Samantha Besson is a Professor at the Collège de France, Paris, where she has held the chair International Institutions’ Law since 1st October 2019. She is also a part-time professor of Public International Law and European Law at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.
A Swiss and British national, she was born on March 30, 1973 in Beirut, Lebanon. She holds a bachelor degree in Swiss and European Law (Universities of Fribourg and Vienna, lic. iur., 1996), a Magister Juris in European and Comparative Law (Balliol College, University of Oxford, M. Jur. 1998), a doctorate in Law (University of Fribourg, 1999) and a habilitation in Legal Theory and in Swiss, Comparative, European and International Constitutional Law (University of Bern, 2004).
During the writing of her doctoral thesis, Samantha Besson worked as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Fribourg (1995-1997), received a one-year doctoral research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) to fund a research stay at the University of Oxford (Balliol College, University of Oxford, 1997-1998), and completed an internship at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg (1999). She then conducted further post-doctoral research at Columbia Law School in New York and at the University of Oxford with two (three-year) research fellowships: first, a SNSF post-doctoral fellowship (1999-2002: Visiting Scholar, Columbia Law School, 1999-2000 and University of Oxford, 2000-2002) and then a junior research fellowship from The Queen's College, Oxford (2001-2004). In 2004, Samantha Besson returned to Switzerland as an associate research professor at the University of Fribourg thanks to SNSF funding for her "Project for a European Philosophy of European Law (PEOPEL)" and her team (SNSF Professeur boursier, 2004-2008). In 2005, she was appointed full professor and chair of Public International and European Law at the same university.
Before that and since then, Samantha Besson has taught as a lecturer at the Universities of Oxford (2001-2004) and Geneva (2001-2005), then as a visiting professor at the Universities of Zurich (2007-2010), Duke (2009), Lausanne (2010), Lisbon (2010-2019), Harvard (2014; Jeremiah Smith, Jr., visiting professor) and Penn (2019; Bok visiting international professor). She has also taught in various capacities for the Hague Academy of International Law: as coordinator of the Advanced Course for Practitioners in Public and Private International Law (2009-2013), as director of Studies (2013) and as special course teacher (2020).
During the academic year 2011-2012, Samantha Besson stayed at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin as a research fellow. Since 2013, she has also been a member of the Scientific Council of the Nantes Institute of Advanced Studies, where she spent a few months in 2017. From 2013 to 2016, she was the delegate for Human Rights of the Swiss Academies of Sciences and, since 2017, has been a member of the Board of the Swiss Academy of Human and Social Sciences.
Samantha Besson's research areas are situated at the interface between general international law, European Union institutional law, and the philosophy of law. She is particularly interested in international and european human rights law and theory of human rights, the sources of international and european law, international and european responsibility law, comparative international law, domestic and european external relations law, and democratic theory.
In addition to numerous publications in French, including her first monograph L'égalité horizontale - L'égalité de traitement entre particuliers (AISUF: Fribourg, 1999), three textbooks Droit international public - Précis de droit et résumés de jurisprudence (Stämpfli: Berne, 2019), Droit constitutionnel européen - Précis de droit et résumés de jurisprudence (Stämpfli: Berne, 2019) and the bilingual Aide-mémoire Droit international public/Völkerrecht (3rd ed., Dike: Basel, 2019; co-authored with Stephan Breitenmoser, Anna Petrig, Marco Sassoli and Andreas R. Ziegler), as well as a collection of international texts Traités internationaux (3rd ed., Stämpfli: Berne, 2016; co-edited with Andreas R. Ziegler), she is the author of a second monograph in English, The Morality of Conflict: Reasonable Disagreement and Law (Hart Publishing: Oxford, 2005). She has also co-edited various collective works in French and English, in particular: Deliberative Democracy and its Discontents (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2006; with José Luis Martí), Legal Republicanism: National and International Perspectives (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009; with José Luis Martí), The Philosophy of International Law (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2010; with John Tasioulas) and The Oxford Handbook on the Sources of International Law (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2017; with Jean d'Aspremont). She is currently working on a monograph in French entitled La "due diligence" en droit international (2020, Recueil des cours de l'Académie de droit international de La Haye) and another in English entitled The Making of Equality - A Legal Theory of Human Rights (2021).