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Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Professor Fionnuala Ni Aoláin
Professor of Law & United Nations Special Rapporteur
Queen's University Belfast


Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin is concurrently Regents Professor and Robina Professor of Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School and Professor of Law at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Professor Ní Aoláin is the recipient of numerous academic awards and honors including the Leverhulme Fellowship, Fulbright scholarship, the Alon Prize, the Robert Schumann Scholarship, a European Commission award, and the Lawlor fellowship. She has published extensively in the fields of emergency powers, conflict regulation, transitional justice and sex-based violence in times of war.

She has been a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School (1993-94); an Associate-in-Law at Columbia Law School (1994-96); a Visiting Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University (1996-2000); an associate Professor of Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel (1997-99); a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University (2001-02), Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (2011-2012) and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School (2012-13). Professor Ní Aoláin is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism (2017-). 

Previously, she was a representative of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at domestic war crimes trials in Bosnia (1996-97). In 2003, she was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as Special Expert on promoting gender equality in times of conflict and peace-making. In 2011, she was appointed as consultant jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and UN WOMEN to prepare a Study on Reparations for Conflict Related Sexual Violence.

Ní Aoláin has been nominated twice (2004 and 2007) by the Irish government to the European Court of Human Rights, the first woman and the first academic lawyer to be thus nominated. She was appointed by the Irish Minister of Justice to the Irish Human Rights Commission in 2000 and served until 2005. She remains an elected member of the Executive Committee for the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice and is also a member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. She was chair and member of the International Women’s Program Board at the Open Society Foundations (2010-2017).

TEDx Talk Title

Ending Counter-Terrorism as we know it

Overview of TEDx Talk

In the twenty years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, states and transnational bodies have gained extensive powers with the stated aim of combating terrorism and regulating extremist groups.  These powers have reshaped the internal architecture of the United Nations, reframed regional organizations and priorities and empowered the security sector in many  countries. The result has not been the end of terrorism but rather a vicious cycle in which ‘more’ repressive counter-terrorism and security practices have pervaded  every pore of international and national regulation and an  ever- increasing upsurge in violent by terrorist and non-state  actors  groups around the globe. In many parts of the world, governance is led by security, and  counter-terrorism is a primary regulatory practice by states to regulate all facets of daily life.

The result is the  securitization of  everything.  The result is  shrinking civic space across the globe, restrictions on fundamental human rights, including expression, assembly, freedom of  religion and belief,  family life,  fair  trial, political participation and more.  

As we approach to  20th anniversary of  9/11 it is  fundamentally time to ask, “does any of this work”?  What have  we lost  in  the  past  two decades?   How might we address the  root  causes of terrorism and how  might we build resilient, engaged, accountable and transparent societies capable of engaging all its disparate populations and  communities.  This  talk with argue that it is  time to ‘undo’ global counter-terrorism  as we know it, and  go back to basics.