Miss Rhiannon Neilsen

PhD Candidate
School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Rhiannon Neilsen is currently a PhD Candidate in International Relations at the University of New South Wales, Canberra. In 2017, she was awarded a UNSW Scientia Scholarship to undertake her doctoral studies with Professor Toni Erskine under the project heading ‘New Technologies and the Ethics of War’. Rhiannon’s thesis examines the potential for cyber-capabilities to protect vulnerable populations from mass atrocity crimes – that is, genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes – in the 21st century. Specifically, it asks: Can cyber-capabilities can be used effectively and ethically by states, international organisations, and non-state actors (such as transnational corporations, private military contractors, and individuals) to support Pillars 2 and 3 of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)?

Rhiannon’s research interests include atrocity prevention, moral and political philosophy, conflict in the cyber-realm, norms in international relations, human rights, and R2P. Her published work has been on early warning signs and perpetrator motivations for genocide, moral injury, and political approaches to human rights.

  • Neilsen, Rhiannon (2015) ‘Toxification as a more precise early warning sign for genocide than dehumanization? An emerging research agenda’, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 9 (1): 83 – 95.
  • Neilsen, Rhiannon (2015) ‘“Dents in the Soul?”’ in Moral Injury: Unseen Wounds in an Age of Barbarism, edited by Tom Frame. Kensington, UNSW Press: 135 – 147.
  • Neilsen, Rhiannon (2015) ‘Perfidy and Means mala in se’ in Key Issues in Military Ethics, edited by Deane-Peter Baker. Kensington, UNSW Press: 169 – 173.
  • Neilsen, Rhiannon (2016), ‘The Structural Prevention of Mass Atrocities: Risk and Resilience, by Stephen McLoughlin’, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 9(3): 180 – 182.
  • Williams, Timothy and Rhiannon Neilsen (2016), ‘“They will rot the society, rot the Party and rot the army.” Toxification as perpetrator motivation in the Khmer Rouge genocide?’, Terrorism and Political Violence, published online; paper version forthcoming, DOI: 10.1080/09546553.2016.1233873.
  • Neilsen, Rhiannon, ‘The role of complementary disciplines and companion studies in understanding Moral Injury’ (2016), in Moral Injury: From Conceptual Clarity to Practical Procedures, by Rhiannon Neilsen, Anne McDonald, Hugh White and Tom Frame. Commissioned report prepared for the Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force (Australian Department of Defence, Vice-Chief of Defence Force Group, and Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics).
  • Neilsen, Rhiannon and Tom Campbell (2017) ‘An overview of political approaches to human rights’ in Political Approaches to Human Rights, edited by Tom Campbell and Kylie Bourne. New York, Routledge.