3644 Peel Street
Canada H3A 1W9
payam [dot] akhavan [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)
New Chancellor Day HallProfessor Akhavan teaches and researches in the areas of public international law, international criminal law and transitional justice, with a particular interest in human rights and multiculturalism, war crimes prosecutions, UN reform and the prevention of genocide.
He has published extensively in leading journals, including the widely-cited article “Beyond Impunity: Can International Criminal Justice Prevent Future Atrocities?” in 95 American Journal of International Law 7 (2001), selected by the International Library of Law and Legal Theory as one of “the most significant published journal essays in contemporary legal studies.”
He is also author of the Report on the Work of the Office of the Special Advisor of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide (2005), served as Chairman of the Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide (2007), and is Co-Producer of the documentary film “Genos.Cide: The Great Challenge” (2009).
His book “Reducing Genocide to Law: Definition, Meaning, and the Ultimate Crime” (2012) from Cambridge University Press has been endorsed by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court as “a profound re-thinking of efforts to transform global aspirations into reality.”
Professor Akhavan was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at The Hague (1994-2000) and made significant contributions to its foundational jurisprudence.
He has also served in the field with the United Nations in Bosnia, Croatia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Timor Leste, and Rwanda. He is a member of the New York and Upper Canada bars and has appeared as counsel and advocate in leading cases before the International Court of Justice (Application of the Convention on Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Georgia v Russia), the International Criminal Court (counsel for Libya in Gadaffi Case, and counsel for Uganda in Kony Case), the European Court of Human Rights (Akcam v Turkey), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, Guyana v Suriname Maritime Boundary Delimitation, Bangladesh v India Maritime Boundary Delimitation), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Bangladesh v Myanmar Maritime Boundary Delimitation), and as amicus curiae before the Supreme Court of the United States (Hamdi v Rumsfeld and Padilla v Rumsfeld).
Professor Akhavan is also one of the founders of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, serves on the Advisory Board of numerous non-governmental organizations, and has campaigned on behalf of numerous political prisoners.
His leadership in the Iranian civil society movement has been featured in the New York Times, Maclean's, and the award-winning documentary film "The Green Wave". He has appeared widely on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, CBC, CTV, New York Times, Washington Post, Globe & Mail, and other media as commentator and editorialist on human rights issues.
In 2005, he was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. He is the recipient of several other awards and distinctions.
Some media mentions
CBC Ideas, Beyond Human Rights, 18 Sep 2014
Interview on Hardtalk with Allan Little, BBC World Service, Aug 12, 2013
Helping the revolution, Maclean's, September 17, 2009
International Court Hears Georgian Case, New York Times, September 9, 2008
Thinking of Home And of Human Rights, New York Times, January 9, 2005
S.J.D., Harvard University, 2001
LL.M., Harvard University, 1990
LL.B., Osgoode Hall Law School, 1989
Admitted to the New York State bar 2002
Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2006-
Boulton Senior Fellow, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2005-2006
Senior Fellow, Yale Law School and Yale University Genocide Studies Program, New Haven, 2003-2005
Senior Associate, Debevoise & Plimpton, New York, 2001-2003
Visiting Senior Lecturer & Senior Fellow, Leiden University, The Netherlands, 2000-2001
Legal Advisor, Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, The Hague, The Netherlands, 1994-2000
Human Rights Officer, United Nations Centre for Human Rights, Geneva & Zagreb/Sarajevo, 1993-1994
Research Associate, Danish Institute of Human Rights, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1991-1993
Research Associate, Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, Oslo, Norway, 1990-1991
Areas of Interest
International law, UN reform, comparative law, human rights, laws of war, law and society, transitional justice, prevention of genocide, Islam and the West, and international criminal law.
- “The Quebec Question for the Next Generation”, University of Toronto (7 February 2012) (forthcoming)
- "Preventing Genocide: Measuring Success by What Does Not Happen." 22:1-33 Criminal Law Forum (2011)
- "Self-referrals before the International Criminal Court: Are States the Villains or the Victims of Atrocities?" 21:1 Criminal Law Forum. 103 (2010)
- "Whither National Courts? The Rome Statute’s Missing Half: Towards An Express and Enforceable Obligation For the National Repression of International Crimes." Journal of International Criminal Justice 1245 (2010).
- "Self-referrals before the International Criminal Court: Are States the Villains or the Victims of Atrocities?" Criminal Law Forum. 2010; 21:1.
- "Are Tribunals a Disincentive to Peace? Reconciling Judicial Romanticism with Political Realism." Human Rights Quarterly. 2009; 31:3.
- "Should Duress Apply to All Crimes? A Comparative Appraisal of Moral Involuntariness and the Twenty Crimes Exception under Section 17 of the Criminal Code." Canadian Review of Criminal Law. 2009; 13:271.
- "Amicus Curiae Brief on Joint Criminal Enterprise in the Matter of the Co-Prosecutors’ Appeal of the Closing Order Against Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Dated 8 August 2008" (with Provost R. et al). Criminal Law Forum. 2009; 20:2.
- "Reconciling Crimes Against Humanity with the Laws of War: Human Rights, Armed Conflict, and the Limits of Progressive Jurisprudence." Journal of International Criminal Justice. 2008; 6:21.
- "Proliferation of Terminology and the Illusion of Progress." Genocide Studies and Prevention. 2007; 2:73.
- "Report on the Work of the Office of the Special Advisor of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide." Human Rights Quarterly. 2006; 4.
- "Justice, Power, and the Realities of Interdependence: Lessons from the Milošević and Hussein Trials." Cornell International Law Journal. 2005; 38:973.
- "The Crime of Genocide in ICTR Jurisprudence." Journal of International Criminal Justice. 2005; 3:989.
- "The Lord’s Resistance Army Case: Uganda’s Submission of the First State Referral to the International Criminal Court." American Journal of International Law 2005; 99:403.
- "Justice as Aberration: Reflections on the Historical Significance of the International Criminal Court." World Order 2003; 34.2:51-53.
- "The International Criminal Court in Context: Mediating the Global and Local in the Age of Accountability." American Journal of International Law. 2003; 97:712.
- "Beyond Impunity: Can International Criminal Justice Prevent Future Atrocities?" American Journal of International Law. 2001; 95:7.
- "Justice in the Hague, Peace in the former Yugoslavia? A Commentary on the UN War Crimes Tribunal." Human Rights Quarterly. 1998; 20:737.
- "The Contribution of the Ad Hoc Tribunals to International Humanitarian Law: The Dilemmas of Jurisprudence." American University International Law Review. 1998; 13.6:1518.
- "Justice and Reconciliation in the Great Lakes Region of Africa: The Contribution of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda." Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law. 1997; 7:325.
- "The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: The Politics and Pragmatics of Punishment." American Journal of International Law. 1996; 90:501.
- "Enforcement of the Genocide Convention: A Challenge to Civilization." Harvard Human Rights Journal. 1995; 8:229.
- "Lessons from Iraqi Kurdistan: Self-Determination and Humanitarian Intervention Against Genocide." Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights. 1993; 11:41.
- "Punishing War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia: A Critical Juncture for the New World Order." Human Rights Quarterly. 1993; 15:262.
- "Enforcement of the Genocide Convention Through the Advisory Opinion Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice." Human Rights Law Journal. 1991; 21:285.
- "Peoples or Populations? Critical Question for the World’s Indigenous People." [In Scandinavian] Nordic Journal of Human Rights. 1991; 3-264.
- "Self-determination in the New Europe." [in Scandinavian] Nordic Journal of Human Rights. 1991; 4:379.
- "The Application of the Doctrine of State Responsibility to Refugee Creating States" (with Bergsmo M.). Nordic Journal of International Law. 1989; 58.3/4:243.
Books and monographs
- Reducing Genocide to Law: Definition, Meaning, and the Ultimate Crime. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Confronting Genocide: Jus Gentium Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice 7 (co-edited with René Provost). Springer Publications. 2010
- Yugoslavia, The Former and Future: Reflections by Scholars from the Region. Washington, D.C. & Geneva: Brookings Institute; UN Research Institute for Social Development. 1995; 181 pp.
Articles/chapters in books and monographs
- "Ayatollah Montazeri’s Brave Struggle For Justice." In: Nader Hashemi & Danny Postel, eds. The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran's Future. New York: Melville House. 2011.
- "Canadian Values and International Human Rights Law: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – A Case Study." In Race, femme, enfant, handicap: les conventiones internationales et le droit interne à la lumiere des enjeux pratiques du droit à l’égalité. (Le Tribunal des Droits de la Personne et le Barreau du Québec) (Éditions Yvon Blais, 2011)
- "International Criminal Justice in the Era of Failed States: The ICC and the Self-Referrals Debate." In: Carstan Stahn, ed. The International Criminal Court and Complementarity: From Theory to Practice. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- “The Baha’i Community, Human Rights, and the Construction of a New Iranian Identity”, in Ramin Jahanbegloo (ed.) Democracy and Civil Society in Iran (Lexington Press, 2011)
- "The Universal Repression of Crimes Against Humanity before National Jurisdictions: The Need for a Treaty-Based Obligation to Prosecute." In: Leila Sadat, ed. Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
"International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia." In: Shelton DL, ed. Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. New York: Macmillan Reference USA. 2004.
- "The Origin and Evolution of Crimes Against Humanity: An Uneasy Encounter Between Positive Law and Moral Outrage." In: Bergsmo M, ed. Human Rights and Criminal Justice for the Downtrodden: Essays in Honour of Asbjørn Eide. Boston & Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers; Brill Academic Publishers. 2003; 3-17.
- "The New Frontiers of Judicial Enforcement: The International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda." In: Alfredsson G et al., eds. International Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms: Essays in Honour of Jakob Th. Möller. The Hague & Lund: Martinus Nijhoff; The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. 2001; 441-456.
- "Self-Determination and the Disintegration of Yugoslavia: What Lessons for the International Community?" In: Clark D & Williamson R, eds. Self-Determination: International Perspectives. London & New York: MacMillan Press; St. Martin's Press. 1996; 227-248.
- "The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights: Rhetoric and Reality." In: Bradbury ML & Bushrui S, eds. Divisive Barbarity or Global Civilization? The Ethical Dimensions of Science, Art, Religion and Politics. Bethesda: University Press of Maryland. 1996; 189-200.
- "The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.” In: Lattanzi F & Sciso E, eds. Dai Tribunali Penali Internazionali Ade Hoc a Una Corte Permanente. Napoli: Editoriale Scientifica. 1996; 191-201
- "Implications of Twelver Shi’ih Mihdism on Religious Tolerance: The Case of the Bahá’í Religious Minority in the Islamic Republic of Iran." In: Vogt K & Lindholm T, eds. Islamic Law Reform and Human Rights. Copenhagen, Lund, Oslo, Turku/Åbo: Nordic Human Rights Publications. 1993; 197-218.
- Book review of Nazila Ghanea, "Human Rights, the UN and the Baha'is in Iran". Baha'i Studies Review. 2004; 12:144-150.
- Book review of Steven R. Ratner and Jason S. Abrams, "Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law: Beyond the Nuremberg Legacy". American Journal of International Law. 1999; 93:253.
- The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, February 15th, 2012.
Link to testimony
- Sub-Committee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, House of Commons, Ottawa, February 15th, 2011, 3rd Session, 40th Parliament.
Link to testimony
- “The Arab Spring and International Criminal Justice”, Canadian Council of International Law, Proceedings of the Annual Conference (5 November 2011) (forthcoming)
- "The Baha’i Community, Human Rights, and the Construction of a New Iranian Identity." Gozaar: Forum on Human Rights and Democracy in Iran. 2010.
"International Criminal Activity: Policing the Law Breakers and Human Rights." Canadian Council of International Law: Proceedings of the Annual Conference. 15 October 2009.
- Testimony on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. Sub-Committee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, House of Commons, Ottawa. 2nd Session, 40th Parliament, 26 February 2009. Link to testimony
- "Heirs to a Rich Civilization: Speech by Payam Akhavan at the Iranian Studies Biannual Conference." Gozaar: Forum on Human Rights and Democracy in Iran. 3 August 2008.
- "Prevention of Genocide." Global Symposium + 5: Information for Humanitarian Action. Final Report, United Nations. 2008; Keynote 3, 45-48.
- "Advancing Religious Freedom and Related Human Rights in Iran: Strategies for an Effective U.S. Policy." Public Hearing of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Washington, D.C. 21 February 2008. Link to testimony
- Testimony before the Standing Committee on Human Rights of the Senate of Canada on United Nations Human Rights Council and treaty-bodies, Ottawa. 12 February 2007. Link to testimony
- Testimony on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. Sub-Committee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, House of Commons, Ottawa. 1st Session, 39th Parliament, 27 March 2007. Link to testimony
- "Contributions of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to Development of Definitions of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide." International Law in Ferment: A New Vision for Theory and Practice, Proceedings of the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law. 2000; 279.
- "The Genocide Convention after Fifty Years: Contemporary Strategies for Combating a Crime against Humanity." The Challenge of Non-State Actors, Proceedings of the 92nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law. 1998; 7.
- Beyond Freedom: Building Iran’s Future Today, Rooz On-Line (31 November 2011)