Melanie O'Brien Photo by Lisa Miller

Melanie O'Brien

Dr, she/her

  • The University of Western Australia (M253), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Accepting PhD and other Higher Degree by Research Students. View current PhD/HDR research project opportunities at

PhD/HDR research projects available:

Feminist legal perspectives in the fields of international criminal law; genocide studies; international humanitarian law; and international human rights law.

Personal profile


Dr Melanie O’Brien is Associate Professor of International Law at the UWA Law School, University of Western Australia; and President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS). Dr O'Brien was a 2023-24 Visiting Professor at the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, USA; and is a Visiting Scholar at the Human Rights Center, Law School, University of Minnesota.

The International Criminal Court has cited Dr O'Brien's work on forced marriage, and she has been an amica curia before the ICC. She has been an expert consultant for multiple UN bodies, including the UN Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran.  Dr O'Brien is widely consulted by global media for her expertise on international criminal law. She has conducted fieldwork and research across six continents; and is part of the Ukraine Peace Settlement Project.

Dr O'Brien is a member of the WA International Humanitarian Law Committee of the Australian Red Cross. She was a 2022 Research Fellow at the Sydney Jewish Museum & a 2023 Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Loughborough, UK.

Dr O'Brien is the author of Criminalising Peacekeepers: Modernising National Approaches to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (Palgrave, 2017) and From Discrimination to Death: Genocide Process through a Human Rights Lens (Routledge, 2022, Australian Legal Research Awards finalist).

Roles and responsibilities

Dr O'Brien is Director, Research Assessment, Impact & Engagement.

Dr O’Brien is the unit coordinator of International Criminal Law; Public International Law; Foundations of Public International Law; International Humanitarian Law; Supervised Research; and all the Masters Research units.

Dr O'Brien is a member of the Law School Research Committee. 

Funding overview

- Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Short-Term Grant for Armenian Studies.

- Visiting Professor, Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, USA.

- Visiting Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Loughborough, UK.

- Research Fellow, Sydney Jewish Museum

- Extensive in-kind funding, including from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Armenian Government, the Swedish Government/Atlantic Initiative, and the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry/Liberation War Museum.

-UWA EEU 'Flipping the Classroom' Grant

- Ian Potter Foundation Conference Grant

- US Holocaust Memorial Museum Workshop Attendee Grant

- Clark University Conference Attendee Grant

- TC Beirne School of Law Collaborative Workshop Grant (with Professor Heather Douglas)
- Ian Potter Foundation Travel Grant
- Australian Academy of the Humanities Humanities Travelling Fellowship
- International Network of Genocide Scholars Travel Grant
- University of Queensland Postdoctoral Fellowship
- Griffith Asia Institute Australia China Futures Dialogues Visiting Fellowship to Peking University, China
- Gandel Philanthropy Scholarship for the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators, at Yad Vashem in Israel

Previous positions

- Research Fellow, TC Beirne School of Law, The University of Queensland
- Researcher, Anti-Slavery Australia in the Law School, University of Technology Sydney
- Human Rights Legal Advisor, National Human Rights Institution of Samoa
- Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Griffith University
- Law Clerk, Legal Advisory Section of the Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
- Research Assistant, International Criminal Justice Unit of the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre
- Consulting Editor, Raoul Wallenberg Institute

Industrial relevance

Dr O’Brien is an admitted legal practitioner (NSW Supreme Court). She has worked in legal practice and international organisations, in the National Human Rights Institution of Samoa; the Legal Advisory Section of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court; the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations; the Australian Law Reform Commission; and the NSW Crown Solicitors Office. As an academic, Dr O'Brien is regularly consulted by UN bodies, asked to speak by governments and organisations, and has appeared as an amicus curiae before the International Criminal Court.

Teaching overview

LAWS5165 Public International Law (JD)
LAWS5224 Foundations of Public International Law (MIL)

LAWS5219 International Criminal Law (MIL)
LAWS5220 International Humanitarian Law (MIL)
LAWS5512 Supervised Research (JD)
LAWS5694 Research Paper I (LLM/MIL)
LAWS5695 Research Paper II (LLM/MIL)
LAWS5696 Research Paper III Part 1 (LLM/MIL)
LAWS5697 Research Paper III Part 2 (LLM/MIL)


- Human rights and genocide: construction of a paradigm of the genocidal process through human rights violations to function as a map to prevent future genocides & provide a pattern to prove genocide.
- Sexual and gender-based violence against women in mass atrocities, including forced marriage.

- Women's rights.

- Rohingya Genocide; Holocaust; Cambodian Genocide; Armenian Genocide; Bosnia; Ukraine-Russia conflict; Israel-Palestine conflict.

- International criminal law: genocide; war crimes; crimes against humanity; command responsibility; gravity; forced marriage.

- The Genocide Convention and its cases before the International Court of Justice.


Dr O'Brien's research and supervision areas include international criminal law, genocide studies, international human rights law, international humanitarian law (IHL), feminist legal theory, public international law, comparative criminal law, peacekeeping, and military law.



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Human Rights, IHL, LLM, Lund University

Education, Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching, The University of Western Australia

Law, LLB, University of Newcastle

History, French, BA, University of Newcastle

International Law, PhD, National and International Criminal Jurisdiction over United Nations Peacekeeping Personnel for Gender-Based Crimes Against Women, University of Nottingham

Legal Practice, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, University of Technology Sydney

External positions

Visiting Scholar, University of Minnesota Minneapolis

26 May 2024 → …

Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota Minneapolis

28 Aug 202326 May 2024

Industry keywords

  • Law

Research expertise keywords

  • International criminal law
  • Human rights law
  • Human Rights
  • International humanitarian law
  • Feminism and feminist theory
  • United Nations
  • Comparative Criminal Law
  • International Law/ Human Rights
  • International Law
  • International Law/ Criminal Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminology
  • Genocide Studies
  • war crimes


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