Matiangai Sirleaf

Nathan Patz Professor of Law




(410) 706-4097

Photo of Matiangai Sirleaf


  • JD, Yale Law School
    MA, University of Ghana Legon Center for International Affairs
    BA, New York University College of Arts and Sciences

Professor Matiangai Sirleaf is an interdisciplinary international scholar, justice seeker, and human rights advocate who has worked over the last 16 years to unearth unjust hierarchies embedded in international law and to remedy the inequities that emerge and persist.

She is the Nathan Patz Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She holds a secondary appointment as a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Professor Sirleaf has published widely and extensively. Her areas of expertise include public international law, international human rights law, global public health law, international criminal law, post-conflict and transitional justice, and criminal law. Her current research projects are focused on race and the histories of international human rights and health inequality and the law.

Professor Sirleaf is the editor of the first thematic print volume on Race & National Security (2023) with Oxford University Press. Her work has been featured in leading law reviews such as the Cardozo Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Texas Law Review, and the UCLA Law Review. Professor Sirleaf’s writing appears in several textbooks with Oxford University Press like Foundations of Global Health & Human Rights (2020) and Global Health Law & Policy: Ensuring Justice for a Healthier World (2023).

Her commentary and reflections also appear in several fora such as, AfronomicsLaw, American Journal of International Law, American Journal of International Law Unbound, American Society of International Law Insights, Bill of Health, Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Jurist, Just Security, Opinio Juris, and Third World Approaches to International Law Review.

Professor Sirleaf’s research can be broadly categorized as critical international legal scholarship. Specifically, much of her writing falls in line with the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) tradition. TWAIL scholarship reconsiders the history and development of international law and highlights its colonial legacy. She has engaged in several projects where she looks at the embedded and hidden histories of international law in national security, in human rights, and in global health. Her work elucidates how seemingly neutral laws further global inequities. The common thread through all her scholarship whether examining issues of racial justice, civil and political violations, or socio-economic violations, is responsibility. International law conceives of responsibility in narrow ways and her scholarships seeks to render it more emancipatory.

Professor Sirleaf serves in several leadership positions. She is an executive editor at Just Security and is a member of the board of editors of the American Journal of International Law.

Professor Sirleaf has received several prestigious grants, awards, fellowships, and other honors. These include recognition as a fellow of the American Bar Foundation (2023), the University of Pittsburgh’s Teaming Grant (2020), the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award (2019), the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics Health Law Scholar Selection (2019), the University Center for International Studies Faculty Fellowship (2018-2019), the Ford Institute for Human Security Research Grant (2016-2018), the New York University Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award (2014), and a Fulbright Fellowship (2004).

Professor Sirleaf previously served as an associate professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, as an assistant professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, as well as a Sharswood Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

She held several attorney and fellow roles prior to entering academia. These roles include Human Rights Fellow at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll (2010-2012); law clerk, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, Constitutional Court of South Africa (2009-2010); and Bernstein Fellow at the International Center for Transitional Justice (2008-2009).


Editor, Race and National Security (Oxford University Press 2023). Abstract

Book Chapters

White Health and International Law, in Race, Racism and International Law (Devon Carbado, Kimberle Crenshaw, Justin Desautels-Stein & Chantal Thomas eds., forthcoming 2024). Abstract

Global Health Landscape: The Proliferating Actors Influencing Global Health Governance, in Global Health Law & Policy: Ensuring Justice for a Healthier World 65 (Lawrence O. Gostin & Benjamin Mason Meier eds., Oxford University Press 2023) (with Benjamin Mason Meier). Abstract

COVID-19 and Cooperation in Times of Disaster, in The Cambridge Handbook of Disaster Law and Policy 221 (Susan S. Kuo, John Travis Marshall & Ryan Rowberry eds., 2022). Abstract

Global Health Law: Legal Foundations for Social Justice in Public Health, in Foundations of Global Health and Human Rights (Lawrence O. Gostin & Benjamin Mason Meier eds., 2020) (with Lawrence O. Gostin & Eric Friedman). Abstract

Prosecuting Dirty Dumping in Africa, in The African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples' Rights in Context 553 (Charles C. Jalloh & Kammari Clark eds., 2019). Abstract


Reflecting on Race, Racism, and Transitional Justice, International Journal of Transitional Justice (2024) (with Tendayi Achiume). Abstract

Palestine as a Litmus Test, International Journal of Transitional Justice (2024), doi:

Decolonization of Global Health Law: Lessons from International Environmental Law, 51 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 450 (2023) (with Alexandra Phelan). Abstract

Rendering Whiteness Visible, 117 American Journal of International Law 484 (2023). Abstract

White Health as Global Health, 117 AJIL Unbound 88 (2023). Abstract

Do You Have to Say that You Are Black?, Third World Approaches to International Law Review: Reflections, no. 43 (June 15, 2022). Abstract

We Charge Vaccine Apartheid?, 50 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 726 (2022). Abstract

Disposable Lives: COVID-19, Vaccines, and the Uprising, 121 Columbia Law Review Forum 71 (2021). Abstract

Racial Valuation of Diseases, 67 UCLA Law Review 1820 (2021). Abstract

"I Can't Breathe": Connecting COVID-19, Protests, and Global Health, 114 Proceedings of the ASIL Annual Meeting 373 (2020).

Capacity-Building, International Cooperation, and COVID-19, 24 ASIL Insights, No. 17 (2020). Abstract

Entry Denied: COVID-19, Race, Migration & Global Health, 2 Frontiers in Human Dynamics 599157 (2020). Abstract

Responsibility for Epidemics, 97 Texas Law Review 285 (2018). Abstract

Not Your Dumping Ground: Criminalization of Trafficking in Hazardous Waste in Africa, 35 Wisconsin Journal of International Law 326 (2018). Abstract

Ebola Does Not Fall from the Sky: Global Structural Violence and International Responsibility, 51 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 477 (2018). Abstract

The African Justice Cascade and the Malabo Protocol, 11 International Journal of Transitional Justice 71 (2017). Abstract

Regionalism, Regime Complexes and International Criminal Justice in Africa, 54 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 699 (2016). Abstract

The Truth About Truth Commissions: Why They Do Not Function Optimally in Post-Conflict Societies, 35 Cardozo Law Review 2263 (2014). Abstract

Beyond Truth and Justice in Transnational Justice, 54 Virginia Journal of International Law 195 (2014). Abstract

Regional Approach to Transitional Justice? Examining the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia, 21 Florida Journal of International Law 209 (2009). Abstract