Shami Chakrabarti: Biography highlights
Shami Chakrabarti is a prominent member of the British Labour Party, barrister and human rights activist. She is well-known as the former director of Liberty, the organisation promoting civil liberties and human rights.
Full biography of Shami Chakrabarti
About Shami Chakrabarti
Shami Chakrabarti served as Director of Liberty for more than a decade. In that time she has led many high-profile campaigns, changed the face of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties), and oversaw the organisation’s involvement in the defence and promotion of human rights in Parliament and wider society. She now serves as Shadow Attorney General in the Labour Shadow Cabinet.
After training as a lawyer and serving as a barrister, Shami joined the Home Office where she worked for five years before joining Liberty as their in-house counsel. The organisation was at the time a small, charitable organisation more given to providing legal support for those whose rights may have been infringed than to campaigning.
Shami joined Liberty the day before the 9/11 attacks and much of her and the organisation’s work would thereafter be defined by those events. Under her leadership Liberty took on government, media and public opinion, fighting for human rights and civil liberties and attacking proposed legislation on ID cards, detention without charge and surveillance.
Established in 1934, Liberty has worked on everything from the Hunger Marches to counter-terrorism legislation and asylum issues. Shami helped advance the organisation in profile and professionalism, making them a formidable and respected force in lobbying and public debate. She changed its culture, developed a greater collaborative ethos, and became an indomitable advocate for rights and liberties, frequently facing personal criticism by the press and politicians.
As her and Liberty’s profile rose, they became an important counter to much of the extreme, knee-jerk reaction to threats both real and imagined. In this role she frequently contributed to BBC Radio 4 and various newspapers. She was described in The Times as “probably the most effective public affairs lobbyist of the past 20 years”. Between 2014 and 2017 she served as Chancellor of the University of Essex.
In 2016 Shami was made a life peer in the Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours. In 2018 she was announced as a member of the Privy Council. Shami is also a governor of the British Film Institute. She is the author of On Liberty and Of Women.
As well as addressing the continued importance of civil liberties and human rights, Shami also considers the importance of balancing security, privacy and freedom. She looks at the way public and commercial organisations view information and how legislation and technology are changing things. She also examines the lessons in leadership, working with government, and campaigning her time at Liberty taught, as well as reflecting on life as ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’ (according to the Sun).
Shami carried one of the eight white Olympic flags at the London 2012 opening ceremony, alongside Doreen Lawrence and Nobel peace prize winner Leyma Gbowee. She was a panel member of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking and has written a personal examination of rights and liberties.
Watch Shami in action
The Francis Crick Institute
The audience was charmed and inspired and everyone learnt something!
Thank you to everyone that came to see our guest speaker Shami Chakrabarti yesterday! We had a great turnout and heard an inspiring talk!
Academy of Marketing
… brilliant speaker
The inspiring Shami Chakrabarti was our first speaker