Professor Surya P. Subedi, QC, OBE, DCL & DPhil (Oxford), Barrister

Professor Surya P. Subedi, QC, OBE, DCL & DPhil (Oxford), Barrister

Profile

I obtained a DPhil (PhD) in Law with a prize at the University of Oxford in 1993 and began my academic career. I am Professor of International Law at the University of Leeds and have been a visiting faculty member on the international human rights law programme of the University of Oxford since 2016. I also have taught at five other universities in the UK, USA, and the Netherlands. 

I have published 12 books and more than 60 scholarly articles in all major areas of international law in leading international law journals throughout my academic career. My publishing efforts have focussed on promoting fairness in international relations, strengthening the rules-based international order and advancing human rights.

I am a Barrister at Three Stone Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn, London and was made a QC – Queen’s Counsel (Hon) - in 2017. I have advised governments in different countries on international legal matters and acted as a counsel in several cases before the international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

I have served in high-level positions in governments and national and international organisations with responsibility for policy formulation and advice. I was elected by the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 to serve as the UN’s Special Rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia for six years. I was nominated as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in recognition of my contribution to human rights. I also served as an advisor on human rights to the British Foreign Secretary between 2010 and 2015.

I also was appointed Legal Procedural Advisor to the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held in Marseille, France, in 2021 and as a member of the Task Force on Investment Policy of the World Economic Forum (known as the Davos Forum) in Switzerland in 2015.

My latest book is ‘The Workings of Human Rights, Law, and Justice: A Journey from Nepal to Nobel Nominee’ (Routledge, London/New York, 2022). Drawing on my lifetime personal experience of work in international law and human rights, this book offers insights into the powers bearing on international law and policymaking, the dynamics of human rights negotiations with governments, and the effects of their outcomes on the lives of their citizens. It provides glimpses of a personal journey and a life lived in law and the pursuit of justice and an insight into the workings of international law and international institutions through the eyes of someone who has navigated the system.

Another book of mine entitled ‘Human Rights in Eastern Civilizations’ (Edward Elgar, 2021) examines the values of Eastern civilisations and their contribution to the development of the UN Human Rights agenda and demonstrates how cross-fertilisation of values between the Eastern and Western civilisations has taken place and how the notion of the universality of human rights has been enriched by the values of different civilisations.

The book entitled ‘The Effectiveness of the UN Human Rights System: Reform and the Judicialisation of Human Rights’ (published by Routledge, New York/London, 2017) creates a modern vision of the United Nations that could function better in a multipolar world to help secure a better mode of living for more people around the world. 

My book ‘Unilateral Sanctions in International Law’ (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2021) explores whether there are any rules in international law applicable to unilateral sanctions and if so, what these rules are. In doing so, it examines the impact of unilateral sanctions on human rights and the environment.

Another scholarly book of mine entitled ‘International Investment Law: Reconciling Policy and Principle’ (Hart Publishing, Oxford) was first published in 2008 and is now in its 4th edition (2020). It includes a critical overview of the law of foreign investment and deals with the tension between the law of foreign investment and other competing principles of international law, including human rights and environmental protection. In doing so, it proposes ways of achieving a balance between these competing principles within a wider framework of public international law.

I am the editor of a Routledge series of books on ‘Human Rights and International Law” and have edited 14 volumes that have been published in this series since 2014. They analyse a wide range of international human rights issues and offer policy recommendations that can make a difference to the real life of the people across the globe. 

I also am the Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Asian Journal of International Law, which is published by Cambridge University Press.

I was elected to the exclusive Nobel Peace Prize winning Institut de Droit International in 2011 and made a Membre Titulaire in 2015.

I have received high-level state honours from the monarchs of the UK and Nepal for my services to international law. I was made an OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of the UK in 2004 and decorated with Suprabal Gorkhadaxinbahu by His late Majesty King Birendra of Nepal in 1998.

I was awarded the highest accolade – the Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) – by the University of Oxford in 2019 in recognition of my contribution to international law and human rights. The judges of the award panel at Oxford described me as “a scholar of uncommon breadth of knowledge and depth of thinking” in international law when deciding to award me the DCL. 

Two new law prizes named after my name – one for the best attainment in Human Rights Law and another one for the best doctoral thesis (DPhil) of the year in Law – were established at the University of Oxford in 2020.

I also was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) honoris causa by the University of Hull in 2020 in recognition of my accomplishments in the fields of international law and human rights and the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University established a global essay prize on modern slavery or the protection of human dignity in my name in 2022. The prize is designed to raise awareness of modern slavery and the protection of human dignity anywhere in the world.

In April 2021, the flagship magazine of the Bar Council of England published a feature article on me as an inspiring legal personality entitled ‘The International Human Rights Jurist: Surya Subedi QC’.

My other honours include the Dasturzada Pavry Memorial Prize from the University of Oxford (for my DPhil thesis in 1993), an SPTL Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship from the British Society of Legal Scholars (for one of my books in 1997) and the Josephine Onoh Memorial Prize from the University of Hull (as best LLM student of the year in 1988). I also won a British Council Scholarship to study for an LLM in International Law at Hull and a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Scholarship for my DPhil studies at Oxford. 

Research interests

I have covered all major areas of public international law in my research and publications. My research interests range from international investment law to land and maritime boundary disputes in international law, international human rights law, and international watercourses law. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • LLB, MA (Tribhuvan University)
  • LLM with Distinction (University of Hull)
  • DCL & DPhil with a Prize (Oxford University)
  • Barrister (Middle Temple)
  • QC (Hon), 2017

Professional memberships

  • Member, London Court of International Arbitration
  • Member, The Bar Council of England and Wales
  • Member, The Honourable Society of Middle Temple
  • Member, Institut de Droit International
  • Chair, Editorial Board, Asian Journal of International Law (published by Cambridge University Press)

Student education

I currently teach Global Governance through Law, Public International Law, World Trade Organisation Law, and International Investment Law.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Business Law and Practice

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>