Karima Bennoune specializes in public international law and international human rights law, including issues related to culture, to extremism and terrorism, and to women’s human rights. She currently serves as the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, a post she has held since November 2015. Bennoune also served as an expert for the International Criminal Court in 2017 during the reparations phase of the groundbreaking case The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi , concerning intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites in Mali. Since 2018, she has been a member of the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law. A former legal advisor for Amnesty International, she has carried out human rights missions in most regions of the world.
During academic year 2021-22, Bennoune is visiting from the University of California, Davis School of Law where she holds the Homer G. Angelo and Ann Berryhill Endowed Chair in International Law, and is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law. Previously, she taught at the Rutgers School of Law-Newark where she was professor of law and Arthur L. Dickson Scholar, and received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award.
Her courses have included International Law; International Protection of Human Rights; Terrorism and International Law; Transnational Law; Women’s Human Rights; Gender, Sexuality and International Human Rights Law; the United Nations Human Rights Practicum; and a course called Law and the Arab Spring which drew from her fieldwork in North Africa. When Professor Bennoune first taught at the University of Michigan Law School in 2001, she won the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in teaching.
Her book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, was the winner of the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction. Released by W.W. Norton & Company in August 2013 and in paperback in 2014, the book addresses the work of many people of Muslim heritage against extremism and terrorism. The related field research took her to numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Pakistan and Russia. The TED talk based on the book, “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism,” has received more than 1.4 million views.
Her academic publications have appeared in many leading journals, including the American Journal of International Law, the Berkeley Journal of International Law, the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, and the European Journal of International Law. They have been widely cited, including on Slate, in the Nation magazine, the Dallas Morning News, and the Christian Science Monitor, as well as by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the UN Special Rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Her article, “Terror/Torture,” was designated one of the top 10 global security law review articles of 2008 by Oxford University Press. Her topical writing has been published by The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, Open Democracy and Reuters.
She has given many keynote addresses and lectured around the world, including at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Harvard Law School, NYU School of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law, the University of Virginia School of Law and the Yale Law School as well as for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in the U.S., and the UN Department of Political Affairs, UNESCO, NATO, the University of London, the London School of Economics, Oxford University, the Australian National University, the Sydney Writer’s Festival, the National Conference on Discrimination in Malaysia, the Feminist Leadership Institute in Senegal, CODESRIA (The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa), the Canadian Department of Justice, the first ever Cultural Summit of the Americas and the Second Istanbul Conference on Democracy and Global Security. Making frequent media appearances, Bennoune has spoken on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC, Fox TV, National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio, the Australian Broadcasting Service, BBC Radio, CBC-Radio, HuffPost Live, Radio France Internationale and the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, and has been interviewed by many publications, including Charlie Hebdo, the Christian Science Monitor, the Guardian and the International Herald Tribune.
In 2007, Professor Bennoune became the first Arab-American to win the Derrick Bell Award from the Association of American Law Schools Section on Minority Groups. She received the 2016 Rights and Leadership Award from the International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law (IANGEL). In 2017, she was named one of the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America. She has served as a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law. Currently, she sits on the Scholar Advisory Board of Muslims for Progressive Values.