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Payam Akhavan

Associate Professor

New Chancellor Day Hall
3644 Peel Street
Room 614
Montreal Quebec
Canada H3A 1W9

514-398-8232 [Office]
payam [dot] akhavan [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)

List of publications (updated November 2015) [.docx]


Professor Akhavan teaches and researches on public international law, international dispute settlement, international criminal law, human rights and cultural pluralism.  He received the degree of Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence (SJD) from Harvard Law School and, prior to joining McGill, he was a Senior Fellow at Yale Law School, and a UN prosecutor at The Hague. In 2017, he will deliver the Massey Lectures.

Professor Akhavan has published extensively in leading journals, including the widely-cited “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 former 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 UN in Bosnia, Croatia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Timor Leste, and Rwanda. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the New York State bar and has appeared as counsel and advocate in leading cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States.

Professor Akhavan is a founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Prosecutor of the Iran People’s Tribunal, a member of the UK Child Sexual Abuse People’s Tribunal, and has contributed to the activities of numerous non-governmental organizations and grassroots survivors’ groups.  His work has been featured on CBC Radio’s Ideas program, BBC World’s Hardtalk, Maclean's magazine, the New York Times, and the award-winning documentary film “The Green Wave”.  In 2005, he was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.

Professor Akhavan will be giving the 2017 Massey Lectures.

Some media mentions


  • 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
  • Admitted to the Law Society of Upper Canada, 2012

Academic appointments

  • Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2006-present
  • Visiting Fellow, Kellogg College, Oxford University, United Kingdom, 2014-16
  • Visiting Professor, Université Paris Ouest (Nanterre la Défense), Paris, France, 2015
  • Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, 2013-14
  • Visiting Professor, Sciences Po, Paris, France, 2012
  • Boulton Senior Fellow, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2005-2006
  • Senior Fellow, Yale Law School & Yale University Genocide Studies Program, New Haven, USA, 2003-2005
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, 2002
  • Visiting Senior Lecturer & Senior Fellow, Leiden University, The Netherlands, 2000-2001
  • Visiting Lecturer, Yale Law School, New Haven, USA, 1998

Professional experience

  • Senior Associate, Debevoise & Plimpton, International Arbitration practice, New York, 2001-2002
  • 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

Notable cases

International Court of Justice

  • Maritime Boundary Dispute in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v Kenya)
  • Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v Chile)
  • Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan)
  • Case Concerning Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v Russian Federation)

International Criminal Court

  • Situation in Libya in the Case of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi
  • Situation in Uganda in the Case of Prosecutor v Joseph Kony and Others

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

  • Prosecutor v Ante Gotovina
  • Prosecutor v Tadić
  • Prosecutor v Erdemović

Permanent Court of Arbitration

  • Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and India in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh v India)
  • Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname (Guyana v Suriname)

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

  • Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar)

Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission

  • Prisoners of War Case
  • Central Front Case
  • Civilians Claims Case
  • Western Front, Aerial Bombardment and Related Claims Case   
  • Western and Eastern Fronts Case  
  • Diplomatic Claim Case
  • Loss of Property in Ethiopia Owned by Non-Residents Case
  • Jus Ad Bellum Case 

European Court of Human Rights

  • Perinçek v Switzerland
  • Akçam v Turkey

Supreme Court of the United States

  • Hamdi v Rumsfeld
  • Rumsfeld v Padilla

Supreme Court of Canada

  • Estate of Kazemi & Hashemi v Islamic Republic of Iran