Sarah Cleveland

Sarah Cleveland

  • Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights

J.D., Yale Law School, 1992
M.St., Lincoln College, University of Oxford, 1989
A.B., Brown University, 1987

Areas of Specialty

International and Comparative Human Rights
National Security and International Humanitarian Law
Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Constitution
International Law in U.S. Courts
Federal Civil Procedure

Sarah Cleveland is a noted expert in the areas of human rights, national security, international law, and U.S. foreign relations. In addition to teaching, researching, and writing about these issues, she is, through her longstanding work with international legal organizations, a leading figure in human rights law. 

Cleveland is a member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on International Law. She is also a member of the Global Media Freedom Initiative’s High Level Panel of Legal Experts, of which Amal Clooney, senior fellow of the Human Rights Institute, is deputy chair. As faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute, Cleveland leads the Law School’s partnership with the Clooney Foundation for Justice in the TrialWatch initiative, which aims to monitor trials worldwide where human rights are at risk.  

Cleveland is a council member of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, a Commissioner with the International Commission of Jurists, and a member of the board of editors of the International Review of the Red Cross. She previously served as vice chair and member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee (2015–2018), as the U.S. member on the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe (2010–2019), and as co-coordinating reporter of the American Law Institute’s Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States (2012–2018). From 2009 to 2011, Cleveland was the counselor on international law to the legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State, where she helped supervise the office’s legal work relating to human rights, counterterrorism, the law of armed conflict, and international justice. 

She has written widely on issues of international law, national security, and human rights, including the casebook Human Rights (2nd ed. 2009 and update 2013), “Human Rights Treaty Bodies in the Age of Connectivity” in Système de Protection des Droits de L’Homme des Nations Unies: Présent et Avenir (2017), “Defining and Punishing Offenses Under Treaties” in the Yale Law Journal (2015), and “After Kiobel,” Journal of International Criminal Justice, 2014.

Cleveland is a former Rhodes Scholar and served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. Before arriving at Columbia, in 2007, she was the Marrs McLean Professor in Law at the University of Texas Law School. She has held visiting professorships at Harvard and Michigan law schools and at the University Panthéon-Assas and Sciences-Po University in Paris, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and the European University Institute, in Florence.


  • Hate Speech at Home and Abroad, in Lee Bollinger and Geoffrey Stone, eds., The Free Speech Century (2018)
  • Human Rights Treaty Bodies in the Age of Connectivity, in Système de Protection des Droits de L’Homme des Nations Unies : Présent et Avenir (University of Paris Panthéon-Assas, 2017)
  • “Defining and Punishing Offenses Under Treaties,” Yale Law Journal, 2015 
  • “After Kiobel,” Journal of International Criminal Justice, 2014
  • Human Rights casebook (co-author with Louis Henkin, et al.), 2009 (2nd edition) and 2013 (update) 
  • “The Kiobel Presumption and Extraterritoriality,” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 2013 
  • “Embedded International Law and the Constitution Abroad,” Columbia Law Review, 2010
  • “Our International Constitution,” Yale Journal of International Law, 2006
  • “Powers Inherent in Sovereignty: Indians, Aliens, Territories and the Nineteenth Century Origins of Plenary Power Over Foreign Affairs,” Texas Law Review, 2002
  • “Human Rights Sanctions and International Trade: A Theory of Compatibility,” Journal of International Economic Law, 2002 
  • “Norm Internalization and U.S. Economic Sanctions,” Yale Journal of International Law, Winter 2001

Honors and Awards

Excellence in International Law Teaching Award, Columbia International Law Society


Certificate of Appreciation, U.S. Dept. of State


Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Texas School of Law