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Donia Human Rights Center Panel | The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 75: A time to Celebrate or to Mourn?

Steven Ratner, Bruno Simma Collegiate Professor of Law; Karima Bennoune, Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law; Christopher Fariss, Associate Professor of Political Science
Thursday, November 30, 2023
4:30-6:30 PM
1225 Jeffries Hall Map
Discussion featuring Steven Ratner, Karima Bennoune, and Christopher Fariss, with a light reception to follow.

Discussion: 4:30-6:00pm
Reception: 6:00-6:30pm

This December will mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A response to the catastrophe of the Second World War, the UDHR still represents the most significant and transformative global commitment to human rights. The anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on the Declaration's legacy and the significant obstacles to achieving its promise. Three human rights professors from within the University will discuss the hopes of the framers, evidence of concrete results, and current developments that call into question the commitment of key global actors to the rights in the UDHR.


Steven R. Ratner
Bruno Simma Collegiate Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School; Director, Donia Human Rights Center, University of Michigan

Steven R. Ratner is the Bruno Simma Collegiate Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. He teaches and writes in the field of public international law on a range of issues, including state and corporate duties regarding foreign investment, territorial and ethnic-based disputes, civil and interstate armed conflict, and accountability for human rights violations. He is also interested in the intersection of international law and political philosophy and other theoretical issues.

Ratner came to the Law School in 2004 from the University of Texas School of Law. A member of the board of editors of the American Journal of International Law from 1998 to 2008, he began his legal career as an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the US State Department.

In 1998–1999, the United Nations (UN) secretary-general appointed him to a three-person group of experts to consider options for bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice. And in 2010–2011, he was a member of the UN's three-person Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, which advised the secretary-general on human rights violations related to the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. Since 2022, he has been a commissioner on the UN Human Rights Council's three-person International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia.

Ratner also worked in the legal division of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva and at the Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in The Hague. From 2009 to 2021, he was a member of the State Department's Advisory Committee on International Law. He also is a counsellor of the American Society of International Law and a member of the American Law Institute. He has served as an expert on international investment law in various arbitrations and established. At the Law School, he directs the Geneva International Fellows Program.


Karima Bennoune
Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law, University of Michigan

Karima Bennoune, '94, is the Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. She specializes in public international law and international human rights law, including issues related to culture, extremism and terrorism, and women’s human rights.

Bennoune served as the UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights from 2015 to 2021. She also 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, which concerned intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites in Mali. In September 2023, she addressed the UN Security Council about gender apartheid in Afghanistan.

Since 2018, she has been a member of the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law (AJIL), and in 2021 she also joined the editorial team of AJIL Unbound, the journal’s electronic publication. A former legal adviser for Amnesty International, she has carried out human rights missions in most regions of the world.

From 2012 to 2022, Bennoune served on the faculty of the University of California, Davis School of Law, becoming the Homer G. Angelo and Ann Berryhill Endowed Chair in International Law and a Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law. Previously, she taught at the Rutgers School of Law-Newark, where she was professor of law and the Arthur L. Dickson Scholar. She received the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award.

Her courses have included International Law; International Protection of Human Rights; Terrorism and International Law; The Impact of 9/11 on 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. When Bennoune first taught at the University of Michigan Law School in 2001, she won the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in teaching.

Her book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, received 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 numerous 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 more than 1.5 million views.

Bennoune’s academic publications have appeared in many leading journals, including the American Journal of International Law, the Berkeley Journal of International Law, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, and the European Journal of International Law. They have been widely cited, including on Slate and in the Nation magazine, the Dallas Morning News, and the Christian Science Monitor, as well as by the UN Special Rapporteurs on violence against women and 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 Times, San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, Open Democracy, and Reuters.

Making frequent media appearances, Bennoune has spoken on CNN's “Anderson Cooper 360,” CNN International, MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” Fox Business News, National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio, the Australian Broadcasting Service, BBC Radio, CBC-Radio, HuffPost Live, Radio France Internationale, and the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" on PBS. She has been interviewed by many publications, including Charlie Hebdo, the Christian Science Monitor, the Guardian, and the International Herald Tribune.

In 2007, 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. In 2017, she was named one of the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America. She has been 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.


Christopher J. Fariss
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan
Faculty Associate, Center for Political Studies, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

Christopher Fariss is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Faculty Associate in the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan. In June 2013, he graduated with a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, San Diego. His core research focuses on the politics and measurement of human rights, discrimination, violence, and repression. He uses computational methods to understand why governments around the world torture, maim, and kill individuals within their jurisdiction and the processes monitors use to observe and document these abuses. Other projects cover a broad array of themes but share a focus on computationally intensive methods and research design. These methodological tools, essential for analyzing data at massive scale, open up new insights into the micro-foundations of state repression and the politics of measurement.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Jeffries Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: human rights
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Donia Human Rights Center, International Institute