Sina Alavi ’14: Advising a Small Nation on Mega Matters (Fall 2019)

Sina Alavi ’14 helps shape Liechtenstein’s key role in global affairs

Sina Alavi
Sina Alavi ’14

For a tiny country, the European principality of Liechtenstein—population 38,000—has an outsized influence on international criminal law, according to Sina Alavi ’14.

Sina has served as a senior legal and political adviser at Liechtenstein’s mission to the United Nations for three years. He attributes the country’s sway partly to its veteran ambassador, Christian Wenaweser, who has played a lead role in developing the International Criminal Court, and partly to the egalitarian nature of the UN, where, Sina said, rather than the size or power of a country, “sometimes it’s the cogency of the argument that wins the day.”

Sina grew up in Southern California, the son of Iranian immigrants. His mother was raised in Germany, and Sina speaks English, German, French, and Farsi. “We have family all around the world,” he said. “My upbringing always had a very international focus.”

He came to UC Hastings with international law in mind and spent his third year in Paris, studying European Union law from the Université Panthéon-Assas, where he earned a Master of Laws con- currently with his JD.

At UC Hastings, he particularly appreciated courses with Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Chimène Keitner, Joel Paul, and Ugo Mattei. “They’re all world-class thinkers in this area of the law and helped me develop my ideas,” Sina said.

Upon graduation, he spent a year on a fellowship with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court in New York, which he said acts as an umbrella for 2,000 smaller NGOs advocating for international justice. “Liechtenstein wasn’t on my radar at that point,” he said, but he began working with people from the mission and seeing its huge influence. His knowledge of German, he notes, was particularly helpful in getting hired for his current position.

Today, Sina feels particularly fortunate to work on the front lines of critical issues shaping international criminal law, from how to deal with war crimes in Syria and Myanmar to how to hold any country accountable for an act of aggression against another. In fact, Liechtenstein has taken the lead in efforts to resolve some unfinished business from the Nuremberg trials, and Sina says he has been privileged to work with legendary Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz, now 99 years old, who convicted 22 Nazis for the murder of 80,000 Jews. “He’s really inspirational,” Sina said. “Today, with global tensions on the rise, it’s interesting to speak to someone who saw far, far worse.”

Sina hopes his work today may help the world “make sure we’re not on a slippery slope to do something worse again.”