Patrick Keenan

Professor of Law


An expert in human rights and international law, Professor Patrick Keenan focuses his research and scholarship on the connections between human rights, economic development, and business. He has published articles examining conflict minerals, human trafficking and tourism, China’s role in Africa, the human rights potential of sovereign wealth funds, the International Finance Corporation’s investments in Africa and the Caribbean, and many other issues.

Professor Keenan has taught courses on human rights, business and human rights, international criminal law, and the responsibilities of lawyers. He also created, and for 10 years directed, the Human Rights Law Clinic, in which students worked directly with lawyers and advocates in Africa and the Caribbean on human rights issues.

In addition to teaching at the University of Illinois, he served as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School and lectured at the Chuo University School of Law in Tokyo.

Before coming to Illinois, Professor Keenan litigated death penalty cases in Georgia and Alabama as an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Professor Keenan graduated from Yale Law School and Tufts University, clerked for Judge Myron H. Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, and served in the Peace Corps in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


JD Yale University
BA Tufts University

Areas of Expertise

Human Rights
International and Comparative Law
International Criminal Law
Professional Ethics


Anti-Terrorism Law & Policy
Business & Human Rights
International Criminal Law

Selected Publications

The Problem of Purpose in International Criminal Law, 37 Michigan Journal of International Law (forthcoming 2016).

Evidence-Based Stakeholder Engagement: The Promise of Randomized Control Trials for Business and Human Rights, Indiana Journal of Law & Social Equality (2015).

Conflict Minerals and the Law of Pillage, Chicago Journal of International Law (2014).

International Institutions and the Resource Curse, Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs (2014).

Business, Human Rights, and Communities: The Problem of Community Consent in Development, Fordham Journal of International Law Online (2013).

Regulating Information Flows, Regulating Conflict: An Analysis of United States Conflict Minerals Legislation, Goettingen Journal of International Law (2011). (Co-author, with Christiana Ochoa).

Toward a Multilateral Sovereign Investment Agency, Georgetown Journal of International Law (2009).   (Co-author, with Christiana Ochoa).

Sovereign Wealth Funds and Social Arrears: Should Debts to Citizens be Treated Differently Than Debts to Other Creditors? Virginia Journal of International Law (2009).

Curse or Cure? China, Africa, and the Effects of Unconditioned Wealth, Berkeley Journal of International Law (2009).

Financial Globalization and Human Rights, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law (2008).

Do Norms Still Matter? The Corrosive Effects of Globalization on the Vitality of Norms, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law (2008).

The New Deterrence: Crime and Policy in the Age of Globalization, Iowa Law Review (2006).

Judges and the Politics of Death: Deciding Between the Bill of Rights and the Next Election in Capital Cases, Boston University Law Review (1995). (Co-author, with Stephen B. Bright).

See All Publications