- Professor of Law
- BA Occidental College 1969
- JD UCLA School of Law 1972
- PhD University of Cambridge 1981
- Professor of Law
University of Hawaii
- Professor in the Graduate School
Director, War Crimes Studies Center
University of California, Berkeley
- Fellow, Hoover Institution
Director, WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice
- Director, Asian International Justice Initiative
Senior Fellow in International Law
East-West Center, Honolulu
David Cohen taught at the University of California, Berkeley since from 1979-2012 as the Ancker Distinguished Professor for the Humanities and the founding Director of the Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center. He is now Professor in the Graduate School at UC Berkeley and Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i. Since 2000 he has collaborated on human rights projects in Asia with the East-West Center in Honolulu, a federally funded Asia-Pacific research center. There, he serves as Director of the Asian International Justice Initiative and as Senior Fellow in International Law. The War Crimes Studies Center also collaborates closely on a variety of archival and IT projects with the Hoover Library and Archive at Stanford University where Cohen also serves as a Senior Fellow in the Hoover Institution.
Cohen’s involvement in research in war crimes tribunals began in the mid 1990’s with a project to collect the records of the national war crimes programs conducted in approximately 20 countries in Europe and Asia after WWII. This project led to the creation of the Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, co-directed by Cohen and Prof. Dieter Simon, and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. After successful completion of a pilot project of acquisitions, Cohen and Simon created a follow-on Center at the University of Marburg and Cohen founded the War Crimes Studies Center at UC Berkeley (2000).
While the War Crimes Studies Center has continued (in collaboration with Marburg and the Hoover Library and Archive) to collect materials from the WWII war crimes trials, the major activities of the Center since 2001 have largely focused on contemporary tribunals. In 2001, Cohen began traveling regularly to East Timor to monitor and report on the UN Special Panels for Serious Crimes, culminating in the monograph Indifference and Accountability: The United Nations and the Politics of International Justice in East Timor (2006). Other Timor projects continue. While the East Timor trials were underway, Indonesia created a new court, the Jakarta Ad Hoc Human Rights Court, to try individuals for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999. Cohen monitored these trials as well, and published the monograph, Intended to Fail: Trials before the Jakarta Ad Hoc Human Rights Court (2004). Cohen’s engagement with these tribunals led to his appointment as Expert Advisor to the Commission on Truth and Friendship, established by the Presidents of Timor Leste and Indonesia.
Cohen’s involvement with the Jakarta Ad Hoc Human Rights Court also led to what has become a multi-year program of human rights training for the Indonesian judiciary and other institutions that began in 2003 and continues to today. In addition to the projects in Indonesia and East Timor, the War Crimes Studies Center continuously monitored the trials before the Special Court for Sierra Leone since the inception of trials in 2004 to the completion of the trial of Charles Taylor. The War Crimes Studies Center is currently monitoring the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh, in consultation with the U.S. State Department. Planning is underway for trial monitoring of referral cases from the ICTR to the domestic courts of Rwanda.
Over the past 3 years, a major focus for Cohen has been work in support of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Projects include ongoing trial monitoring; training for the international and Cambodian judges, investigating judges, defense counsel, and prosecutors; a weekly television program in a talk-show format with trial highlights and commentary; and the Virtual Tribunal, an interactive multimedia educational software platform to make the archival record of the tribunal accessible and meaningful to the Cambodian public and international users. The Virtual Tribunal Project has now been extended to the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
At the regional level, Cohen worked with the ASEAN Secretariat and the USAID Technical Facility to the ASEAN Secretariat, in forming and leading an expert group to create a Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN. The Resource Center was launched in 2010 and now encompasses a network of university-based institutions in six ASEAN countries (soon to be eight). Cohen serves as the Advisor to the Executive Director and the Governing Board of the Resource Center and leads the Center’s research projects. Cohen also directs the Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, a regionally focused summer course held in Southeast Asia every year in partnership with a local institution.
Books and Monographs:
The Athenian Law of Theft, C.H. Beck Verlag, Munich, Muenchner Beitraege zur
Law, Society and Sexuality: The Enforcement of Morals at Classical Athens, Cambridge University Press, 1991. (Greek translation, Athens 1999).
David Daube: Collected Studies in Roman Law (2 vols, edited by D. Cohen and D. Simon), Klostermann, 1991.
Law, Violence, and Community in Classical Athens, Cambridge University Press 1995.
Law, Democracy, and Social Control (D. Cohen, ed.), Oldenbourg Verlag, 2002.
Intended to Fail: Trials before the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta (International Center for Transitional Justice Special Reports 2004), Translated into Bahasa Indonesia 2005.
Cambridge Companion to Greek Law (co-editor Michael Gagarin, Cambridge University Press 2005).
Indifference and Accountability: The United Nations and the Politics of International Justice in East Timor ( East-West Center Special Reports 2006).
Seeking Truth and Accountability: Report of the Expert Advisor to the Commission on Truth and Friendship for Indonesia and Timor-Leste (co-authors Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb and Aviva Nababan; 2008 Commission on Truth and Friendship; Bahasa Indonesia translation, ELSAM 2009).
Seeking Truth and Accountability Part II: Addendum to the Report of the Expert Advisor to the Commission on Truth and Friendship for Indonesia and Timor-Leste (co-author Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb; 2008 Commission on Truth and Friendship, Bahasa Indonesia translation, ELSAM 2009).
Editor, Baseline Survey on the Rule of Law for Human Right in ASEAN (co-editor, Kevin Tan, HRRC Jakarta 2011).
Editor, Baseline Survey on the Rights of Women and Children in ASEAN and Exploitation in Migration (co-editor Kevin Tan, 3 volumes, HRRC Jakarta 2012).
Co-Editor, Baseline Survey on Business and Human Rights in ASEAN (Editor, Christine Kaufmann HRRC Jakarta 2013).
Books In Progress:
Twisted Paths of Justice: The Politics and Jurisprudence of the World War II War Crimes Trials, under contract to Cambridge University Press.
Law, Politics, and Jurisprudence at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial (co-author, Yuma Totani,) under contract to Cambridge University Press, to appear 2013.
An End to Impunity? Justice and Politics in International Tribunals from Nuremberg to the ICC (co-author Eric Stover).
Articles on War Crimes Trials, Transitional Justice, and International Humanitarian Law
"The Legacy of Nuremberg," Rechtshistorisches Journal (1995), 531-49.
"Beyond Nuremberg: Individual Responsibility for War Crimes," in C. Hesse and R. Post, eds., Human Rights in Transition, Zone Press (1999), 53-92.
"Bureaucratic Responsibility in the World War II War Crimes Trials," Rechtshistorisches Journal (1999) 313-42.
“Oeffentliche Errinerung und Kriegsverbrecherprozesse in Asien und Europa”, in Klinkhammer and Schwentker, eds., Diktatur, Krieg, und Errinerung in Deutschland, Italien, und Japan (Fisher Verlag 2004).
"The Rhetoric of Transitional Justice: Strategies of Reconciliation and Revenge in the Restoration of the Athenian Democracy in 403 B.C.”, Annales Europeen de Sociologie 62 (2001).
“Historiography, War, and War Crimes; The Representation of World War II”, Rechtshistorisches Journal (2000) 1-19.
“Transitional Justice in Divided Germany after 1945”, J. Elster, ed., Transitional Justice (Cambridge University Press 2006).
"Seeking Justice on the Cheap: Is the East Timor Tribunal Really a Model for the Future?" (Asia-Pacific Issues, East-West Center, September 2002).
"Nuremberg's Legacy: Models of Command Responsibility", Guerra ai Civili, (Il Mulino 2005)
“Indonesia After the Tsunami”, co-authors Aviva Nababan and Agung Widjaya, in After the Tsunami: Human Rights and Vulnerable Populations (East-West Center 2005).
Military Justice from WWII to Guantanamo: Fair Trials, Judicial Murder, and International Standards in WWII Crimes Trials in Asia”, in R. Kiesow, et. al, eds., Summa: Festschrift fuer Dieter Simon (Klostermann 2005).
“The East Timor Trials: Perspectives and Challenges for the Indonesian Human Rights Courts”, co-author Agung Widaryanata, to appear in, ed., M. Cammack, Indonesian Law and Judicial Reform (Asian Law Center, Univ. of Washington).
“The Jurisprudential Legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia” (United Nations Development Program 2006).
“Justice on the Cheap Revisited”, Asia-Pacific Issues, East-West Center 2006
“Hybrid Tribunals : Prospects and Challenges”, University of Marburg 2007.
“War Crimes”, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (2007).
“Hybrid’ Justice in East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia: ‘Lessons Learned’ and Prospects for the Future”, Stanford Journal of International Law 2007.
“International Law and Command Responsibility in the Adam Damiri Case at the Indonesia Ad Hoc Human Rights Court”, (in Bahasa Indonesia), ELSAM 2007.
“Strategies of Excuse and Justification in WWII War Crimes Trials in Asia”. J. Elster, ed., Defenses and Excuses in War Crimes Trials in WWII (Norwegian Academy 2009).
“’Hybrid’ Tribunals and the Limits of Accountability: Aims, Resources, and Political Will”, in Bergsmo and Elster, eds., Law in Peace Negotaions (2009, republished 2010, Oslo).
“The Jurisprudence of the Tokyo Trial and its Legacy”, to appear in Mochizuki and Daqing, eds., The Tokyo Tribunal: Justice, Power, and Society (2010).
“When More May be Less: Transitional Justice in East Timor” (co-author, Leigh-Ashley Lipscomb), Nomos, Special Issue Transitional Justice, eds. Williams, Nagy, Elster (2011) pp. 257-315.
“Accountability in the Balance: Trials before the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor 1999-2005,” in M. Karagianakis ed., Law in Context Special Issue (2010) 103-131.
“Civil Society Initiatives and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission” Asia Pacific Bulletin (2010).
“Contextual Approaches to Transitional Justice: Proposing a New Normative Framework” (Co-Author Mahdev Mohan, 2012).
“War, Genocide, and Responsibility” (in Japanese, English translation to appear), in Ishida and Takeuchi, Genocide in the Modern World (Tokyo 2011).
“Prosecuting Sexual Violence from the Tokyo Tribunal to the ICC”, in Bergsmo and Wood, eds., Understanding and Prosecuting Sexual Violence in International Criminal Law, (Forum for International Humanitarian and Criminal Law 2012).
Review of Morten Bergsmo (ed.), Active Complementarity: Legal Information Transfer, Journal of International Criminal Justice 2012 10: 1017-1019.
“The Passage of Time, the Vagaries of Memory, and Reaching Judgment in Mass Atrocity Cases”, W. Cheah and M. Bergsmo, eds., Old Evidence and Core International Crimes (FICHL 2012).
“The Singapore War Crimes Trials and their Legacy Today”, to appear in the Singapore Law Review July 2013.
“Politics, Judicial Independence, and Transitional Justice at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal”, MYOPS April 2013.
Academic Honors, Activities, and Fellowships
1967-69 Occidental College Scholar
1969-70 Florence Virginia Wilson Honorary Scholarship, School of Law, UCLA
1970-71 Law Review, UCLA
1973-74 National Endowment for the Humanities Humanists Fellowship
1975-76 Regents Fellowship, University of California
1978-79 American Council of Learned Societies Research Fellowship
1979 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowship for Law Teachers
1979-80 Dana Fellowship in International and Comparative Law
1980 American Bar Foundation Legal History Fellowship
1983 Gerda Henkel Stiftung Fellowship
1987 Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Senior Research Fellowship
1987 American Bar Foundation Legal History Fellowship
1993-94 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship
1994 University of California President's Fellowship in the Humanities
1994 American Council of Learned Societies Research Fellowship
1996 Director, NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers
1997 Historical Research Prize, Historisches Kolleg, Munich
1998 Fellow, Historisches Kolleg, Munich
1998-2007 Member, Scientific Advisory Board (Wissenschaftliches Beirat) Max Planck
1999 Co-Director, NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers
2001 Research Fellowship, East West Center
2002 Co-Director, NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers
2004 UC Berkeley Undergraduate Mentorship Award
2005- 06 Humanities Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley
2007 Honorary Doctorate in Law (Doctor Honoris Causa), University of Zurich
2009- Member, University of Zurich Expertise Center (Kompetenzzentrum) for Human Rights
2009- Member, Advisory Board for the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, Cambodia
2009- Member, Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court Legal Tools
Database and Case Matrix Network
2010- Member, Advisory Board, Human Rights, Peace-Building and Conflict Prevention Program, Singapore Management University
2010- Member, Advisory Board of CIVICUS, Cambodia
2010 Member, Advisory Board, Forum for International Criminal Law
2010- Member, Advisory Board of the African Association of Rhetoric
2011 Humanities Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley
2010-2012 National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant
2011 University of Munich (LMU) Center of Excellence Fellowship
2012 University of Munich (LMU) Center of Excellence Fellowship
2013 Fellowship, Center for Advanced Studies, University of Munich Institute for Legal History, Frankfurt