She read law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, (1988) and gained an LL.M in Law from Harvard Law School (1990), supported by a Harkness Fellowship. In 1990 she qualified as a Barrister at law. She subsequently qualified as an Attorney-at-law in New York, practicing for a period at Debevoise & Plimpton, NY.
From 1997-9 she was Director of the Centre for International and Comparative Human Rights Law, Queen's University of Belfast, and from 2000-2011, she was Professor of Public International Law, and a founder and Director of the Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster.
She has been active in non-governmental organizations, and was chairperson of Belfast-based Human Rights organization, the Committee on the Administration of Justice from 1995-7, and a founder member of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission established under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. In 1999 she was a member of the European Commission’s Committee of Experts on Fundamental Rights.
Her research interests lie in the interface between constitutional and international law, gender and conflict, and legal theory, with a particular interest in peace processes and their agreements. In 2007 Christine won the American Society of International Law's Francis Deake Prize for her article on 'Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status' 100(2) American Journal of International Law. The prize is awarded annually for the leading article by a younger author in the AJIL. She has authored two books: On the Law of Peace: Peace Agreements and the Lex Pacificatoria (Oxford University Press, 2008) which won the Hart Socio-Legal Book Prize, awarded by the Socio-legal Studies Association UK, and Peace Agreements and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2000). She has also authored the a report published by the International Council on Human Rights Policy entitled 'Negotiating Justice? Human Rights and Peace Agreements' (2006).
Christine was awarded the Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship for 'established academics with an international reputation' at the European University Institute Law department, Florence, Italy, from January to June 2007. She has also taken part in various peace negotiations discussions, giving constitutional law and human rights law advice, and also in training for diplomats, mediators and lawyers and acted as an expert in transitional justice for the UN Secretary-General, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and UNIFEM.
She served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa managing the public hearings process of the TRC’s Human Rights Violations Committee in the Western Cape.
Her critically acclaimed book, A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness won the Christopher Award in the United States and the Alan Paton Award in South Africa. The book has been published seven times, including translations in Dutch, German, Italian and Korean.
Her other books include Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Healing Trauma, as co-author, Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past, as co-editor Breaking Intergenerational Cycles of Repetition: A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory, as editor, What Does It Mean to Be Human in the Aftermath of Historical Trauma? Re-Envisioning the Sunflower and Why Hannah Arendt Was Wrong (Claude Ake Memorial Papers).
Pumla is also a member of the International Advisory Board at The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.