Dr. Cheah W.L. is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law of the National University of Singapore (NUS) since 2007. She holds academic qualifications from the National University of Singapore (LL.B., LL.M.), Harvard Law School (LL.M.), European University Institute, and Oxford University (D.Phil). She is a qualified lawyer (called to the New York Bar) and holds a diploma in arbitration (Queen Mary University of London).
Cheah W.L.’s research interests lie at the intersection of public international law, international criminal law, and human rights law, with a focus on historical and contemporary legal responses to mass atrocity and structural violence. She is specifically interested in how competing cultural understandings of harm, responsibility, and difference influence legal actors working in the fields of international criminal law and human rights.
Her work has been accepted for publication in journals such as the Leiden Journal of International Law, European Journal of International Law, Harvard Human Rights Journal, Journal of International Criminal Justice, and International Journal of Law in Context. Currently, she is working on a book project about the Singapore war crimes trials. She has been awarded several research grants, such as the Humboldt University-NUS Research Collaboration Grant and the Singapore Judicial College Research Grant. She is also co-founder (with Ms Ng Pei Yi) of the Singapore War Crimes Trials Web Portal, which is kindly supported by Singapore National Heritage Board and Singapore Academy of Law.
Cheah W.L. has received teaching awards by the NUS Law Faculty (2018/2019 and 2015/2016) and the NUS University Scholars Program (2015/2016). Her teaching experience includes periods at the Centre for Transnational Legal Studies (London, UK), Oxford University (UK), Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 (France), and the Royal University of Law and Economics (Cambodia).
Prior to joining academia, Cheah W.L. served as a Legal Officer at INTERPOL’s Office of Legal Affairs (Lyon, France). She has been invited to speak on the practical impact of her research by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. She has interned at the Serious Crimes Unit (Timor Leste), Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM). In 2011, Cheah W.L. was a Visiting Professional at the International Criminal Court, and in 2018, she was awarded a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellowship at Melbourne Law School’s Laureate Program in International Law.
Cheah W.L.’s ongoing research examines how international law is particularized in different contexts. In “Culture and International Criminal Law”, she explores international criminal law’s encounter of cultural difference. In “Culture-Specific Evidence before Internationalized Criminal Courts: Lessons from Asian Jurisdictions”, she compares internationalized and Asian judicial experiences and argues that a more sensitive judicial approach to culture-specific evidence may be cultivated if attention is given not only to the cultural knowledge of judges, but also the court’s broader legal architecture, the position of the accused, and judicial identity.
She is also studying the role of law and war crimes trials in the pursuit of justice and accountability after WWII. In “The Curious Case of the Singapore BIA Desertion Trials: War Crimes, Projects of Empire, and the Rule of Law”, published by the European Journal of International Law, she argues that though many war crimes trials organised in Asia were intended to facilitate the return of colonial rule, the trials’ rule of law dynamics nevertheless resulted in unexpected acquittals and non-confirmations. In her earlier article “Culture and Understanding in in the Singapore War Crimes Trials (1946-1948): Interpreting Arguments of the Defence” in the International Journal of Law in Context, Cheah W.L. analyses the many contestations and divergent interpretations of legal concepts and arguments at trial, all of which complicated rather than clarified questions of accountability. She has written a series of articles about post-WWII trials and the post-WWII search for accountability. In a recent co-authored article published by Leiden Journal of International Law, “British War Crimes Trials in Europe and Asia (1945-1949) – A Comparative Study”, Cheah W.L. and Moritz Vormbaum compare post-WWII trials in Germany and Singapore with the aim of identifying and assessing factors shaping these trials.
Her broader research interests lie in studying how individuals and groups pursue accountability for human rights violations through local and global processes. Her article published by the Harvard Human Rights Journal examines the ‘comfort women’ movement’s creative use of domestic, regional and international forums to seek accountability for international sex crimes committed by the Japanese military. In another article published by the UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, she studies and compares the extent to which Timor Leste’s Special Panels for Serious Crimes and the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation achieved individual accountability and other post-conflict objectives.
Click here for a complete CV and list of Cheah W.L.’s publications: 200118_CHEAH_Wui_Ling_CV_master_full