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 2016, he was appointed a Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration established under the 1899 Hague Convention on the Pacific Settlement of Disputes. In 2017, he delivered the CBC Massey Lectures, In Search of a Better World. A Human Rights Odyssey, which ran from September 13 to October 4 in five different Canadian cities. His companion book was the number one bestseller (non-fiction) in Canada.
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.