Alfred M. de Zayas studied history and law at Harvard, where he obtained his J.D. He practiced corporate law with the New York law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett and is a retired member of the New York and Florida Bar. He obtained a doctorate in history from the University of Göttingen in Germany.
Mr. de Zayas has been visiting professor of law at numerous universities including the University of British Columbia in Canada, the Graduate Institute of the University of Geneva, and the University of Trier (Germany). At present he teaches international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy.
In 2009 de Zayas was a member of the UN workshop that drafted a report on the human right to peace, which was subsequently discussed and further elaborated by the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council. He is also a signatory of the Declaración de Bilbao and Declaración de Santiago de Compostela on the Human Right to Peace. He served as a consultant to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of mercenaries. De Zayas is an expert for civil and political rights and has published nine books on a variety of legal and historical issues, including “United Nations Human Rights Committee Case Law” (together with Jakob th. Möller, N.P. Engel 2009), and has been co-author and co-editor of numerous other books, including “International Human Rights Monitoring Mechanisms” (together with Gudmundur Alfredsson and Bertrand Ramcharan). His scholarly articles in the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights and Macmillan Encyclopedia of Genocide, encompass the prohibition of aggression, universal jurisdiction, the right to the homeland, mass population transfers, minority rights, refugee law, repatriation, legal aspects of the Spanish Civil War, indefinite detention, Guantanamo and the right to peace. He is fluent in six languages and has published a book of Rilke translations with commentary (“Larenopfer”, Red Hen Press 2008) and is now completing the translation of Hermann Hesse’s “Das Lied des Lebens”.
From 2002-2006 he was Secretary-General, from 2006-2010 President of PEN International, Centre Suisse romand. He is member of several advisory boards, including of the International Society of Human Rights (Frankfurt a.M.), Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen (Berlin), the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (Canada) and of the conseil scientifique of the Académie International de droit constitutionnel (Tunis).
He has received several awards, most recently the “Educators Award 2011” of Canadians for Genocide Education.