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Karima Bennoune

Professor of Law


J.D., cum laude, University of Michigan Law School 1994

M.A. Middle Eastern and North African Studies, University of Michigan 1994

Graduate Certificate, Women's Studies, University of Michigan 1994

B.A. History and Semiotics, Brown University 1988


Karima Bennoune graduated from a joint program in law and Middle Eastern and North African studies at the University of Michigan, earning a J.D. cum laude from the law school and an M.A. from the Rackham Graduate School, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies.

In 1995, she served as a Center for Women’s Global Leadership delegate to the NGO Forum at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing where she provided legal advice to the Tribunal for Global Accountability for Violations of Women’s Human Rights. From 1995 until 1999 she was based in London as a legal adviser at Amnesty International.

She came to UC Davis from Rutgers School of Law – Newark where she was Professor of Law and Arthur L. Dickson Scholar, and taught international law and human rights for ten years. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award at Rutgers University–Newark. Bennoune’s courses have included International Law, International Protection of Human Rights, Terrorism and International Law, Women’s Human Rights and a course called Law and the Arab Spring which drew from her fieldwork in North Africa. Professor Bennoune has also been a visiting scholar and visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School where she won the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in teaching.

In November 2015, Bennoune was named the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. Her first report to the UN Human Rights Council can be viewed here . A more recent report on the intentional destruction of cultural heritage can be viewed here .

Her publications have appeared in many leading academic journals, including the American Journal of International Law, the Berkeley Journal of International Law, the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, the European Journal of International Law, and the Michigan 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.

She has lectured around the world, including at Harvard Law School, NYU School of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law, the University of Virginia School of Law and the Yale Law School in the U.S., as well as for the UN Department of Political Affairs, the University of London, the London School of Economics, the University of Oslo, the Australian National University, the Sydney Writer’s Festival, the Feminist Leadership Institute in Senegal, CODESRIA (The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa), 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, CBC-Radio, HuffPost Live, and the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, and has been interviewed by the International Herald Tribune and The Guardian.

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 recently received the 2016 Rights and Leadership Award from the International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law (

She has served as a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law and on the board of directors of Amnesty International USA. Currently, she sits on the Board of the Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws and is on the Scholar Advisory Board of Muslims for Progressive Values.

Karima Bennoune has also been a consultant on human rights issues for the International Council on Human Rights Policy, the Soros Foundation, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, and for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Her human rights field missions have included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Korea, southern Thailand, and Tunisia. In 2009-2010 she was one of a group of international experts assembled by Leiden University, under the auspices of the Dutch Foreign Ministry, to develop a new set of policy recommendations on counter-terrorism and international law.

She traveled to Algeria in February 2011 to serve as an observer at pro-democracy protests with the support of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, writing a series of articles about these events for The Guardian. The articles were picked up by the websites of the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Al Jazeera, among others.  In October 2011, she volunteered as an election observer during the Tunisian constituent assembly elections with the Dutch NGO Gender Concerns International. Most recently, her writing has been published by The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and Reuters.

Professor Bennoune's book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, is the winner of the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction. Released by W.W. Norton & Company in August 2013, the book addresses resistance to fundamentalism in Muslim majority contexts. The field research for this book took her to many countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Mali, Niger and Russia.  The TED talk based on the book, “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism,” has received more than 1.3 million views.

Professor Bennoune is represented by SPEAK Peace, a speakers bureau for women peacebuilders. To inquire about a speaking engagement in the United States, please visit:

Subject Areas

International Law, International Human Rights, Terrorism and Counterterrorism, Religious Extremism, Women's Rights

Selected Career Highlights

  • UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
  • Professor of Law and Arthur L. Dickson Scholar, Rutgers School of Law-Newark
  • Visiting Professor and Scholar, University of Michigan Law School
  • Author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, winner of the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction
  • Recipient of the Derrick Bell Award from the Association of American Law Schools
  • Legal adviser at Amnesty International, London
  • Center for Women's Global Leadership delegate to the NGO Forum at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing
  • Article "Terror/Torture" was designated one of the top 10 global security law review articles of 2008 by Oxford University Press
  • Former member of the executive council of the American Society of International Law
  • Former member of the board of directors of Amnesty International USA

Selected Publications

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013).

All Necessary Measures?: Reconciling International Legal Regimes Governing Peace and Security and the Protection of Persons in the Realm of Counter-terrorism, in Counter-Terrorism Strategies, Human Rights and International Law: Meeting the Challenges, Larissa van den Herik and Nico Schrijver eds., Cambridge University Press, 2013

Productive Tensions?: Women’s Rights NGOs, the “Mainstream” Human Rights Movement, and International Law-Making, in Non-State Actors, Soft Law and Protective Regimes, Cecilia M. Bailliet ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012

Toward A More ‘Courageous Politics’: Talking about Muslim fundamentalism in the West in Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) , Dossier 30-31, The Struggle for Secularism in Europe and North America 257-268 (July 2011)

The Paradoxical Feminist Quest for Remedy: A Case Study of Jane Doe v. Islamic Salvation Front and Anwar Haddam, 11 Int’l Crim. L. Rev. 579-587 (2011).

Remembering the Other’s Others: Theorizing the Approach of International Law to Muslim Fundamentalism, 41 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 335-398 (2010).

Why Does It Matter If Women Are Human?: Catharine MacKinnon’s Contributions to International Law, 46 Tulsa L. Rev. 107 (2010).

The Intersection of Nuclear Weapons and International Human Rights Law, May 2009, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, available at , reprinted inVölkerrechtliche Pflicht zur nuklearen Abrüstung? 207-229 (Dieter Deiseroth ed. 2009).

The Law of the Republic Versus the “Law of the Brothers”: A Story of France’s Law Banning Religious Symbols in Public Schoolsin Human Rights Advocacy Stories 155-190 (Deena Hurwitz et al. eds., 2008). (Cited on Slate.) (Reprinted in Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Dossier 30-31, The Struggle for Secularism in Europe and North America 11-42 (July 2011)

Terror/Torture, 26 Berkeley J. Int’l. L. 1, 1-61 (2008). (Listed among SSRN’s Top Ten downloads for International & Comparative Law.)(Designated one of the Top Ten Global Justice Law Review Articles 2008 by Oxford University Press.) (Cited by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in UN Doc. A/64/211, Aug. 3, 2009, at note 21).

Secularism and Human Rights: A Contextual Analysis of Headscarves, Religious Expression and Women’s Equality Under International Law, 45 Colum. J. Transnat’l. L. 367, 367-426 (2007). (Cited in Lori Damrosch et al., International Law: Cases and Materials (5th ed., 2009)).

Do We Need New International Law to Protect Women in Armed Conflict?, 38 Case W. Res. J. Int’l. L. 363, 363-391 (2006-2007).

Book Review, J. Int’l. L. 490, 507-513 (2006) (reviewing Enforcing International Law Norms Against Terrorism (Andrea Bianchi ed., 2004)).

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a Tool for Combating Discrimination Against Women: General Observations and a Case Study on Algeria, 184 Int’l. Soc. Sci. J. 351, 351-369 (2005) (special issue to Commemorate Beijing Plus 10, entitled “Taking Stock: Women’s Empowerment Ten Years After Beijing”).

Making rights a reality: Violence Against Women in Armed Conflict, AI Index: ACT 77/050/2004 (Amnesty International, 2005) (Part of Stop Violence Against Women Campaign).

Toward a Human Rights Approach to Armed Conflict: Iraq 2003, 11 U.C. Davis J. Int’l. L. & Pol’y 171, 171-228 (2004).

Book Review, 14 Eur. J. Int’l. L. 387, 387-390 (2003) (reviewing Self-Determination in International Law (Robert McCorquodale ed., 2000) and Peoples’ Rights: The State of the Art (Philip Alston ed., 2001)).

Sovereignty vs. Suffering”?: Re-Examining Sovereignty and Human Rights Through the Lens of Iraq , 13 Eur. J. Int’l. L. 243, 243-262 (2002). (Cited by the British House of Commons Library: International Affairs and Defence Section, in Iraq: the debate on policy options, Research Paper 02/53, 20 September 2002, at pages 62 and 64

Book Review, 13 Eur. J. Int’l. L. 545, 545-550 (2002) (reviewing Alex Boraine, A Country Unmasked: Inside South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2000) and Richard Wilson, The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa (2001)).

The Optional Protocol to the Women’s Convention: Enabling women to claim their rights at the international level, AI Index: IOR 51/04/97 (Amnesty International, December 1997).

“A Practice Which Debases Everyone Involved”: Corporal Punishment Under International Law,in 20 Ans Consacrés À La Réalisation D’Une Idée: Recueil d’articles en l’honneur de Jean-Jacques Gautier (Association for the Prevention of Torture ed., 1997).

The Draft Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture: Developing an Effective Tool to Prevent Torture, AI Index: IOR 51/01/96 (Amnesty International, July 1996).

S.O.S. Algeria: Women’s Human Rights Under Siege, in Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World, 184-208 (Mahnaz Afkhami ed., 1995) (excerpted in Catherine MacKinnon, Sex Equality 469 (2001)). (Reprinted in Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), Dossier 18, 29-50 (July 1997)).

“Between Betrayal and Betrayal”: Fundamentalism, Family Law and Feminist Struggle in Algeria, 17 Arab Studies Quarterly 51-76 (Winter 1995). (Winner of 1994 Ziad Asali Student Scholar Award from the Association of Arab American University Graduates).

As-Salaamu Alaykum”?: Humanitarian Law in Islamic Jurisprudence, 15 Mich. J. Int’l. L. 605, 605-643 (1994). (Winner of the Scribes Award for Outstanding Legal Writing.) (Reprinted in The Library of Essays in International Law – International Law and Islamic Law 141 (Mashood Baderin ed., 2008)).