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Margaret OWEN OBE


Margaret Owen OBE is a UK London based human rights barrister and a door tenant of 9 Bedford Row Chambers. She works internationally and domestically, at the UN and with other human rights NGOs, across a wide range of human rights issues as a lawyer and an activist. She co-chairs the international working group, the UK Civil Society Women’s Alliance (UKCSWA) and is a Patron of Peace in Kurdistan.

She has  worked for many years with a focus on the violation of the human rights of the most vulnerable, especially of women and girls, widows, immigrants, refugees, IDPs, prisoners of conscience, minorities, and civilian victims of armed conflicts, genocide, ethnic cleansing, chemical weapons, wrongful detentions, torture, sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war.

Margaret studied law at Cambridge, taught by such luminaries as Professor Hersch Lauterpacht (who coined the phrase ‘Crimes against Humanity’) whilst an undergraduate at Girton College. She was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple and practiced as a barrister for a short while, leaving because there was, at that time (the mid-50s), such prejudice against women barristers. She made a career change, joining Granada TV as a documentary producer, after a year of travelling in the Middle East.

She took a second degree at the London School of Economics (LSE) in Sociology and Social Administration, reflecting her interest in examining the impact of legislation on vulnerable people, their access to legal representation and their capacity to have their voices heard in policy formulations and law reform.

Rediscovering her legal qualifications, she joined the Immigration Asylum Service (UKIAS) as a senior immigration and asylum lawyer. Later, she was appointed to head the Law and Policy Department of the International Planned Parent Federation (IPPF) and in both these capacities, she travelled on missions to many developing countries.

Her special interest in women’s rights grew through her IPPF campaigns. She has worked as a consultant for various UN entities and is the founder and President of Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD), an international NGO with ECOSOC status. She is a regular participant at the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and was a Visiting Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) teaching a Masters course on Law, Women, Development and Health. She has made numerous presentations in conferences, seminars and workshops on various human rights issues at various universities, including in the UK.

Margaret has observed and reported on many political trials in Turkey and has made two visits to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES, also known as Rojava) and several visits to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and Sri Lanka. She received an OBE in 2013 for her human rights work for women and especially for widows.