David Scheffer Headshot

Ambassador David J. Scheffer

Professor of Practice


David J. Scheffer joined the School of  Politics & Global Studies in 2021. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations (Washington office).  

From 2006 through 2020 Professor Scheffer was the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and is Director Emeritus of the Center for International Human Rights there. He was the Tom A. Bernstein Genocide Prevention Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2019-2021) and the International Francqui Professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (2022). From 2012 to 2018 he was the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert on U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.  Professor Scheffer was the first U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001) and led the U.S. delegation to the U.N. talks establishing the International Criminal Court.  He negotiated the creation of five war crimes tribunals and chaired the Atrocities Prevention Inter-Agency Working Group (1998-2001). He served on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council and as Senior Adviser and Counsel to Dr. Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, from 1993-1996.  His latest two books are "All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals" (Princeton 2012) and "The Sit Room: In the Theater of War and Peace" (Oxford 2019).

Professor Scheffer has worked in an international law firm, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the U.N. Association of the U.S.A., and he has held visiting professorships at several law schools.  He was an International Affairs Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations in 1986-87.  

Professor Scheffer received the Berlin Prize in 2013, the Champion of Justice Award of the Center for Justice and Accountability in 2018, and the 2020 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Global Leadership Institute, Tufts University.  Foreign Policy magazine selected him as a “Top Global Thinker of 2011.”  He is a member of the New York, District of Columbia, and Supreme Court bars and is a native of Norman, Oklahoma.


Harvard College A.B. (Government and Economics) magna cum laude, 1975

Oxford University B.A. (Honour School of Jurisprudence, Knox Fellow), 1978

Georgetown University Law Center LL.M. (International and Comparative Law), 1978