Naz K. Modirzadeh is the founding Director of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC). In May 2016, she was appointed as a Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. In the Spring 2019 term, she will teach International Humanitarian Law/Laws of War, Counterterrorism and International Law, and Public International Law. At HLS PILAC, Modirzadeh is responsible for overall direction of the Program, contributing to its cutting-edge research initiatives and briefing senior decision-makers.
Modirzadeh advises and briefs international humanitarian organizations, United Nations agencies, and governments on issues related to international humanitarian law, human rights, and counterterrorism regulations relating to humanitarian assistance. For more than a decade, she has carried out legal research and policy work concerning a number of armed conflict situations. Her current scholarship focuses on normative and practical dimensions of the U.S. “War on Terror” and other contemporary challenges concerning international law and armed conflict. She frequently contributes to academic and professional initiatives in the areas of humanitarian action, counterterrorism, and the laws of war.
In addition to taking part in several expert advisory groups for UN research initiatives, Modirzadeh is a non-resident Research Associate in the Humanitarian Policy Group of the Overseas Development Institute and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She is also on the Board of Trustees of the International Crisis Group and on the Advisory Board of Geneva Call. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Biography last updated: March 2019.
SSRN author page
“International law and armed conflict in dark times: A call for engagement,” International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 96, No. 895/896, pp. 737–749 (2014)
“Folk International Law: 9/11 Lawyering and the Transformation of the Law of Armed Conflict to Human Rights Policy and Human Rights Law to War Governance,” Harvard National Security Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 225–304 (2014)
“Ambivalent Universalism? Jus ad bellum in Modern Islamic Legal Discourse,” European Journal of International Law, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 367–89 (2013) (co-author)
“Humanitarian engagement under counter-terrorism: a conflict of norms and the emerging policy landscape,” International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 93, No. 883, pp. 623–47 (Sept. 2011) (co-author)
“The Dark Sides of Convergence: A Pro-Civilian Critique of the Extraterritorial Application of Human Rights Law in Armed Conflict,” Naval War College, Blue Book, 86th Volume, pp. 349–410 (2010; recipient of the Lieber Prize of the American Society of International Law)
“Taking Islamic Law Seriously: INGOs and the Battle for Muslim Hearts and Minds,” Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 19, pp. 191–233 (2006)
HLS PILAC Reports
“Quantum of Silence: Inaction and Jus ad Bellum,” 2019 (co-author with Dustin A. Lewis and Gabriella Blum)
“Armed Non-State Actors and International Human Rights Law: An Analysis of the Practice of the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly,” June 2017 (co-author with Jessica S. Burniske and Dustin A. Lewis).
“Pilot Empirical Survey Study on the Impact of Counterterrorism Measures on Humanitarian Action,” Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project at HLS PILAC, March 2017 (co-author with Jessica S. Burniske). See also Comment on the Study, March 2017 [link].
“Indefinite War: Unsettled International Law on the End of Armed Conflict,” Legal Briefing, Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, February 2017 (co-author with Dustin A. Lewis and Gabriella Blum). See also a related Lawfare post [link].
“War-Algorithm Accountability,” Research Briefing, Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, August 2016 (co-author with Dustin A. Lewis and Gabriella Blum). See also a related Lawfare post [link].
“Suppressing Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Supporting Principled Humanitarian Action: A Provisional Framework for Analyzing State Practice,” Briefing Report, Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, October 2015 (by Jessica Burniske and Dustin A. Lewis with Naz K. Modirzadeh).
“Medical Care in Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law and State Responses to Terrorism,” Legal Briefing, Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, September 2015 (co-author with Dustin A. Lewis and Gabriella Blum). See also related Lawfare post [link].
Humanitarian Practice Network Papers
“Counter-terrorism laws and regulations: what aid agencies need to know,” Humanitarian Practice Network Paper, Overseas Development Institute, No. 79, November 2014 (co-author)
Case-Study Simulation Exercises
“Civilian Protection in Partnered Conflicts: Case-Study Simulation Exercise,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Program, October 2018 (co-author)
“Somalia in Crisis: Famine, Counterterrorism, and Humanitarian Aid: Case-Study Simulation Exercises,” Harvard Law School Case Studies Program, February 2015 (co-author):
Working Group Briefing Memoranda
Katie King with Naz K. Modirzadeh and Dustin A. Lewis, “Understanding Humanitarian Exemptions: U.N. Security Council Practice and Principled Humanitarian Action,” Working Group Briefing Memorandum, Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project, April 2016.
Security Council Briefings
Remarks to the U.N. Security Council, Briefing on the Promotion and Strengthening of the Rule of Law in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: International Humanitarian Law, 8499th Meeting, April 1, 2019, United Nations Headquarters, New York, U.N. doc. S/PV.8499, pp. 6–7
Select Blog Posts
“Expert views on the frontiers of artificial intelligence and conflict,” Humanitarian Law and Policy Blog, March 19, 2019 (co-author)
“The Pentagon’s New Algorithmic-Warfare Team,” Lawfare, June 26, 2017 (co-author)
“Indefinite War,” Lawfare, February 27, 2017 (co-author)
“Accountability for Algorithmic Autonomy in War,” Lawfare, September 12, 2016 (co-author)
“Amid Investigations of Hospital Bombings, Don’t Lose Sight of Key Principles,” Lawfare, October 30, 2015 (co-author)
“Medical Care in Armed Conflict: IHL and State Responses to Terrorism,” Lawfare, September 8, 2015 (co-author)
“Folk Law and Obama Administration Mythology,” Lawfare, October 26, 2014
“A Reply to Marty Lederman,” Lawfare, October 3, 2014
“Folk International Law and Syrian Airstrikes,” Lawfare, October 2, 2014
“Guest Post: Strong Words, Weak Arguments – A Response to the Open Letter to the UN on Humanitarian Access to Syria (Part 2),” Opiniojuris.com, May 12, 2014
“Guest Post: Strong Words, Weak Arguments – A Response to the Open Letter to the UN on Humanitarian Access to Syria (Part 1),” Opiniojuris.com, May 12, 2014
“Guest Post: How International Law Could Work in Transnational Non-International Armed Conflicts: Part II of a Two-Part Series,” Opiniojuris.com, April 11, 2013 (with Jonathan Horowitz)
“Guest Post: How International Law Could Work in Transnational Non-International Armed Conflicts: Part I of a Two-Part Series,” Opiniojuris.com, April 11, 2013 (with Jonathan Horowitz)