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Ioana Cismas



Dr Ioana Cismas
MA International Affairs (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva); PhD International Law (summa cum laude) (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva)

Senior Lecturer & Joint Programme Leader

I joined York Law School and the Centre for Applied Human Rights as a senior lecturer in October 2017. I co-convene the LLM in International Human Rights Law & Practice.  

Before coming to York, I lectured in international law and international human rights law at Stirling Law School (2015-2017). Prior to that, I 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, I was a researcher/research fellow at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

I have provided legal and policy advice to United Nations mechanisms, governments, and non-governmental organizations. In 2013, I 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, I acted as legal advisor to a member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. In this latter capacity, I 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 I drafted for the Advisory Committee have been endorsed by the Human Rights Council.



Dr Ioana Cismas’ 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 leaders in generating respect for humanitarian norms in armed conflict; overlaps and tensions between participation and ownership in transitional justice processes; and noma, human rights and global health.

Ioana's research has won grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Network of International Studies, an award from the Academic Platform Switzerland – UN, and IAA ESRC responsive mode funding.

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)


Selected publications

A full list of publications is available on my profile page in the York Research Database (click on the link above).

Selected Publications (single authored unless otherwise stated)


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

Recent Journal Articles and Book Chapters

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

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).
  • 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).



  • The Modern Actors of International Law (module coordinator)


  • Applying International Human Rights Law (module coordinator)
  • The Modern Actors of International Law (module coordinator)
  • Human Rights Placement (module co-cordinator)

External activities


  • International Law Association (US and Swiss branches). Member of the ILA International Human Rights Law Committee (2016). In 2017, Ioana was elected to the ILA Committee on Human Rights in Times of Emergency. 
  • European Society of International Law 
  • American Society of International Law
  • Society of Legal Scholars

Contact details

Dr Ioana Cismas
York Law School
Centre for Applied Human Rights, 6 Innovation Close
YO10 5ZF

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 5833