A work of memoir, history, and a call to action, In Search of a Better World is a powerful and essential work on the major human rights struggles of our times.
Renowned UN prosecutor and human rights scholar Payam Akhavan has encountered the grim realities of contemporary genocide throughout his life and career. He argues that deceptive utopias, political cynicism, and public apathy have given rise to major human rights abuses: from the religious persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís that shaped his personal life, to the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, and the rise of contemporary phenomena such as the Islamic State. But he also reflects on the inspiring resilience of the human spirit and the reality of our inextricable interdependence to liberate us, whether from hateful ideologies that deny the humanity of others or an empty consumerist culture that worships greed and self-indulgence.
Payam Akhavan is a Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a Member of the International Court of Arbitration, and a former UN prosecutor at The Hague. He has served with the UN in conflict zones around the world, including Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Rwanda, and Timor Leste, and as legal counsel in landmark cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States. His prior academic appointments were at Oxford University, University of Paris, the European University Institute, University of Toronto, and Yale Law School. He earned his Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School, and his widely cited academic publications include Reducing Genocide to Law from Cambridge University Press. He served as Chair of the Global Conference on Prevention of Genocide, is a Founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, and his groundbreaking human rights work has been featured on BBC World’s Hardtalk, CBC Ideas, Maclean’s magazine, Brazil’s TV Globo, and the New York Times. In 2005, he was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. Payam Akhavan was born in Tehran, Iran, and migrated to Canada with his family in his childhood.
Elise Keppler is associate director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. She is the author of fact-finding reports on the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone and Uganda’s International Crimes Division, and played an integral role in advocacy for former Liberian president Charles Taylor’s surrender to the Special Court and Darfur’s referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ms. Keppler works closely with civil society across Africa to combat unprincipled backlash to the ICC following arrest warrants for the Sudanese president for Darfur crimes. She is regularly quoted by international and African media, including Associated Press, British Broadcasting Corporation, Al Jazeera, National Public Radio, New York Times, American Lawyer, Guardian (Nigeria), Daily Times (Malawi), The Monitor (Uganda), and Mail and Guardian (South Africa).
From January to April 2012, Ms. Keppler was a visiting scholar with the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Law, during which she guest lectured on challenges for the future of international justice and and national prosecutions of human rights abuses. A graduate of Brown University and University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, Ms. Keppler worked as a litigation associate at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP prior to joining the International Justice Program in 2004.