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Institute of Criminology



As Head of the Portuguese National Preventive Mechanism against torture and other forms of ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, pursuant to the UN OPCAT. He is also a Senior Associate at INCAS, where he has acquired extensive experience in the peace-development-humanitarian nexus. His clients include the African Development Bank (Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire), Dutch Relief Alliance (Ethiopia), Anglo American (Brazil), Interpeace and the Government of Norway (MENA & Africa), and the ICRC (global). João has also worked with the ICRC in Colombia as a delegate, supervising field officers, technical staff, and administrative personnel. He led discussions with the police, military & guerrilla leaders, mediating complex local issues with multiple stakeholders, and supervised the implementation of socioeconomic projects to protect and assist the victims of the armed conflict. Within the United Nations system, João has worked at its Office of Legal Affairs (New York) and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (The Hague). His volunteering experiences include election monitoring in Romania and justice sector reform in Uganda

João holds an MPhil in Criminological Research from the University of Cambridge (Distinction) and an LLM and a BA in Law from the University of Coimbra (both top of the class). He has taught in Universidade Católica’s Law school and published a book, book chapters, and multiple journal articles. João is fluent in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, and Italian


Supervised by Professor Alison Liebling, João is a part-time PhD Student. His project, Peace behind a veil of ignorance (VOI), outlines and seeks to pilot a systematic procedure that could consistently and effectively lead communities divided by war to become pockets of peace. It is expected to minimise the impact of violence and promote social and individual transformation.The project is structured around an exercise that builds on the idea of the VOI, a concept introduced by John Rawls that became the cornerstone of the most influential theory of social justice of the last century. The exercise would lead to two context-specific interventions

Drawing on research on emotions, social justice, identity, and intergroup conflict, the VOI is initially thought as a stand-alone project designed for the community-level. It could later be integrated into larger peacebuilding initiatives, complementing their efforts and contributing to increased positive affects, social cohesion, and perceptions of peace.


Key publications: 

Costa, J. (forthcoming) ‘The monitoring work of the National Preventive Mechanism: qualitative and quantitative elements’, in D. Fink et al (eds) Proceedings from the 2019 Portuguese Prison Photo Project Conference Lisbon, 23 and 24 May 2019.

Costa, J. and Fink, D. (forthcoming) ‘COVID-19 pandemic and the responses in prisons in Portugal and Switzerland’, in D. Fink et al (eds) Proceedings from the 2019 Portuguese Prison Photo Project Conference Lisbon, 23 and 24 May 2019.

Liebling, A. and Costa, J. (in press) ‘Being human as a method and research finding in social science’, in D. Coffman (eds) People, Nations, Traditions in a Comparative Frame: Thinking about the Past with Jonathan Steinberg. London: Anthem Press.

Costa, J. (2016) A matter of degree: a justice framework for penal legitimacy, Punishment & Society 18(4), pp. 389-399.

Costa, J. (2015) A dupla incriminação no mandato de detenção europeu, in Caeiro, P. (eds), Temas de Extradição e Entrega, Coimbra: Almedina, pp. 81-114

Costa, J. (2014) Da superação do regime actual do conhecimento superveniente do concurso, Coimbra: Almedina, 141pp

Costa, J. (2014) A pluralidade de infracções e a mediação penal em Portugal, Revista Portuguesa de Ciência Criminal 23(4), pp. 569-609


 João  Costa