Karima Bennoune


Position Title
Homer G. Angelo and Ann Berryhill Endowed Chair and Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law

2112 King Hall

Karima Bennoune holds the Homer G. Angelo and Ann Berryhill Endowed Chair in International Law and is Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law.  She 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.  Bennoune served as the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights from 2015-2021. She was appointed 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 a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School.  Before coming to UC Davis Law School, 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.

Professor Bennoune's 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 many 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 nearly 1.5 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 TimesSan 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, CNN International, 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 Monitorthe 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.

You can follow her on Twitter at: @karimabennoune.


Education and Degree(s)
  • 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
Honors and Awards
  • 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
Research Interests & Expertise
  • International Law
  • International Human Rights
  • Terrorism and Counterterrorism
  • Religious Extremism
  • Women's Rights


Reports to United Nations

Universality, cultural diversity and cultural rights, A/73/227 (2018)

Fundamentalism, extremism and the cultural rights of women, A/72/155 (2017)

Intentional destruction of cultural heritage A/71/317 (2016)

Books and Articles

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 http://lcnp.org/wcourt/2008.Geneva.Conf.papers.pdf, 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 Schools in 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)).