Dr Shannon Maree Torrens is an Australian international and human rights lawyer and expert on international legal responses to mass atrocities. She is admitted as a lawyer of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia. Her PhD/doctoral thesis was completed at Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney, focusing on international criminal law and modern international criminal courts and tribunals.
Shannon also holds a BA (Media and Communications, Government and English) degree from the University of Sydney, with a specialisation in Middle East Society and Politics including the Arab-Israeli Conflict, World Politics, European Politics, Australian Politics and Australian Foreign and Defence Policy. In addition, she has a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (Honours) degree from the University of Sydney Law School, with a specialisation in public international law, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, legal theory and criminology. She has also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (GDLP) as a prerequisite for legal admission in Australia.
Shannon has previously worked in international criminal law at the international criminal tribunals and courts for Rwanda (ICTR), the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Sierra Leone (SCSL) and Cambodia (ECCC), focusing on genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. She has worked in Trial Chambers, assisting with the drafting of landmark judgments including the Bagosora (Military 1) Judgment at the ICTR, the Duch (001) Judgment at the ECCC and with the ICTY Appeals Chamber, assisting with the drafting of the Krajišnik Appeals Judgment. Shannon has also worked on the defence teams of high profile accused, such as the Defence Team of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor at the SCSL in The Hague, Sierra Leone and Liberia, providing legal advice and also conducting investigations, in addition to working with the Jovica Stanišić Defence Team at the ICTY.
Shannon has worked as a legal and political advisor, and negotiator for the Marshall Islands Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York in the UN General Assembly Sixth Committee (Legal), representing the Pacific Island state in international law issues, including the country’s engagement with the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute and also the UN Security Council. That is in addition to representing the Marshall Islands and collaborating with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on fisheries and law of the sea resolution negotiations. Also in the area of law of the sea, Shannon has worked at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg.
Shannon has also worked with Independent Diplomat, a New York based diplomatic advisory organisation, again assisting the Marshall Islands, this time on issues of climate change, rising sea levels, preparations for the Marshall Islands’ hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum and on the drafting of the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership. Shannon also provided assistance to the Marshall Islands for their participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and advised the late Tony de Brum, the former Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Climate Change Ambassador.
In other experiences, Shannon has worked in the area of human rights and international obligations at Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney and has advised the Wik indigenous community in Cape York, Australia on Native Title and law of the sea issues. She has also served as a legal assistant to a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW Australia and has worked in litigation at a Sydney law firm. Shannon has also worked with the Legal Department of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on law of the sea and environmental law issues and has also spent time with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), working in rural villages in Bihar, India on human rights and development concerns. Shannon has also worked at the Australian Embassies to Italy and the Holy See (the Vatican) as part of the Australian delegation to the United Nations in Rome, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Shannon has lectured, published and presented papers on international law and more specifically on international criminal law, human rights, climate change and law of the sea all over the world, including presenting original research at Yale University, Harvard Law School, the University of California Berkeley, Stanford University, Georgetown Law School, the London School of Economics (LSE), the University of Sydney Law School, the University of Melbourne Law School, the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales Law School, the University of Western Australia, the University of Tasmania and Padova University in Italy. She has delivered keynote lectures on international criminal law, international human rights law and climate change.
She has also worked as an Editorial Advisor for the Cambodia Law and Policy Journal and has served as an Editor for the University of Sydney’s Polemic law journal – human rights issue. In addition, she has contributed and edited content for several online law websites and she has acted as a reviewer for journals including the Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies and the Cambodia Law and Policy Journal.
Shannon has been interviewed as an expert of international law by ABC Radio National (Australia), The Times of India, The Cambodia Daily (Cambodia) and Deutsche Welle (Germany). She has also been quoted and her comments and work featured in other news and online sources, again as an expert of international law in de Volkskrant (The Netherlands), Mondoweiss (USA), The Hindu (India), Malayala Manorama (India), Sputnik (Russia), Opinio Juris (International Law blog), Arab Center Washington DC, Institute for Middle East Understanding and The Wire Science.
She has also written opinion pieces, essays and articles for newspapers, websites, blogs and journals including Haaretz (Israel), The Peninsula (Qatar), The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), The Age (Australia), Brisbane Times (Australia), WAtoday (Australia), The Canberra Times (Australia), An-Nahar English (Lebanon), The Globe and Mail (Canada), The Drouth (Scotland), The Diplomat (USA), Justice in Conflict (Canada) and iLawyer (UK/The Hague). Her opinion pieces have also been translated into multiple languages by interest groups.
Shannon has served as a Board Member of the University of Sydney Law School and as a Board Member of the Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia. Finally, she has volunteered with the Australian Red Cross, the Exodus Foundation and the Starlight Children’s Foundation.