Leila Sadat

Leila Sadat


James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law

Contact Information
Media Contact

Leila Sadat is an internationally renowned human rights expert specializing in international criminal law, public international law and foreign affairs.

The James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law at Washington University School of Law and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute since 2007, she is a devoted teacher and award-winning scholar, publishing more than 100 books, articles and essays in leading journals, academic presses and media outlets throughout the world.

In December 2012, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda appointed her as Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity. Earlier that year she was elected to membership in the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. In 2011, she was awarded the Alexis de Tocqueville Distinguished Fulbright Chair in Paris, France, the first woman to receive such an honor.

In 2008, Sadat launched the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, an international effort to study the problem of crimes against humanity and draft a global treaty addressing their punishment and prevention. The draft treaty is now available in seven languages and is currently being debated by the UN International Law Commission and governments around the world. From 2001-2003 Sadat was a member of the U. S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

In the media

First They Came For Me and My Colleagues: The U.S. Attack on the Int’l Criminal Court

International lawyers and legal scholars sometimes treat the ICC as fundamentally different than other international institutions and regulatory regimes. It is not. It is an integral part of the global legal order, an order that promotes international peace and security for all, including Americans, writes Leila Sadat.

Stories

WashU Expert: Soleimani killing likely unlawful

WashU Expert: Soleimani killing likely unlawful

Many questions remain following the Jan. 3 death of Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s potential retaliation. Chief among them: Was the strike legal? “Unless there is much more to the story than meets the eye, the answer seems to be no,” said Leila Sadat, director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute and an expert on international criminal law.
Protect our human rights, not gun rights

Protect our human rights, not gun rights

Missouri voters have shown they care about their human rights, and that they want the Legislature to adopt the kind of reasonable gun control measures the state had throughout most of its history. The Legislature must do so before a tragedy in this state becomes just another grisly episode on the nightly news.
WashU Expert: Trump Administration ‘war’ against The Hague not over

WashU Expert: Trump Administration ‘war’ against The Hague not over

The Trump Administration announced the U.S. will deny or revoke visas for International Criminal Court staff, a move aimed at deterring a potential investigation by the court into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The decision represents a rejection of the international rule of law, said Leila Sadat, director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute.
Global Trumpism, Week 35: Celebrating peace in the shadow of the mushroom cloud

Global Trumpism, Week 35: Celebrating peace in the shadow of the mushroom cloud

Today is the International Day of Peace at the United Nations. It is celebrated with a theme, with meetings, with videos, and is undertaken each year with a view to bringing the voice of peace into the halls of the United Nations during the Organization’s plenary opening sessions each year. It is a beautiful event. I had the opportunity to be present the day before to moderate an important event on the eve of International Peace Day entitled “Completing the Legacy of Nuremberg: Activating the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court Over the Crime of Aggression in 2017.”
WashU Expert: ISIS genocide declaration key step on road to prosecution

WashU Expert: ISIS genocide declaration key step on road to prosecution

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this week said that the United States has determined ISIS’ actions against Yazidis and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria constitute genocide. The allegations of genocide by the United States government reinforce similar findings made last year by United Nations bodies and provide a clear path for ISIS leaders to be tried in international and domestic courts for their crimes, said Leila Sadat, an expert on crimes against humanity in the School of Law.
WashU Expert: Congress should work with Obama to close Gitmo

WashU Expert: Congress should work with Obama to close Gitmo

President Barack Obama this week announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The decision to open the facility in the first place was a bad idea in theory, made even worse in practice, said Leila Sadat, professor of law and renowned expert on international criminal law.

WashU Expert: Syrian civil war should be referred to International Criminal Court

The Syrian civil war began in 2011. Its spread since that time has caused refugees to spill across its borders and created a fertile environment for the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). How can the international community get a handle on a conflict that already has claimed some 220,000 lives? One possible solution is to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, says Leila Sadat, PhD, an expert in international criminal law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Global conference to address social, psychological harm of colorism

Colorism, the practice of discrimination based on skin tone, even among people of color, is rarely addressed publicly and is uniquely different from racism. The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law will address this growing international issue in what organizers believe is the first international colorism conference on U.S. soil. The conference, “Global Perspectives on Colorism,” will be held Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3, in Anheuser-Busch Hall.

Creator of landmark sex equality laws and crusader against sex trafficking to close out Assembly Series’ fall program

The Washington University Assembly Series and the School of Law Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series will close their fall 2013 program schedules on Thursday, Nov. 14, with an address by Catharine MacKinnon, one of the principal architects of landmark sex equality laws in the United States, and more currently known as an internationally successful litigator against sex crimes and human trafficking. MacKinnon will speak on “Trafficking, Prostitution and Inequality” at noon in the Anheuser-Busch Hall Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom.

Law school hosts International Law Weekend – Midwest Regional Conference

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University’s School of Law will host the International Law Weekend – Midwest Regional conference Sept. 19-21. The theme for this year’s conference is “The Legal Challenges of Globalization: A View from the Heartland” and the panels presented at this conference will address a broad range of topics, emphasizing the impact of international law and globalization on the Midwest.

Crimes against humanity must be prosecuted for International Criminal Court to succeed

Successful prosecutions of crimes against humanity must occur at the International Criminal Court if it is to succeed in its mandate to punish perpetrators of atrocities and deter others from committing such crimes, argues Leila Sadat, JD, international law expert and WUSTL professor. Her research, arguments and analysis are published in the latest issue of the American Journal of International Law.

Drones may violate international law

As President Obama gives a speech on national security — including defending U.S. use of drones to combat terrorism — Leila Sadat, JD, international law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, argues that such targeted killing by unmanned planes may violate international humanitarian law. Legalities aside, she also questions whether it promotes U.S. interests abroad.

Sadat appointed special adviser on crimes against humanity

Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, added another international honor to her resumé recently when she was appointed special adviser on Crimes Against Humanity by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Atrocities Prevention Board could significantly change U.S. foreign policy

President Barack Obama recently announced the establishment of an Atrocities Prevention Board as part of his comprehensive strategy to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. “For the first time, the National Intelligence Council will prepare an estimate on the global risk of mass atrocities and genocide,” says Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, international law expert and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. “By sensitizing the diplomatic and intelligence communities to atrocities risk and systematizing responses to potential crises, the policies of the Atrocities Prevention Board could significantly change in U.S. foreign policy,” she says.

Sadat book wins international award

Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, recently received the 2011 Book of the Year Award from the American National Section of L’Association Internationale de Droit Pénal (AIDP) for Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity.

Violence in Syria, Libya underscores need for convention on crimes against humanity

The violence against peaceful protesters in Libya and Syria drives home the need for an international convention for the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity, says Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, international law expert and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law. “The concerted efforts of the international community have helped to bring about a resolution of the Libyan situation, but the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate,” she says. “Reports of civilian roundups in Syria are reminiscent of Nazi roundups of the Jews during WWII. History shows that widespread human rights abuses lead to ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and even genocide.”

Despite pivotal post-WWII role in developing legal frameworks, United States appears threatened by international law

With over a dozen states considering banning Sharia (Islamic law) in their courts, laws governing other countries are facing increased scrutiny. “This is emblematic of U.S. fears about international law,” says Leila Nadya Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. “International law has become a ‘whipping boy’ for the ills that are being felt because of globalization.” Sadat say that this is unfortunate because the United States proudly led the trial of the major German leaders at the end of World War II at Nuremberg. “In fact, the entire post-World War II framework of modern international law was, if not an American creation, at least American inspired and American driven,” she says.

Crimes Against Humanity Initiative releases final text of proposed international treaty

The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative at the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law recently released the text of a proposed multilateral treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, director of the initiative, says that this is the first time that such a convention has been drafted.

Crimes Against Humanity Initiative unveils international treaty draft (UPDATED 4/15/10)

Top international criminal law experts will unveil and discuss a draft of a multilateral treaty condemning and prohibiting crimes against humanity during a conference March 11 and 12 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The treaty is the culmination of a two-year Crimes Against Humanity Initiative at the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. UPDATE: View the Declaration on the Need for a Comprehensive Convention on Crimes Against Humanity (including a list of supporters).  

International law expert comments on status of Guantanamo Bay detainees

SadatThe Supreme Court’s recent ruling giving the Guantanamo Bay detainees the right of habeas corpus “underscores the commitment of the United States to be governed by the rule of law even during times of national stress, and is a courageous response to the overreaching policies of the executive branch, buttressed by a compliant Republican Congress, that have caused world-wide criticism of U.S. interrogation and detention policies,” says Leila N. Sadat, expert on international law and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. Sadat, the director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute, is the author of the leading treatise on the international criminal court, “The International Criminal Court and the Transformation of International Law: Justice for the New Millennium,” and is closely following the status of the detainees at Guantanamo.

Crimes Against Humanity project to draft international treaty

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute of the School of Law announced a two-year project to study the international law regarding crimes against humanity and to draft a multilateral treaty condemning and prohibiting such crimes. Leila Sadat, J.D., the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Harris Institute, recently convened the […]

Harris World Law Institute kicks off landmark Crimes Against Humanity Project

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute of Washington University School of Law announced a two-year project to study the international law regarding crimes against humanity and to draft a multilateral treaty condemning and prohibiting such crimes. Leila Sadat, J.D., the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Harris Institute, recently convened the first meeting of the project’s steering committee.

Media advisory – Interview and photo opportunity

Richard J. Goldstone, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and former Justice of the South African Constitutional Court, will receive the 2008 World Peace Through Law Award from the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. Goldstone was chairperson of South Africa’s Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation Justice (the Goldstone Commission) and chairperson of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo. He also served on the panel investigating the U.N. “Oil for Food” program in Iraq. Goldstone is available for interviews throughout the day.

WUSTL conference examines legacy of Nazi war trials Sept. 29-Oct. 1

The Nuremberg trials of major Nazi war criminals spawned the idea of international human rights, but have the principles endured? Leading scholars from Washington University in St. Louis will join former Nuremberg prosecutors and distinguished experts on international criminal justice to examine the legacy of the war trials and their impact on international law, the judicial system and world peace. The conference, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” marks the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials and will take place Sept. 29-Oct. 1 on the Washington University campus.

Judgment at Nuremberg 60 Years Later

The Nuremberg trials still hold relevance today.The Nuremberg trials and the atrocities they revealed shocked the world 60 years ago and continue to resonate with increasing relevance. Yet, the Nuremberg principles have been implemented neither perfectly nor completely, according to a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Scholars from Washington University join other distinguished experts on international criminal justice, and the trials’ three surviving U.S. prosecutors, to examine the legacy of Nuremberg and its impact on international law, the judicial system, and world peace. More…

Is the Saddam Hussein trial one of the most important court cases of all time? Not necessarily, says international law expert

Sadat”In arguing that the Saddam Hussein trial is a ‘Trial of the Century,’ some experts appear to be suggesting that media interest is tantamount to success, importance and legitimacy. This is a mistake,” says Leila N. Sadat, expert on international law and international war crimes tribunals and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “Criminal trials, whether of important and notorious individuals, or of small-time offenders accused of petty crimes, are nothing more than show trials, unless three criteria are met: The judges must be independent, well-qualified and impartial; the accused must be properly and effectively represented; and the proceedings must be fair. Using these criteria, it is difficult not to be skeptical about the fairness, and therefore the ultimate significance, of the trial of Saddam Hussein.”

Is the Iraqi Special Tribunal and the case against the former Iraqi dictator credible? International law expert available for comment

HusseinFor the past 18 months, the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) for Crimes Against Humanity has emitted conflicting signals regarding the means and process by which it will ultimately bring Saddam Hussein to trial. “While it is not possible to predict the ultimate outcome of the current proceedings against Hussein, there is no doubt that skepticism remains as to the Iraqi Special Tribunal’s credibility and legitimacy,” says Leila N. Sadat, expert on international law and international war crimes tribunals and the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. “The IST’s decision to take up the Dujail case first, and the establishment of the IST itself, raise very interesting questions of international criminal law and procedure.”

Iraqi abuse known to world long before U.S. public, says international law expert

Sadat”The story of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison is shocking, and certainly requires a full investigation, and perhaps the criminal prosecution of some of those either directly or indirectly responsible,” says Leila N. Sadat, vice-president and co-director of studies of the American branch of the International Law Association. “However, one thing the story is not, is new. While leading an International Bar Association training program for Iraqi lawyers, judges and prosecutors in Dubai in February, I saw a story on CNN International which reported that 17 soldiers had been relieved of command due to allegations of torture and abuse. Sadat comments on her discussions with Iraqi lawyers as well as the treatment of civilians in the prison.

“Iraqi Special Tribunal” a mistake, says international law expert

SadatShould Saddam Hussein be tried through an “Iraqi Special Tribunal” or a U.N. Tribunal? This topic will be heavily debated in the aftermath of Saddam’s capture. Leila Sadat, international law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, says the U.S. government’s push for a local Iraqi tribunal rather than a U.N Tribunal is a mistake. “The international community needs to support Iraq through this process, not abandon its responsibilities for Iraq’s successful reconstruction, one of which is the need for justice and accountability,” says Sadat. She outlined her views on the subject in a Dec. 16 commentary in USA Today. Sadat is available to discuss her views on the trial of Saddam and other international law issues surrounding trials of heads of state.

President Bush and the future of Iraq

SadatLeila Sadat, professor of law at Washington University and one of the country’s leading experts in international and comparative law, discusses Bush’s address before the UN’s General Assembly and his proposals for the future of Iraq with Mike Sampson of KWMU’s St. Louis on the Air on Sept. 23. Listen to the program from the KWMU Web site.

War crimes

SadatInternational lawyers, human rights advocates, top government officials and, most recently, the U.S. House of Representatives have urged that Saddam Hussein and other top Iraqi leaders be indicted for the massive atrocities they have committed during the past two decades. Leila Nadya Sadat, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on international war crimes tribunals, notes that the current military action could make effective and legitimate war crimes prosecutions much more difficult.