Cecile Aptel

Cécile Aptel, MA, MLitt, PhD

Visiting Scientist

Professor Cécile Aptel’s expertise covers child rights, human rights, peace and security, humanitarian affairs, international humanitarian law, transitional and international justice. She has a long international experience, having worked and lived in Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle-East, and held several leadership positions in the UN, the Red Cross, universities and NGOs. Currently, she is the deputy director of UNIDIR, tackling global security issues, i.e., arms’ control and the regulation of new technologies, notably cyber and AI, outer space security and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. She is also a professor at the Fletcher School and the Geneva Academy, visiting scientist at Harvard University, and serves as a volunteer on the board of the French Red Cross.

Previously, Prof. Aptel was director and acting under-secretary general at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent where she managed large multi-million aid programs and helped lead the response to the COVID pandemic and several other extreme humanitarian crises. She served as the top legal policy advisor to successive UN high commissioners for human rights and led the OHCHR global work on rule of law and democracy.

She also directed the establishment of the UN International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria, participated in the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and of the Special Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina. She has participated in several international investigations, including in Lebanon (UNIIIC) and in Africa for the UN Office of Internal Oversight. Earlier in her career, she helped found the UN international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, where she worked for 10 years and drafted several of the first key judgments, including the first on genocide.

She has been a consultant for UNICEF, UNODC and the International Center for Transitional Justice, where she established the children programme. She was awarded the 2010 Jennings Randolph Senior Fellowship by the United States Institute of Peace for her work on justice for children. She has also briefed the UN Security Council on children and armed conflicts.

Prof. Aptel has authored over 30 publications and has taught at the Fletcher School, Pretoria, Caen, Oxford and Harvard. Her recent book “Atrocity Crimes, Children and International Criminal Courts: Killing Childhood” focuses on how international criminal courts have dealt with children affected by international crimes (Routledge, 2023).