Sarah Knuckey

Sarah Maree Knuckey

  • Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein Clinical Professor of Human Rights

LL.M., Harvard Law School, 2006
LL.B., University of Western Australia, 2004
B.A., University of Western Australia, 2004

Areas of Specialty

International Human Rights Fact-Finding, Methods, and Advocacy
Human Rights, Armed Conflict, and Counterterrorism
Human Rights Theory and Critiques
Human Rights and Business
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Resilience in the Human Rights Field

Sarah Knuckey is a human rights advocate and clinical professor of law, and she directs the Human Rights Clinic and the Human Rights Institute.

Knuckey and Human Rights Clinic students work in partnership with social justice advocates, communities, and rightsholders around the world to investigate human rights abuses and advocate for justice and accountability. The clinic prepares students for lifelong careers in social justice advocacy and works to promote human rights and recalibrate the global power imbalances that drive economic and political inequality, exploitation, threats to physical security, poverty, and environmental injustice.

Knuckey has investigated human rights abuses around the world, including in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, the United States, and Yemen. Working with students and local activists, Knuckey has exposed sexual abuse by security guards at a mining company in Papua New Guinea and worked with affected women to advocate for their right to remedy. The Human Rights Clinic has also conducted advocacy about the neglected crisis of mental health in Yemen, interdisciplinary investigations into the right to water for indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea, investigations of U.S. drone strikes, and a landmark mass grave investigation in the Central African Republic.  

Knuckey has received the Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching and numerous grants, including the Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund grant to research, alongside Yemeni experts, the psychological impacts of the war in Yemen. 

Knuckey’s academic research interests include human rights methodologies, critical perspectives on human rights, clinical pedagogy, and mental health. In addition to teaching Columbia law students, she also conducts trainings for NGOs and activists around the world on human rights fact-finding, advocacy, and mental health. She is a co-founder of the Human Rights Methodology Lab, which innovates human rights research, and of the Human Rights Resilience Project, which seeks to improve well-being among activists. She is a founding editor of and contributor to Just Security, an online forum for analysis of U.S. national security law and policy. She also has served as an adviser to the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, as well as chair of the Legal Working Group on the redrafting of the Minnesota Protocol, international guidelines for the investigation of suspicious deaths. 

She is on the board of advisers of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and the Australian Journal of Human Rights.

Before coming to Columbia Law School, she was the director of the Initiative on Human Rights Fact-Finding and the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at NYU Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, as well as a clerk to Justice Michael Kirby on the High Court of Australia.


Academic Publications

  • Sarah Knuckey, Anjli Parrin, & Gulika Reddy, Decolonizing Human Rights Advocacy (book, forthcoming).
  • Sarah Knuckey & Margaret Satterthwaite, Should Human Rights Practice Be Rights-Based?, in The Struggle for Human Rights: Essays in Honour of Philip Alston (Nehal Bhuta, et al. eds., 2021).
  • Sarah Knuckey, Alex Moorehead, Audrey McCalley, & Adam Brown, The Proportionality Rule and Mental Harm in War, in Necessity and Proportionality in International Peace and Security Law (Claus Kress, et al. eds., 2020).
  • Sarah Knuckey, Benjamin Hoffman, Jeremy Perelman, Gulika Reddy, Alejandra Anchieta, & Meetali Jain, Transforming Power in Human Rights Advocacy: Critiques, Reforms, and Challenges, Harvard Human Rights Journal (2020).
  • Sam Dubberley, Margaret Satterthwaite, Adam Brown, & Sarah Knuckey, Digital Human Rights Investigations: The Risk of Secondary Trauma and Building Resilience, in Using Open Source Intelligence for Human Rights Reporting and Legal Accountability (Sam Dubberley, et al. eds., 2019).
  • Margaret Satterthwaite, Sarah Knuckey, Ria Singh Sawhney, Katie Wightman, Rohini Bagrodia, & Adam Brown, From A “Culture of Unwellness” to Sustainable Advocacy: Organizational Responses to Mental Health Risks in the Human Rights Field, 28:3 Southern California Rev. L. & Social Justice 443 (2019).
  • Christof Heyns, Stuart Casey-Maslen, Sarah Knuckey, Toby Fisher, Thomas Probert, & Morris Tidball-Binz, Investigating Potentially Unlawful Death Under International Law: The 2016 Minnesota Protocol, 52:1 The International Lawyer 47 (2019).
  • Sarah Knuckey, Margaret Satterthwaite, & Adam Brown, Trauma, Depression, and Burnout in the Human Rights Field: Identifying Pathways and Barriers to Resilient Advocacy, 49.3 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev 1 (2018).
  • Rebecca Rodin, George A. Bonanno, Sarah Knuckey, Roland Hart, Amy Joscelyne, Richard A. Bryant, & Adam Brown, Coping Flexibility Predicts Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in Human Rights Advocates, 46:4 Int’l J. Mental Health 327 (2017). 
  • Sarah Knuckey, Autonomous Weapons Systems and Transparency: Towards an International Dialoguein Autonomous Weapons Systems: Law, Ethics, Policy (Nehal Bhuta, et all. eds., 2016).
  • Sarah Knuckey & Philip Alston eds., The Transformation of Human Rights Fact-Finding (2016).
  • Sarah Knuckey & Eleanor Jenkin, Company-Created Remedy Mechanisms for Serious Human Rights Abuses: a Promising New Frontier for the Right to Remedy?, 19 International Journal of Human Rights 801 (2015).
  • Sarah Knuckey ed., Drones and Targeted Killings: Ethics, Law, Politics (2015).
  • Amy Joscelyne, Sarah Knuckey, Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Richard A. Bryant, Meng Li, Meng Qian, & Adam D. Brown, Mental Health Functioning in the Human Rights Field: Findings from an International Internet-Based Survey, 10(12) PLOS One (2015).
  • Sarah Knuckey, Murder in Common Article 3, in The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary (Andrew Clapham, et al. eds., 2015).
  • Sarah Knuckey, On Australia’s Doorstep: Gold, Rape, and Injustice, 199(3) Medical Journal of Australia 1 (2013).
  • Sarah Knuckey & Christof Heyns, The Long-Term International Law Implications of Targeted Killings Practices, 54 Harvard Law Journal Online 101 (2013).

Human Rights Advocacy Publications (selected)

  • Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Columbia University Earth Institute, Red Water: Mining and the Right to Water in Porgera, Papua New Guinea, (2019).
  • Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Shadow Report on Saudi Arabia, Submitted to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, (2018).
  • Mwatana Organization for Human Rights & Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, Shadow Report on Yemen, Submitted to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, (2018).
  • Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Shadow Report on Yemen, Submitted to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, (2018).
  • Letter to Business Leaders and Actors Who Met With Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia is killing civilians in Yemen. Why don’t you speak out? (May 2018).
  • Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, & the Mailman School of Public Health, The Impact of War on Mental Health in Yemen: A Neglected Crisis, (Nov. 2017).
  • Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Out of the Shadows: Transparency and Accountability for U.S. Drone Strikes and Targeted Killings, (2017).
  • Amicus Brief, Brief of Professors Philip Alston, Christof Heyns, Sarah Knuckey, Guglielmo Verdirame, Claus Kress, & the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic as Amici Curiae, Mamani v Berzain, (2015).
  • Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic & Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, Righting Wrongs? Barrick Gold’s Remedy Mechanism for Sexual Violence in Papua New Guinea — Key Concerns and Lessons Learned, (2015).

Blogs, News, and Press (Selected)

  • Jayne Huckerby, Sarah Knuckey, & Margaret Satterthwaite, What’s Wrong with Unalienable Rights?, Slate, July 10, 2019.
  • Ryan Goodman & Sarah Knuckey, Justice Dept Must Open Criminal Investigation Into Potential War Crimes by U.S. Mercenaries in Yemen, Just Security, Oct. 16, 2018.
  • Rohini Bagrodia, Sarah Knuckey, Margaret Satterthwaite, Ria Singh Sawhney, & Adam D. Brown, Crucial Need to Improve Mental Health Research and Training for Human Rights Advocates, 5:6 The Lancet Psychiatry (2018).
  • Sarah Knuckey & Alex Moorehead, Trump is Hiding the Number of Civilians the U.S. Has Killed. Congress Must Act, Wash. Post, May 29, 2018 (op ed).
  • Rebecca Hamilton & Sarah Knuckey, Time to Dust Off the War Crimes Act?—for an American Ex-Soldier Now in Command of UAE Forces, Just Security, May 9, 2018.
  • New Series: Perspectives from Impacted Countries, Just Security, (Sarah Knuckey, Rahma Hussein, Waleed Alhariri, John Reed, Alex Moorehead, Suraj Kandath Girijashankar, Fionnuala Ni Aoláin, and Jameel Jaffer, Special Series eds., a special series to highlight the perspectives of those impacted by U.S. counterterrorism practices, Mar. 2018-current).
  • Malaka Gharib, ‘Times’ Column Is Slammed for Its Portrayal of Central African Republic, NPR, Mar. 30, 2018.
  • James Joyner, Nick Kristof and the Perils of Parachute Journalism, Outside the Beltway, Mar. 26, 2018.
  • Sarah Knuckey & Su Anne Lee, Building the Foundations of Resilience: 11 Lessons for Human Rights Educators and Supervisors, OpenGlobalRights, March 7, 2018. 
  • Special Series: Resilience as Resistance: Mental Health and Well-Being in Human Rights, OpenGlobalRights, (Sarah Knuckey Fred Abrahams, Farea al-Muslimi, Douglas Mawadri, Lucia Nader, and Margaret Satterthwaite, guest Co-eds., 2017-2018).
  • Sarah Knuckey and Meg Satterthwaite, Resources for Resilience: New Site Launched to Promote Resilience & Mental Health in the Human Rights Field, Just Security, June 8, 2018.
  • Ruth Sherlock, U.S. Raid Killed Yemeni Civilians, Villagers Say (NPR Weekend Edition radio interview, Dec. 30, 2017).
  • Laura Kelly, Joint U.S.-Yemen Project Raises Awareness of Mental Health in War-Torn Country, The Washington Times, Dec. 6, 2017.
  • Human Rights Clinic Receives $1.25 Million Gift, Press Release (Columbia Law School), Nov. 17, 2017.
  • Bethan McKernan, Amid the Carnage in Yemen, Civilians also Face Consequences of the US War on Terror, The Independent, Nov. 15, 2017.
  • Farea al-Muslimi & Sarah Knuckey, Yemen Strike Raises Questions about Whether the US Follows Its Own Drone Rules, Just Security, Nov. 15, 2017.
  • Sarah Knuckey, Yemeni Civil Society Leaders Condemn Saudi Blockade, Just Security, Nov. 10, 2017.
  • Radhya Almutawakel, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, Sarah Knuckey, & Alex Moorehead, Six Reasons Why the US and Other States Should Support an Independent, International Inquiry on Yemen, Just Security, Sept. 26, 2017. 
  • Many in Central African Republic ‘Want to Pursue Peace and Justice’, (United Nations Radio: News & Media, August 4, 2016).
  • La Médecine Légale, un Outil de Lute Contre l’Impunité en RCA, MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, July 27, 2016).
  • Hilary Beaumont, Women Accuse the World’s Biggest Gold Mining Company of Ignoring Rape Complaints, Vice News, July 1, 2016.
  • Karen Sloan, NYU and Columbia Law Schools Launch Human Rights Lab, The National Law Journal (February 2, 2016).
  • Porgera Rape Protocol ‘Deeply Insulting’ to Victims: US Academics, ABC News/Pacific Beat, December 8, 2015.
  • Samuel Oakford, NATO was ‘Praying’ for MSF as the US Attacked Its Hospital in Kunduz, Vice News, November 5, 2015.
  • Spencer Ackerman, Sabrina Siddiqui, & Julian Borger, Doctors Without Borders: We Received No Advance Warning of US Airstrike, The Guardian, October 7, 2015.
  • Nick Turse, Why Bombing the Kunduz Hospital was Probably a War Crime, The Intercept, October 6, 2015.

Honors and Awards

Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching

Parker School Global Innovation Award

Fulbright Postgraduate Award

Murphy Postgraduate Scholarship

Harvard Human Rights Program Fellowship

Parsons Memorial Prize for Law

KCF Keall Prize in Law

Remarks and Testimony

  • Letter to Business Leaders and Actors Who Met With Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia is killing civilians in Yemen. Why don’t you speak out? (May 2018)
  • Amicus Brief, Brief of Professors Philip Alston, Christof Heyns, Sarah Knuckey, Guglielmo Verdirame, Claus Kress, and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic as Amici Curiae, Mamani v Berzain (2015)

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