Cécile Aptel

Cécile Aptel

Deputy Director, UNIDIR

Areas of expertise

International Humanitarian Law  /  International Human Rights Law  /  International Criminal Law  /  Transitional Justice  /  Children in Armed Conflict  /  Children in Post-Conflict Societies  /  Genocide  /  Rule of Law  /  International Criminal Justice  /  Crimes against Humanity  /  War Crimes  /  International Security

Professor Cécile Aptel is an international expert in international criminal law, international justice, transitional justice and child rights. She has over 20 years of experience managing judicial, legal and policy matters for several international jurisdictions, the UN, think tanks and NGOs.

Professor Aptel contributed to establishing the United Nations (UN) international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, where she worked for 10 years in different legal and policy roles and drafted several of the first key judgments, including the first on genocide. She also directly participated in the establishment of the State Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s War Crimes Chamber (2005), the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (2006), and directed the establishment of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria (2017). She has led and participated in various international efforts to foster criminal accountability for international crimes, gross human rights violations and terrorism, notably at the UN International Independent Investigation Commission in Lebanon, where she directed the legal services, and at the UN Office of Internal Oversight. She has served as the top senior legal advisor to successive UN High Commissioners for Human Rights, led the UN OHCHR global work on rule of law and democracy, and has advised on criminal accountability and judicial reform in several countries.

Professor Aptel has taught international law, focusing on international criminal law, international humanitarian law, human rights law, and transitional justice at the Fletcher School, Harvard, Pretoria University and Oxford University. She was awarded the 2010 Jennings Randolph Senior Fellowship by the United States Institute of Peace. She currently serves as the Deputy Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

She has authored over 30 publications: her recent work focuses on international criminal law and children, including a forthcoming book entitled ‘International Criminal Courts, Atrocity Crimes and Children’. She holds a PhD in law from the University of Geneva and master’s degrees from the College of Europe in Bruges and Trinity College Dublin.

Taught Courses

Trial Chamber hearing in the Ayyash et al. case (Case STL-11-01) - 28 January 2016 Executive Master - Course

Accountability for Atrocity Crimes

This course examines and discusses the main criminal jurisdictions fostering individual legal accountability for international crimes.

Read More >


Cover of the Journal of  International Criminal Justice

Child Slaves and Child Brides

May 2016

Cécile Aptel

Journal of International Criminal Justice

View More >

Cover of Des limites et du potentiel de la justice pénale internationale

Des limites et du potentiel de la justice pénale internationale

August 2014

Cécile Aptel

Etudes interculturelles

View More >

Cover of the book The Sierra Leone Special Court and its Legacy

Unpunished Crimes: The Special Court for Sierra Leone and Children

December 2013

Cécile Aptel

Cambridge University Press

View More >

Cover of the Journal of International Criminal Justice

‘Prosecutorial Discretion at the ICC and Victims’ Right to Remedy: Narrowing the Impunity Gap’, Journal of International Criminal Justice

October 2012

Cécile Aptel

Oxford University Press

View More >