Professor of Constitutional Law

BA (Law) Cantab; LLM (Harvard)
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Christine Bell is Professor of Constitutional Law.  She read law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, (1988) and gained an LL.M in Law from Harvard Law School (1990), supported by a Harkness Fellowship. In 1990 she qualified as a Barrister at law. She subsequently qualified as an Attorney-at-law in New York, practicing for a period at Debevoise & Plimpton, NY. From 1997-9 she was Director of the Centre for International and Comparative Human Rights Law, Queen's University of Belfast, and from 2000-2011, she was Professor of Public International Law, and a founder and Director of the Transitional Justice Insitute, University of Ulster.

She has been active in non-governmental organizations, and was chairperson of Belfast-based Human Rights organization, the Committee on the Administration of Justice from 1995-7, and a founder member of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission established under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. In 1999 she was a member of the European Commission’s Committee of Experts on Fundamental Rights. 

Her research interests lie in the interface between constitutional and international law, gender and conflict, and legal theory, with a particular interest in peace processes and their agreements. In 2007 Christine won the American Society of International Law's Francis Deake Prize for her article on 'Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status' 100(2) American Journal of International Law. The prize is awarded annually for the leading article by a younger author in the AJIL. She has authored two books: On the Law of Peace: Peace Agreements and the Lex Pacificatoria (Oxford University Press, 2008) which won the Hart Socio-Legal Book Prize, awarded by the Socio-legal Studies Association UK, and Peace Agreements and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2000). She has also authored the a report published by the International Council on Human Rights Policy entitled 'Negotiating Justice? Human Rights and Peace Agreements' (2006). 

Christine was awarded the Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship for 'established academics with an international reputation' at the European University Institute Law department, Florence, Italy, from January to June 2007. She has also taken part in various peace negotiations discussions, giving constitutional law and human rights law advice, and also in training for diplomats, mediators and lawyers and acted as an expert in transitional justice for the UN Secretary-General, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and UNIFEM.

Courses Taught

Human Rights (Honours) (Course Organiser)

Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (LLM) (Course Organiser)

International Human Rights Law (LLM) (Course Organiser)

Public Law of the UK and Scotland (Ordinary)

PhD Supervisees

Megan Bastick  'Military responses to sexual violence in armed conflict'

Jessica Bird  'Segregation arrangements in Scottish prisons: a socio-spatial history'

Sean Molloy  'The Business of Peace: Exploring the relationship between business, socioeconomic rights, and Transitional Justice?'


Christine Bell On the Law of Peace: Peace Agreements and the Lex Pacificatoria (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Abstract: This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the use of peace agreements from a legal perspective. It describes and evaluates the development of contemporary peace processes and the peace agreements that emerge. The book sets out what is in essence an anatomy of peace agreement practice and interrogates its relationship to law. At its heart the book grapples with the role of law in ending violent conflict and the broader questions this raises for the relationship of law to social change. Law potentially plays two key roles with respect to peace agreements: first, to the extent that peace agreements themselves form legal documents, law plays a role in the 'enforcement' or implementation of the peace agreement; second, international law has a relationship to peace agreement negotiation and content, in its regulatory guise. International Law regulates self-determination, transitional justice, and the role of third parties. The book documents and analyses these two roles of law. In doing so, the book reveals a complex dynamic relationship between the peace agreement as a legal document and the role of international law in which international law and concepts of domestic constitutionalism are being re-shaped. The practice of negotiating peace agreements is argued to be producing a new law of the peacemaker-or lex pacificatoria that connects developments in international law with new forms of domestic constitutional law in a set of hybrid relationships. This law of the peacemaker potentially forms part of a broader 'law of peace' that moves beyond the traditional concept of law of peace as merely 'the rest of international law' once the laws of war are subtracted. The new lex pacificatoria stands as an account of the way in which international law shapes and is shaped by peace agreements. The book proposes an ambivalent response to 'this new law' which connects to contemporary debates about the force of international law and its appropriate relationship with domestic constitutonalism.

Christine Bell Peace Agreements and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Abstract: Peace Agreements and Human Rights examines the place of human rights in peace agreements against the backdrop of international legal provision. The introductory analysis draws on a review of many peace agreements, while the body of the book focuses, in particular, on the peace agreements in four peace processes: South Africa, Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, and Bosnia. It addresses the phenomenon of the post-Cold War peace process, the types of agreement that are typically produced, and the typical role of human rights in those agreements. This includes discussion of the legal status of peace agreements, and their relationships to international law.

Christine Bell, Marie Fox Learning Legal Skills (Blackstone Press, 1999)
Abstract: Legal skills are certain to play an essential role in the future of legal education at both the academic and professional stages. Advocacy, negotiation and fact-finding will be studied alongside the more traditional topics of statutory interpretation and precedent. Once acquired, these skills will become fundamental to future studies and legal practice.This is an introduction to the acquisition of critical legal skills, exploring how problems can be analyzed and how concepts like justice or efficiency may be used to argue for reform. The materials can be used as the basis of a first year course or an intensive introductory course in the first few weeks, or to develop skills throughout a three or four year course.

Christine Bell, John Morison Tall Stories? Reading Law and Literature (Dartmouth Publishing, 1996)
Abstract: These essays bring together a variety of perspectives on law and literature in order to demonstrate the value of looking at literary material outside the law library. Methods of obtaining/deploying the insights that literature many bring to the understanding of law are covered.

Journal Articles

Christine Bell 'Power-sharing and Human Rights Law' (2013) The International Journal of Human Rights 17 204-37
Abstract: This article maps international human rights jurisprudence relating to the compatibility of power-sharing arrangements with human rights law. This mapping reveals a growing jurisprudence but one that appears piecemeal and internally inconsistent. The article suggests that human rights jurisprudence on power-sharing has varied over time, but also, by region, by group addressed, and according to the perceived purpose of the power-sharing mechanism. The article argues that the contingencies of human rights adjudication reflect underlying assessments of the legitimacy of the polity that are seldom explicitly articulated by human rights bodies. The relationship of adjudication to legitimacy poses a central paradox for any attempt to articulate a more coherent normative approach: normative coherence appears to require human rights bodies to develop their understanding of the relationship of rights to governmental legitimacy, but such development appears beyond the reach of human rights bodies due to structural limits of international human rights law and its adjudicatory apparatus. This paradox drives the inconsistencies of how human rights bodies engage with powersharing and constitutes the real barrier to coherent normative development.

Christine Bell 'The Legal Status of the 'Edinburgh Agreement'' (2012) Scottish Constitutional Futures Forum Blog (5 Nov)

Christine Bell 'The Impact of Human Rights in the International System' (2012) International Relations and Security Network podcast
Abstract: Building on this week's exploration of what constitutes human rights, Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Edinburgh, discusses their intersection with international institutions and conflict resolution. She assesses whether international institutions are indeed the best place for human rights issues to be addressed, and uses her experience in peacebuilding and conflict resolution to examine the role human - and women's - rights play in peace processes and negotiations.

Christine Bell, C O'Rourke 'Peace Agreements or 'Pieces of Paper'? The Impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Peace Processes and their Agreements' (2010) International and Comparative Law Quarterly 59 941-980

Christine Bell 'Transitional Justice, Interdisciplinarity and the State of the "Field" or "Non-field"' (2009) International Journal of Transitional Justice 1-23

Christine Bell, C O'Rourke 'Theorie der Ubergangsjustiz' (2008) Streit: Feministische Rechtszeitschrift 2 51-63

Christine Bell, C O'Rourke 'Does Feminism Need a Theory of Transitional Justice?' (2007) International Journal of Transitional Justice 1(1) 23-44

Christine Bell, C O'Rourke 'The People's Peace? Peace Agreements, Civil Society, and Participatory Democracy' (2007) International Political Science Review 28 293-324

Christine Bell, Colm Campbell, and Fionnuala Aolain 'Transitional Justice: (Re)Conceptualising the Field' (2007) International Journal of Law in Context 3(2) 81-88

Christine Bell '"Liberal Multiculturalism" and the Limits of International Law' (2007) Ethnopolitics 6(4) 599-601

Christine Bell 'Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status' (2006) American Journal of International Law 100(2) 373-412

Christine Bell, J Keenan 'Lost on the Way Home: The Right to Life in Northern Ireland' (2005) Journal of Law and Society 31(1) 68-89

Christine Bell, Colm Campbell, and Fionnuala Aolain 'Justice Discourses in Transition' (2004) Social & Legal Studies 13(3) 305-328

Christine Bell, J Keenan 'Human Rights Nongovernmental Organizations and the Problems of Transition' (2004) Human Rights Quarterly 26 330-374

Christine Bell 'Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland' (2003) Fordham International Law Journal 1095-1147

Christine Bell, K Cavanaugh 'Constructive Ambiguity or Internal Self-Determination? Self-Determination, Minority Rights and the Belfast Agreement' (1999) Fordham International Law Journal 22 1345-1371


Christine Bell 'Peace Settlements and International Law: From lex pacificatoria to jus post bellum' in Nigel D. White and Christian Henderson (eds) Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law (Jus Ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus Post Bellum, 2013) 499-546

Christine Bell 'Human Rights Activism, Expertise and Academic Inquiry: Beyond Legitimation v. Emancipation - A Self-Critical Reflection' in Rob Dickinson, Emma Katselli Proukaki, Colin Murray, and Ole W. Pedersen (eds) Examining Critical Perspectives on Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2012) pp. 217-246

Christine Bell 'Post-Conflict Accountability and the Reshaping of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law' in Orna Ben-Naftali (eds) International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2011) pp. 328-370

Christine Bell 'The 'New Law' of Transitional Justice' in Kai Ambos, Judith Large, and Marieke Wierda (eds) Building a Future on Peace and Justice: Studies on Transitional Justice, Peace and Development The Nuremberg Declaration on Peace and Justice: Studies ... Nuremberg Declaration on Peace and Justice (Springer, 2008) pp. 105-126

Christine Bell, Colm Campbell, Fionnuala Ni Aolain 'The Battle for Transitional Justice: Hegemony, Iraq and International Law' in John Morison, Kieran McEvoy, and Gordon Anthony (eds) Judges, Transition, and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2007) pp. 147-165

Working Papers

Christine Bell 'Transitional Justice and Political Settlements', Edinburgh Law School Working Paper Series, 2015/01 (SSRN, 2015) [Download]
Abstract: This draft article examines the role of transitional justice in societies emerging from conflict. Fundamentally, it addresses the ways in which the context of conflict resolution shapes the transitional justice mechanisms which emerge and constrains their implementation. The paper argues that transitional justice measures need to be understood as having a critical political settlement dimension, and as closely intertwined with the bargaining processes of political elites. These processes are important to non-repetition of human rights violations. The paper sets out the factors which influence design of transitional justice mechanisms, and in conclusion it suggests strategies for improving international intervention in the area.