Prof. Ní Aoláin Appointed to U.N. Human Rights Post

June 27, 2017

The United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, University Regents Professor and holder of the Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy, and Society, as the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism. In this role, Ní Aoláin will be charged with making recommendations on safeguarding human rights while countering terrorism and, at the request of states, providing advisory services or technical assistance on such matters; investigating and reporting on alleged violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms; identifying and promoting best practices on counterterrorism measures that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms; and reporting regularly to the Human Rights Council and the U.N. General Assembly, among other duties. The appointment has a three-year term. She will continue her full-time teaching and research at the University of Minnesota while serving as Special Rapporteur.  

Ní Aoláin’s involvement with the United Nations dates back to 2003, when she was appointed by the secretary-general as Special Expert on promoting gender equality in times of conflict and peacemaking. She also consults regularly with U.N. Women and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Council of Europe, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.K. Department of International Development, and numerous domestic and international NGOs. She focuses her scholarship on the application of national security law to regulating terrorism, resolving accountability and political disputes in post-conflict societies, peace building, and transitional justice. Her contributions to the feminist analysis of international law are considered groundbreaking. In addition to her professorial posts, Ní Aoláin is the faculty director of the Law School’s Human Rights Center and the co-founder and associate director of the Transnational Justice Institute at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland.

“Professor Ní Aoláin stands at the epicenter of scholarly innovation, policy influence, and reputation in her field,” said Dean Garry W. Jenkins. “Her scholarship and writing have shaped the disciplines of law, political science, and public policy around the world. But it is her passion for service—to the Law School, the University, and to the global community, particularly its most vulnerable and threatened members—that truly sets her apart. Fionnuala has the intellect, experience, temperament, and determination to make tremendous strides toward peace and justice in this post. We are thrilled the U.N. will benefit from her public service.”

“I am deeply honored to take on this role at a critical time for the global protection of human rights,” said Ní Aoláin. “Never has the struggle for individual and collective rights been more important and the challenges we face so real and pressing. As Special Rapporteur, I look forward to working with governments, my colleagues at the United Nations, and human rights defenders to advance the dignity and equality of each individual.”

Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin
Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

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