and analyse data to identify potential threats. 


Gavin has teaching experience in Public, Transnational, International and Human Rights law as well as International Relations and Critical Security Studies. At Kent Law School, he convenes (in 2018/19) the core undergraduate module, Public Law 2 and the postgraduate module, Global Security Law, the latter taught in both Canterbury and the Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS).   


Gavin is particularly interested in supervising PhD students who wish to undertake cross-cutting, socio-legal research in the following areas:

  • Global Security Law and Governance
  • Critical Security Studies
  • Algorithmic Governance and Accountability
  • Transnational Law and Legal Theory
  • International Organisations law
  •  Counterterrorism and Human Rights
  •  Peacebuilding, Development and Counterterrorism
  • Critical Infrastructure Studies      
  • Informal International Lawmaking
  • Collective Security 


Gavin is a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales with a background in public law, international law and human rights litigation. He has represented clients in proceedings before the High Court and Court of Appeal, the European Court of Human Rights and the Ombudsperson of the UN Security Council. Gavin previously directed the Counterterrorism Program at the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (Berlin) and has worked as a litigator with Leigh Day & Co (London) and the Government Legal Department (London). He currently coordinates the Transnational Listing Project – a global law clinic that provides pro bono legal representation to people targeted by security lists worldwide and advocates for their right to due process.
Gavin is regularly engaged as an expert for international organisations and NGOs. He has previously advised peacebuilding organisations working in Somalia on the impact of global security measures on their work. He has also worked with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights effects of Security Council counterterrorism measures. He helped draft the Guidance to States on human-rights compliant responses to the threat posed by foreign fighters issued by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) in June 2018



  • Sullivan, G. (2017). Taking on the Technicalities of International Law: Practice, Description, Critique. American Journal of International Law [Online] 111:181-186. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/aju.2017.51.
    By laboring underneath the radar of formal law, using a diverse array of conceptual tools and working from material disregarded by mainstream legal scholarship, Fleur Johns’ research has consistently opened up novel ways of grappling with international legal problems. The article at the focal point of this symposium continues to push the envelope of international legal studies. It sheds light on how the rise of Big Data and algorithmic decisionmaking is transforming international authority. It also speaks to the increasing deformalization of international law. Examining the mundane practices of global governance may sound unrevealing to some. But Johns shows how this approach can yield important insights into international law's operations and effects.
  • de Goede, M. and Sullivan, G. (2016). The politics of security lists. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space [Online] 34:67-88. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775815599309.
    The List, one of the most archaic means of written enumeration and classification, has made a forceful recurrence in the post-9/11 global security landscape. From terrorist sanctions lists and No-Fly lists to “kill-lists” for drone warfare; from the privately compiled lists of risky banking clients to the regulatory lists of untrustworthy or incompliant companies, the list seems to proliferate as a contemporary technology of security and regulation. How and why are lists becoming newly embedded in security practices? What work do lists perform as specific techniques of government and forms of normative ordering? And what consequences follow for how problems of legal accountability and political responsibility are currently understood and addressed? This paper frames security lists as inscription devices that are heterogeneous, unpredictable and productive in unforeseen ways. It draws attention to the ways they materialise the categories they purport to describe, and how they enact novel forms of knowledge, jurisdiction and targeting. We suggest that critiques could be strengthened by making visible and contesting the fragmented and diffuse conditions through which security lists are produced.
  • de Goede, M., Leander, A. and Sullivan, G. (2016). Introduction: The politics of the list. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space [Online] 34:3-13. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775815624561.
    This articles introduces the special issue on ‘The Politics of the List.’ We observe that lists proliferate as a technique of governance across multiple domains, including health, security, and commerce. We argue that it is important to take seriously the form and technique of the list itself and engage the knowledge practices, governance effects and ways of ordering the world that the list format enables. In other words, the special issue seeks to ‘remain in the register of the list,’ to unpack its technological arrangements and juridical power. This introduction sets out the key themes of this special issue, through discussing, in turn, the list as a technology of knowledge, the list as a technique of law and governance, the list's complex relation to space and the relation between the list and the digital. We draw on these four elements to characterise what we call the politics of the list in an era of complexity.
  • Sullivan, G. (2015). Transnational Legal Assemblages and Global Security Law: Topologies and Temporalities of the List. Transnational Legal Theory 8.
  • Sullivan, G. and de Goede, M. (2013). Between Law and the Exception: The UN 1267 Ombudsperson as a Hybrid Model of Legal Expertise. Leiden Journal of International Law [Online] 26:833-854. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0922156513000435.
    Security measures taken in the name of the ‘war on terror’ have frequently been understood to operate through a domain of exception, defined as an extra-legal space of intervention where normal rules of juridical protection and due process are suspended. Yet whilst most analyses of the exception are critically reliant on notions of legal threshold, they are largely dismissive of the potentially productive nature of legal contestation. This article inquires into the dynamic confrontation between law and exception in the context of the UN 1267 sanctions system, focusing on the Office of the Ombudsperson as an institutional experiment designed to remedy the fundamental rights deficiencies of the regime. Drawing on Agamben's analysis of the exception as a ‘hybrid space’ and Dyzenhaus's concept of the ‘legal grey hole’, our analysis of the Ombudsperson demonstrates the emergence of novel, hybrid procedures and evidentiary standards being deployed in the 1267 delisting process. First, we assess the Ombudsperson's logics of decision-making and argue that their appeals to fairness hinge on the production of a temporal chasm that legitimizes the deployment of intelligence material in listing cases. Second, we show that the Ombudsperson is in the process of carving out novel evidential standards that are more attentive to notions of inference and speculation than conventional standards of proof. These standards serve to fortify the use of sanctions as a pre-emptive security measure and do not, in principle, appear to exclude material that may be obtained by torture.
  • Reinsborough, M. and Sullivan, G. (2011). The Regulation of Nano-particles under the European Biocidal Products Directive: Challenges for Effective Civil Society Participation. European Journal of Law and Technology [Online] 2. Available at: http://ejlt.org/article/view/93.
    This article considers factors that limit or exclude civil society involvement in the regulatory process for nanotechnologies by critically examining an attempt to mount a public-interest legal challenge against the UK Health and Safety Executive for failing to properly enforce the European Biocidal Products Directive in relation to nanosilver consumer products. The temporal gap between innovation research, knowledge of implications, and regulatory action can often be decades (Owen 2011). Often key stakeholders within civil society are positioned to identify certain relevant problems earlier than governance, regulatory, and investment actors. They might thus limit a dilemma of control (Collinridge, 1984) - where technology at an early stage of development provides opportunities for control but insufficient evidence of impacts to justify or direct control, whereas greater maturity in the development process provides sufficient evidence of impacts but the technology has become 'locked in' after widespread application. One form of intervention in the regulatory process by civil society is litigation. This article critically reflects on the limitations encountered in pursuing a judicial review challenge in the UK between 2008 and 2010. This account highlights some of the structural conditions underlying the contemporary regulatory balance of forces which limit civil society participation (access to legal expertise, resources, scientific knowledge, public awareness, and the regulatory process itself). We also suggest that individuals and civil society organisations thus limited (without meaningful access) may legitimately turn to more explicitly political forms of engagement with nanotechnology. Direct action (as opposed to mediated) is a plausible alternative to regulatory participation and litigation.

Book section

  • Sullivan, G. and Reinsborough, M. (2014). Parameters that Affect Public Engagement with regulatory Processes: Nano-particles and the European Biocidal Products Directive’. In: Innovation and Responsibility: Engaging With New and Emerging Technologies. AKA Press.

Research report (external)

  • United Nations, C. (2018). Guidance to States on Human Rights-Compliant Responses to the Threat Posed by Foreign Fighters. [Online]. United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/sc/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Human-Rights-Responses-to-Foreign-Fighters-web-final.pdf.
  • Sullivan, G. (2017). UN Security Council Resolution 2178, Foreign Fighters and Human Rights. UN.
  • Sullivan, G., Hayes, B., Sentas, V. and Boon-Kuo, L. (2015). Building Peace in Permanent War: Terrorist Listing and Conflict Transformation. Transnational Institution/Berghof Foundation.
  • Sullivan, G. and Hayes, B. (2011). Blacklisted: Targeted Sanctions, Preemptive Security and Fundamental Rights. [Online]. European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. Available at: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2010/dec/eu-ecchr-blacklisted-report.pdf.


  • Sullivan, G. (2018). Reassembling global law: reflections on Laws and Societies in Global Contexts - Reviews on Eve Darian-Smith , Laws and Societies in Global Contexts: Contemporary Approaches. International Journal of Law in Context [Online] 13:553-557. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1744552317000507.


  • Sullivan, G. (2020). The Law of the List: UN Counterterrorism Sanctions and the Politics of Global Security Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    The spread of violent extremism, 9/11, the rise of ISIL and movement of 'foreign terrorist fighters' are dramatically expanding the powers of the UN Security Council to govern risky cross-border flows and threats by non-state actors. New security measures and data infrastructures are being built that threaten to erode human rights and transform the world order in far-reaching ways. The Law of the List is an interdisciplinary study of global security law in motion. It follows the ISIL and Al-Qaida sanctions list, created by the UN Security Council to counter global terrorism, to different sites around the world mapping its effects as an assemblage. Drawing on interviews with Council officials, diplomats, security experts, judges, secret diplomatic cables and the author's experiences as a lawyer representing listed people, The Law of the List shows how governing through the list is reconfiguring global security, international law and the powers of international organisations.
Last updated