Dr Ioana Cismas
Senior Lecturer



Ioana joined the York Law School and the Centre for Applied Human Rights as a senior lecturer in October 2017. 

Before joining York, Ioana lectured in the areas of international law and international human rights law at Stirling Law School (2015-2017).  Previously, she was a scholar-in-residence at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice of the New York University School of Law (2014) and coordinated and taught the Geneva Academy Law Clinic on Transitional Justice (2013). Between 2009-2013 she was a researcher/research fellow at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and worked on the intersection between economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights.

Ioana has provided legal and policy advice to United Nations mechanisms, governments, and non-governmental organizations. In 2013 she worked at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and served as consultant to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. From 2009 – 2012 she acted as legal advisor to a member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. In this latter capacity, she worked on discrimination in the context of the right to food and on noma (cancrum oris), a debilitating childhood disease affecting malnourished children. Several studies that she drafted for the Advisory Committee have been endorsed by the Human Rights Council.

Ioana holds a PhD in International Law (summa cum laude) from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.



Ioana's research falls within the broad area of international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as transitional justice and religion and law. In particular, her interest lies in examining the status and roles of different types of actors in international law and exploring through interdisciplinary research the intersections between legal accountability and legitimacy.

Her current research projects focus on gender, sexuality and human rights; the role of religious actors in generating respect for international humanitarian law; freedom of religion and freedom of association as intersecting rights in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; participation in v ownership of transitional justice processes in Sri Lanka, Colombia and Northern Ireland.

Ioana's research has won substantive grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Network of International Studies, as well as an award from the Academic Platform Switzerland – UN.


Ioana is happy to consider supervision of PhD dissertations in the following areas: 

  • Public International Law 
  • Human Rights Law (at international, regional, domestic levels, and in particular economic, social and cultural rights) 
  • International Humanitarian Law 
  • International Criminal Law 
  • Transitional Justice 
  • Law and Religion 
  • International Organisations (especially issues regarding accountability) 
  • Non-State Actors & Human Rights (including business and human rights)


Full publications list


Religious Actors and International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 

Recent Journal Articles and Book Chapters (single authored unless otherwise stated)

'Remedy Without Binding Law: Curiosities from the World of Business and Human Rights' in James Summers (ed.), Non-State Actors and International Obligations (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, forthcoming 2018), 27pp (with Sarah Macrory).

'The Position of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Abortion: Not Too Bad, Ugly, or Just Confusing?' in Turan Kayaoglu and Marie Juul Petersen (eds.), The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Human Rights: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, in press, forthcoming 2017), 34 pp.

'Reflections on the Presence and Absence of Religious Actors in Transitional Justice Processes: On Legitimacy and Accountability' in Roger Duthie and Paul Seils (eds.) Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies (New York: ICTJ, 2017), 302 – 343.

'Whose Right and Who's Right? The US Supreme Court v. The European Court of Human Rights on Corporate Exercise of Religion', 34Boston University International Law Journal 1 (2016), 2 – 44 (with Stacy Cammarano).

'The Child's Best Interests and Religion: A Case Study of the Holy See's Best Interests Obligations and Clerical Child Sexual Abuse', in Elaine E. Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Macfarlane Barnes (eds.), Implementing Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Best Interests, Welfare and Well-being, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 310 – 325.

'Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Cambodia: Where Do (Human Rights) Law and Practice Meet?', 6 Revue internationale de politique de développement / International Development Policy 1 (2015), 231 – 246 (with Patricia Paramita).

'The Role of the UN Special Rapporteur in the Development of the Right to Food: Legitimation Through Clarification?' in Marco Gestri (ed.). Cibo e Diritto: Dalla Dichiarazione Universale alla Carta di Milano (Modena: Stem Muchi editore, 2015), 45 – 56.

'The Intersection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights', in Eibe Riedel, Gilles Giacca, and Christophe Golay (eds.), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Contemporary Issues and Challenges (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 448 – 472.

'The Right to Food Beyond De-Mythification: Time to Shed the Inferiority Complex of Socio-Economic Rights', 5 Global Policy 4 (2014), 474 – 476.

'Introductory Note to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of the Holy See', 53 International Legal Materials 3 (2014), 580 – 596.

'The Integration of Human Rights in Bilateral and Plurilateral Free Trade Agreements: Arguments for a Coherent Relationship with Reference to the Swiss Context', 21 Currents: International Trade Law Journal 2 (2013), 3 – 20.

'The Impact of UN Special Procedures on the Development and Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights', 15 International Journal of Human Rights 2 (2011), 299 – 318 (with Christophe Golay and Claire Mahon).

'Introductory Note to the Statute of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission', 5 International Legal Materials 6 (2011), 1148 – 1160.

'Secession in Theory and Practice: The Case of Kosovo and Beyond', 2 Goettingen Journal of International Law 2 (2010), 531 – 587.

'The OSCE in the European Security Environment – Questioning the Compatibility of Goal and Structure', in Zlatko Sabic et al (eds.), Global Impact of Regional International Organizations (Wroclaw: Adam Marszalek, 2009), 49 – 75.

Legal opinions, amici curiae, commissioned studies

Amicus Brief – Human Rights and Climate Change. Submission in Support of Petitioners, Petition Requesting an Investigation of the Responsibility of the Carbon Majors for Human Rights Violations or Threats of Violations Resulting from the Impacts of Climate Change, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines Case No.: CHR-NI-2016-0001 (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, 2017), 26pp (with Annalisa Savaresi and Jacques Hartmann).

Concept Note in Support of the Inclusion of Noma (Cancrum Oris) on the World Health Organization List of Neglected Tropical Diseases (Commissioned by the Government of Namibia, 2016), 6 pp. (with Marie-Solène Adamou Moussa-Pham).

The Intersection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights: Lessons from Other Jurisdictions and Opportunities for the Swiss Context (Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, 2012), 37 pp.

The Better Integration of Human Rights in the Negotiations of Bilateral Free Trade Agreements of Switzerland (Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, 2011), 31 pp. (with Christophe Golay).

Legal Opinion: The Right to Property from a Human Rights Perspective, (Montreal: International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, 2010), 31 pp. (with Christophe Golay).



Ioana convenes Applying International Human Rights Law in the autumn semester and contributes to Defending Human Rights. In the spring, she convenes the optional module Modern Actors of International Law.

External activities


Ioana is a member of the Task Force on Noma, which advocates the inclusion of noma (cancrum oris) on the World Health Organization list of neglected tropical diseases and co-chairperson of the Working Group on Noma in the Digital Age part of the Geneva Health Forum 2018.

Ioana Cismas

Contact details

Dr Ioana Cismas
Senior Lecturer
Centre for Applied Human Rights
University of York
6 Innovation Close
YO10 5ZF

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325833

Office Hours

Fridays, 10:30-12:00 (or by appointment)

(Spring term 2019)