Sarah Cleveland

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Sarah Cleveland

Sarah H. Cleveland is an American law professor and noted expert in international law and the constitutional law of U.S. foreign relations, with particular interests in the status of international law in U.S. domestic law, international and comparative human rights law, international humanitarian law, and national security.

Cleveland is the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights at Columbia Law School;[1] in 2014, she was nominated by the United States and elected to serve a four-year term as an independent expert on the U.N. Human Rights Committee, she is the Co-Coordinating Reporter of the American Law Institute’s project on the Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, and the U.S. Member on the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Education and Judicial Clerkships[edit]

Cleveland was awarded an A.B. with honors at Brown University in 1987 (Junior Phi Beta Kappa); an M.St. from Lincoln College, Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar), in 1989; and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1992.

Immediately after law school, she clerked for Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.

Notable Activities[edit]

In March 2014, Cleveland was nominated by the U.S. government to serve as an independent expert on the Human Rights Committee, the United Nations treaty body that monitors state implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The committee holds three month-long meetings each year to review state implementation of the multilateral treaty,[2] the states parties to the multilateral treaty elected her to the committee on June 24, 2014. Her four-year term on the committee begins on January 1, 2015.[3]

Cleveland is the U.S. Observer Member to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe,[4] a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on International Law, and a member of the American Law Institute, from 2009 to 2011, Cleveland served as the Counselor on International Law to the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State, where she supervised the office's legal work relating to the law of war, counterterrorism, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and assisted with its international human rights and international justice work, she continues to serve as a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on International Law and is a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, and a Council Member of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.

Cleveland has testified before Congress on U.S. terrorism detention policy, the relevance of international law in constitutional interpretation, and the interdiction of Haitian refugees, and has provided evidence to the U.K. Parliament, she is currently co-director of the Project on Harmonizing Standards for Armed Conflict, and has been involved in human rights litigation in the United States and before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Before joining the Columbia Law School faculty in 2007, she taught at the Harvard, University of Michigan, and University of Texas law schools, and at Oxford University.


Cleveland has written widely on issues of international law, human rights, and U.S. foreign relations law. She is a co-author of Louis Henkin's Human Rights casebook (2nd ed. 2009 and update 2013). Other scholarly writings include Defining and Punishing Offenses Under Treaties (forthcoming Yale L. J. 2015); After Kiobel (J. Int’l Crim. Justice 2014); The Kiobel Presumption and Extraterritoriality, 52 Colum. J. Transnat’l L. 8 (2013); Embedded International Law and the Constitution Abroad (Colum. L. Rev. 2010); Our International Constitution (Yale J. Int'l L. 2006); Powers Inherent in Sovereignty: Indians, Aliens, Territories and the Nineteenth Century Origins of Plenary Power Over Foreign Affairs, (Texas L. Rev. 2002); Human Rights Sanctions and International Trade: A Theory of Compatibility (J. Int'l Econ. L. 2002); and Norm Internalization and U.S. Economic Sanctions, (Yale J. Int'l L., Winter 2001). She serves on the board of editors of the Journal of International Economic Law and the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law.[5]