Ms Michelle Hughes

Ms Michelle Hughes

PhD student in Law

LSE Law School

Key Expertise
Rule of law development, institutional reform, human rights

About me

Thesis title

'The Cost of Compliance: The Judicialization of Conflict and the Art of War’


Dr. Devika Hovell and Professor Conor Gearty

Research Interests

comparative constitutionalism and human rights; public international law; international humanitarian law; international criminal law, peace and conflict; cultural heritage protection

Michelle Hughes is an American lawyer and retired U.S. Army Intelligence Officer, master paratrooper, and combat veteran with more than 40 years of professional experience in law and policy.  She has conducted counterinsurgency, counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions, and led or advised rule of law development projects in more than 24 active or post-conflict zones on four continents.  Between 2010-2014, she served in Afghanistan as the Senior Civilian Rule of Law Advisor to the NATO Police and Ministry of Interior development mission; Special Rule of Law Advisor to the Commanding General of the NATO Special Operations Component Command; and conducted rule of law assessments on behalf of the US Institute for Peace just prior to the 2014 Afghan national elections.  Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, her most recent field experience was as the human rights and gender advisor to the Assistant National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism in Iraq. Her current research explores the intersection between international human rights and the art of war as practiced by Western Liberal Democracies.

During the Obama administration, Michelle was appointed as a Senior Executive civilian in the U.S. Department of Defense where she was the only designated “Highly Qualified Expert” for Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform. After leaving government in 2012, she founded VALRAC Innovation, LLC, a company dedicated to preparing the next generation to restore and strengthen the rule of law at home and abroad. Her public security experience, combined with her extensive legal background in the private sector, informs her teaching, research, and the projects she undertakes in partnership with leading international organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and universities. Representative positions have included Chief of Global Strategy for, and Senior Advisor and Visiting Professor to Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Rule of Law for Development Institute in Rome, Italy. She is a Fellow with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies and a Senior Fellow with the U.S. National Defense University Joint Forces Staff College.

Michelle holds a B.A. from the University of Florida; a J.D., summa cum laude, from Regent University School of Law; and an LL.M., with distinction, from the London School of Economics. Her most recent book is “Impunity: Countering Illicit Power in War and Transition,” and she is the producer, scriptwriter, and editor of the U.S. National Defense University educational web- and podcast series: “Impunity: Beyond the Book.”

In 2021, Michelle and her oldest daughter were the subject of a special episode of the From the Green Notebook podcast series, titled “A Mother’s Airborne Legacy - Michelle Hughes and Valerie Nostrant”.


“Constitutional Design as an Enabler of Peace: Colombia and the Constitutional Reform of 1991,”  LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 10/2022 (June 27, 2022) 

“Self-Defence and its Dangerous Variants: Afghanistan and International Law,” Co-authored with Devika Hovell, LSE Public Policy Review, 2(3) (2022) 

Impunity: Countering Illicit Power in War and Transition, Edited by Michelle A. Hughes and Michael Miklaucic. Washington, DC: The Government Printing Office (2016) 

“The Afghan National Police in 2015 and Beyond,” United States Institute for Peace Special Report (2014) 

“Advancing the Rule of Law Abroad: Next Generation Reform,” Prism, Vol. 4, No. 1, National Defense University Press (2012) 

“Discovering the Soul of Policing in Afghanistan,”  Peace and Stability Operations Journal Online, Vol. 2, Issue 4 (2012) 

Handbook for Military Support to Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform, Co-authored with David Gordon (2011) 

“The Relationship Between SSR and DDR: Impediments to Comprehensive Planning in Military Operations,” published in Monopoly of Force: the Nexus of DDR and SSR (2011) 

Contributing author to the US Department of State’s Criminal Justice Sector Assessment Rating Tool (2008) 

Co-author of the Military Contribution to Cooperative Security Joint Operating Concept (2008) 

Contributing author to the Rule of Law Handbook: A Practitioner’s Guide for Judge Advocates (2007) 

Technical Lead for test and evaluation of Rand Corporation’s Defense Sector Assessment Rating Tool (2010)