20 November, 2023. The Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute (HRI) is thrilled to announce the election of Professor Sarah Cleveland to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

Professor Cleveland has been the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and the Faculty Co-Director of HRI since 2007. HRI is the anchor for human rights at Columbia Law, and advances education, research, and advocacy. At HRI, Professor Cleveland has co-led a range of initiatives, including related to human rights and armed conflict, and human rights in the United States, and has mentored countless students. With her HRI colleagues, she has built HRI as a globally-leading center for human rights. 

Professor Cleveland has trained generations of students and taught many courses at Columbia Law, including on human rights law, civil procedure, international law, social and economic rights, foreign relations law, the International Court of Justice, the UN Human Rights Committee, global media freedom, and international lawyering. Her extensive expertise in international law, constitutional law, and human rights law has not only enriched the academic landscape but has also provided crucial support to students navigating the complexities of international human rights.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Professor Cleveland has been elected to a nine year term, to start 2024, and she will become one of 15 judges from around the world. The ICJ hears legal disputes between states as well as requests for advisory opinions on legal issues. Currently pending cases include: alleged violations of state immunities (Iran vs Canada); obligations of states in respect of climate change; and application of the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v Myanmar).

Professor Cleveland’s election to the ICJ builds on her exceptional career of service to international law. She was a vice chair and member of the UN Human Rights Committee from 2015-2018, and was the US observer member and member of the Venice Commission on the Council of Europe from 2010-2019. From 2009-2011, she was the counselor on international law to the legal advisor at the US Department of State. She is a former Rhodes Scholar and served as a law clerk to the US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.