Patrick Keenan

Professor of Law
Heidi Hurd Faculty Scholar


An expert in human rights and international law, Professor Patrick Keenan focuses his research on international criminal law, counterterrorism law, and human rights. He has published articles on the U.S. drone program, international criminal law and 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 counterterrorism law, international criminal law, public international law, human rights, and the ethical 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 the University of 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


Counterterrorism Law & Policy
Public International Law
International Criminal Law
Professional Responsibility in the Criminal Law Context
Business & Human Rights

Selected Publications

Drones and Civilians:  Emerging Evidence of the Terrorizing Effects of the U.S. Drone Program, 20 Santa Clara Journal of International Law 1 (2021)

Moving from Policies to Performance:  Complexities and Evidence, 49 Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law 337 (2021)

Doctrinal Innovation in International Criminal Law: Harms, Victims, and the Evolution of Law, 42 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 407 (2020).

The Changing Face of Terrorism and the Designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, 95 Indiana Law Journal 789 (2020).

United States Law and Conflict Minerals, in Human Rights in the Extractive Industries:  Transparency, Participation, Resistance (Feichtner & Krajewski, eds. 2019).

International Criminal Law and Climate Change, 37 Boston University International Law Journal 89 (2019).

The Creation of a Climate Change Court of Tribunal, (with Ku & Scott) in Climate Change and the UN Security Council (Scott & Ku, eds., 2018). 

The Problem of Purpose in International Criminal Law, 37 Michigan Journal of International Law 421 (2016).

Evidence-Based Stakeholder Engagement:  The Promise of Randomized Control Trials for Business and Human Rights, 3 Indiana Journal of Law & Social Equality 29 (2015).

Conflict Minerals and the Law of Pillage, 14 Chicago Journal of International Law 524 (2014).

Business, Human Rights, and Communities:  The Problem of Community Consent in Economic Development, 37 Fordham International Law Journal Online 44 (2014).

International Institutions and the Resource Curse, 3 Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs 216 (2014).

The Future of the Guiding Principles, 105 Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law 301 (2011).

Regulating Information Flows, Regulating  Conflict:  An Analysis of United States Conflict Minerals Legislation, 3 Goettingen Journal of International Law 129 (2011).  (Co-author, with Christiana Ochoa). 

The IFC’s New Africa, Latin America, and Caribbean Fund:  Its Worrisome Start, and How to Fix It, 30 Journal of Financial Transformation 127 (2010). 

The Human Rights Potential of Sovereign Wealth Funds, 40 Georgetown Journal of International Law 1151 (2009).   (Co-author, with Christiana Ochoa).

Sovereign Wealth Funds and Social Arrears:  Should Debts to Citizens be Treated Differently Than Debts to Other Creditors? 49 Virginia Journal of International Law 431 (2009).

Curse or Cure?  China, Africa, and the Effects of Unconditioned Wealth, 27 Berkeley Journal of International Law 83 (2009).

Financial Globalization and Human Rights, 46 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 509 (2008).

Do Norms Still Matter?  The Corrosive Effects of Globalization on the Vitality of Norms, 41 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 327 (2008).

The New Deterrence:  Crime and Policy in the Age of Globalization, 91 Iowa Law Review 505 (2006).

Judges and the Politics of Death:  Deciding Between the Bill of Rights and the Next Election in Capital Cases, 75 Boston University Law Review 3 (1995).  (Co-author, with Stephen B. Bright).

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