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David Akerson

International Law


B.A., 1984, Furman University
J.D., 1987, Florida State University
Ph.D. Candidate, National University of Ireland, Galway

University of Denver Lecturer David Akerson is a trial attorney with a broad international law and human rights portfolio ranging from human rights work in apartheid South Africa to prosecuting perpetrators at the Yugoslavia and Rwanda international criminal tribunals. His expertise lies in the core international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity; practice and procedure of the international tribunals; complex international criminal litigation; and international tribunal and policy.

Professor Akerson joined the University of Denver Law faculty in 2006 and currently teaches courses in international criminal law, international criminal procedure, and genocide and war crimes. He also teaches a “Genocide and War Crimes” Practicum in which University of Denver students collaborate with international tribunals and prosecution or defense teams to research, organize and analyze evidence in global genocide cases. Specifically, his practicum students review transcripts of witnesses’ testimony and other evidence in a case after it has concluded, or even as a trial is in progress. They prepare summaries and analyses of testimony, and highlight key names, dates and locations. Students use one or more databases that organize the material with hyperlinks to other relevant facts and actual portions of transcripts to support what they have written. In active cases, the research the students have compiled and stored into the databases is subsequently presented to the courts and/ or prosecution and defense teams and used in the proceedings of the case. Since 2006, students in Professor Akerson’s class have worked on proceedings from the Rwandan genocide, on proceedings for the prosecution of ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor, and on proceedings of the Special Tribunal for Cambodia.

Professor Akerson’s recent publications include The Illegality of Fully Autonomous Lethal Drones, in THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT AND THE CHANGING TECHNOLOGY OF WAR (forthcoming) and PROSECUTING MASS CRIMES: A COMPENDIUM OF LESSONS LEARNED AND SUGGESTED PRACTICES, a three-year study of prosecutorial practices at the International Tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon. The 300-page study is available on the International Association of Prosecutors website.

Featured Publications

  • Applying Jus in Bello Proportionality to Drone Warfare, 16 University of Oregon Review of International Law (2014).
  • The Illegality of Fully Autonomous Lethal Drones, book chapter in The Law of Armed Conflict and the Changing Technology of War, forthcoming 2012.