Antonio Cassese, Architect of International Criminal Law, Dies at 74

Antonio Cassese, Architect of International Criminal Law, Dies at 74


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New York, Nov. 30, 2011—Renowned legal scholar, jurist, and former Columbia Law School visiting professor Antonio Cassese died at his home in Florence, Italy, on October 22. He was 74.

Cassese, known to his friends as Nino, was widely recognized as the architect of modern international criminal law, having played a key role in the development of international law tribunals.
From 1993 to 1997, Cassese served as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a United Nations court of law dealing with war crimes committed during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s. From 2004 to 2005, he led the U.N.’s International Commission of Inquiry into genocide in Darfur, and, in 2006, as an independent expert appointed by the U.N., he reviewed the judicial efficiency of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“Antonio Cassese shaped the development of international criminal justice and made a major contribution to fighting impunity and bringing about an age of accountability,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. Ki-moon recalled Cassese as “an exceptionally charming and warm human being who courageously stood up for justice, for human rights, and for humanity.”
In addition to his work for international tribunals, Cassese taught international law to generations of students around the world. He served as a visiting professor and lecturer at many leading institutions. During the fall 2006 semester, Cassese taught at Columbia Law School under the auspices of the European Legal Studies Center and its Banca Nazionale del Lavoro professorship.
The following March, Cassese received the 33rd Annual Wolfgang Friedmann Memorial Award for his contributions to international law. The Columbia Journal of Transnational Law presented him with that honor during the annual Wolfgang Friedmann Conference, which brings together judges, prosecutors, and human rights advocates from around the world. Cassese earned many such awards in his lifetime, and he often used any related prize money to help students publish their work.
Among those mourning Cassese’s death is Michele Papa, vice president of the University of Florence and former dean of its law school. Papa participated in the Cassese memorial held in The Hague, Netherlands, on November 16.  The memorial, which followed the ICTY Global Legacy conference, drew leading academics, international judges and practitioners, state representatives, and members of civil society.

Speaking at the conference, Papa, the UniCredit Visiting Professor in European Law at Columbia Law School, recalled Cassese as “a maestro, a mentor and an example for generations of criminal law and international law scholars.” He added that “Antonio’s work, as a theoretician and as a judge, has been a main driving force in the achievements of international criminal justice.”
Cassese was a prolific writer, penning numerous books, law journal article, and legal decisions in his lifetime. He helped found two journals published by Oxford University Press: the European Journal of International Law and the Journal of International Criminal Justice. From 2009 until two weeks before his death, he served as a judge and president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
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