Development & Alumni Relations Office 


24 August 2017

Queen’s graduate Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, who has dedicated her career to promoting people’s rights around the world, has recently been appointed to a new position by the United Nations (UN).

Renowned in the field of international and human rights law, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (LLB 1991) is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on conflict resolution and gender-based violence in conflict.

At the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council (6-23 June 2017), the UN appointed Professor Ní Aoláin to the new position of UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism. The role involves working with selected countries to investigate, report on and advocate for citizens’ rights, especially in places where there’s concern that these are being violated.

Professor Ní Aoláin is concurrently the Dorsey and Whitney Chair in Law at the University of Minnesota Law School and Professor of Law and Associate Director at Ulster University’s Transitional Justice Institute.

Born in Dublin and raised in Connemara, Professor Ní Aoláin was named as a Regents Professor of Law by the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota. The designation, granted in June, is the highest level of recognition given to faculty by U of M.

The Regents Professorship recognises the national and international prominence of U of M faculty members and those who have made unique contributions through exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research and scholarship or creative work and contributions to the public good. Professor Ní Aoláin’s addition brings the current number of Regents Professorships up to 30.

Ms Ní Aoláin has held several top academic administrative posts since joining the U of M faculty in 2004, including Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society, faculty director of the Human Rights Center, and associate dean of the Law School. She is also an affiliated faculty member in the U of M Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts. During her academic career in the US, she has raised nearly $21 million in individual and institutional research funding.

Since 2010, she has served as chair of the Women’s Rights Program of the Open Society Foundations, which has distributed approximately $8 million annually to advance women’s rights around the world.

Professor Ní Aoláin is a regular contributor to and Executive Editor of Just Security, an online forum for the rigorous analysis of U.S. national security law and policy. Just Security provides commentary and analysis on the latest developments occurring at the intersection of national security, rights, and liberties.

She has published extensively in the fields of emergency powers, conflict regulation, transitional justice, and sex-based violence in times of war. Her eight books and almost 80 articles and essays have won academic awards on both sides of the Atlantic. Her first book, The Politics of Force, was based on research that identified patterns in the use of force by state agents during the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland. It received significant attention and is said to have been crucial to framing accountability debates that followed through the 1990s and has been considered instrumental to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Her book Law in Times of Crisis, written with Professor Oren Gross (CUP 2006) was awarded the American Society of International Law’s preeminent prize in 2007 – the Certificate of Merit for creative scholarship. She is co-author of On the Frontlines: Gender, War and the Post Conflict Process (OUP 2011), and the Handbook on Gender and Conflict (OUP, 2017).

Professor Ní Aoláin is the recipient of numerous academic awards and honours including a Fulbright scholarship, the Alon Prize, the Robert Schumann Scholarship, a European Commission award, and the Lawlor Fellowship.

The UN and the Irish government have called regularly on Professor Ní Aoláin’s expertise. In the 1990s, she was a representative for the prosecutor at the International War Crimes trial in Bosnia. And in 2003, the UN named her as a Special Expert on promoting gender equality in times of conflict and peace-making.

Nominated twice by the Irish Government as Judge to the European Court of Human Rights (2004 & 2007), she was appointed to the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law in 2010 for a three-year term. Professor Ní Aoláin is also Board Chair of the Open Society’s Women’ Program, and serves on the Board of the Center for Victims of Torture and the Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security. She was elected to the American Law Institute in 2016.

She is a member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and a former member of the Irish Human Rights Commission.

Most recently, and in her capacity as an observer at the pre-trial hearing at the Guantánamo Bay holding camp Professor Ní Aoláin has said that the legal processes and the human rights of the five men accused of plotting the attacks of September 11, 2001 are being violated.

To find out more about supporting the School of Law at Queen’s please contact Naomi King.

General inquiries to Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office; tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.



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