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Former Canadian Judge offers thoughts on international justice

Published: November 7, 2008
Section: News


PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour spoke about education, ethics, and governance for an international judiciary Thursday night in the International Lounge in a public talk co-sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and the Legal Studies Department

Described by Director of the Ethics Center Daniel Terris as a “visible champion of human rights,” Arbour has also served as Supreme Court Justice of Canada and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The talk was the keynote address of the North American Judicial Colloquium, which is being held at Brandeis from Nov. 6 to 8. The colloquium aims to bring together and foster dialogue between national and international judges, and participants include U.S. and Canadian judges as well as judges from international courts.

To begin her speech, Arbour stressed, “my reflections tonight are anchored in my time spent as an academic,” adding that it is most important to recognize that in the realm of international judiciary, “there is no pre-existing, universal and superior viewpoint.”

Arbour’s speech focused on the problems of the judiciary model, which remains relatively static. According to Arbour, “international and national judges would be well-advised to create an international judiciary system” in contrast to the current “hybrid that reflects some but not all political systems.”

She explained, “we have yet to develop a truly indigenous international criminal law system unanchored in any particular legal system and unsupported by any particular state.”

Arbour also lamented that little attention is given to judicial independence, and called for a “truly and totally unique and self-standing judiciary” that is “totally owned by the judges.” She stressed the importance of self-government, self-education, and self-dependence, adding, “a transparent system of self-government is the cornerstone of real independence.”

The speech was meant to leave the audience “with a lot more questions than answers,” Arbour said.

“I really admire all that Louise Arbour has done throughout her lifetime thus far, I think her work is really making a difference within the scheme of global justice,” said Becky Sniderman ’10, a Sociology and Philosophy double major and Social Justice and Social Policy minor. “I thought it was very interesting how she has applied her background in criminal law and prosecution to her UN and global work. I personally was inspired by her description of her work as I have slightly similar, if still undetermined, pursuits within my own life.”