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Louise Arbour

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Title: Louise Arbour  
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Louise Arbour

The Honourable
Louise Arbour
Louise Arbour at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2011
71st Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
September 15, 1999 – June 30, 2004
Nominated by Jean Chrétien
Preceded by Peter Cory
Succeeded by Rosalie Abella/Louise Charron
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
In office
July 1, 2004 – August 31, 2008
Nominated by Kofi Annan
Preceded by Sérgio Vieira de Mello
Bertrand Ramcharan
(acting High Commissioner)
Succeeded by Navi Pillay
Personal details
Born (1947-02-10) February 10, 1947
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Children 3

Louise Arbour, CC GOQ (born February 10, 1947) was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Appeal for Ontario and a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. From 2009 until 2014, she served as President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.[1] She made history with the indictment of a sitting head of state, Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milošević, as well as the first prosecution of sexual assault as the articles of crimes against humanity.


  • Early life 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Legal career 3
    • Canada 3.1
    • The Hague 3.2
    • Supreme Court of Canada 3.3
    • Works and awards 3.4
    • Controversy 3.5
  • Honors and awards 4
  • See also 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Arbour was born in Montreal, Quebec to Bernard and Rose (née Ravary) Arbour, the owners of a hotel chain. She attended convent school, during which time her parents divorced. As editor of the school magazine, she earned a reputation for irreverence.

In 1967, she graduated from Collège Regina Assumpta, and proceeded to the Université de Montréal where she completed an LL.B. with distinction in 1970. She became the Law Clerk for Justice Louis-Philippe Pigeon of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1971–72 while completing graduate studies at the Faculty of Law (Civil Section) of the University of Ottawa. She was called to the Bar of Quebec in 1971 and to the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1977. She was made a Companion to the Order of Canada in 2007 "for her contributions to the Canadian justice system and for her dedication to the advancement of human rights throughout the world".[2] She was made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2009.[3]

She was made a Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2011.[4] She has been awarded numerous honorary degrees, including Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of Western Ontario in June 2000,[5] Doctor of Humane Letters from Mount Saint Vincent University in May 2001,[6] and Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of British Columbia in November 2001,[7] the University of Waterloo in October 2006,[8] in June 2009 from the University of Alberta[9] and University of Guelph,[10] and from Simon Fraser University in October 2009.[11]

Personal life

She has three adult children: Emilie, Patrick and Catherine. Her daughter Emilie Taman is an NDP candidate in the 2015 Canadian election in the electoral district of Ottawa—Vanier.

Legal career


From 1972-73, Arbour was research officer for the Law Reform Commission of Canada. She then taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, first as a Lecturer (1974), then as Assistant Professor (1975), Associate Professor (1977-87), and finally as Associate Professor and Associate Dean (1987). She was Vice-President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association until her appointment to the Supreme Court of Ontario (High Court of Justice) in 1987 and to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1990. In 1995, Arbour was appointed as President of a Commission of Inquiry, under the Inquiries Act, for the purpose of investigating and reporting on events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, following allegations by prisoners of abuse.

The Hague

In 1996, at Richard Goldstone's recommendation, Arbour was appointed as his replacement as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, and of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. She indicted then-Serbian President Slobodan Milošević for war crimes, the first time a serving head of State was called to account before an international court. Other indictees were Milan Milutinović, President of the Republic of Serbia, Nikola Šainović, Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Dragoljub Ojdanić, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Vlajko Stojiljković, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.[12][13]

Supreme Court of Canada

In 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Arbour to the Supreme Court of Canada.[14]

Works and awards

She has been published in the area of criminal procedure and criminal law, in both French and English. At various times, she has served as an editor for the Criminal Reports, the Canadian Rights Reporter, and the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

Arbour has been awarded honorary doctorates by twenty-seven universities. In 2005, Arbour was awarded the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, along with Justice Richard Goldstone, in recognition of her work on the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.[15] She was the subject of a 2005 fact-based Canadian-German made-for-television movie, Hunt For Justice which follows her quest to indict Bosnian Serb war criminals. Arbour was played by Canadian actress Wendy Crewson.

On January 24, 2008, Arbour welcomed [16] the entry into force of the 2004 version of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which has been criticized for containing the following:

Article 2(3) All forms of racism, Zionism and foreign occupation and domination constitute an impediment to human dignity and a major barrier to the exercise of the fundamental rights of peoples; all such practices must be condemned and efforts must be deployed for their elimination.[17]

Following criticisms about this statement,[18][19] Arbour reportedly distanced herself from some aspects of the charter.[20] The Arab Charter is listed in the website of her office, among texts adopted by international groups aimed at promoting and consolidating democracy.[21]

In September 2008, Arbour gave a lecture, "Integrating Security, Development and Human Rights", at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series.


International criminal lawyers Christopher Black, Jacques Vergès, Ramsey Clark and others, have repeatedly criticised Louise Arbour, who was prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia because of her cooperation with NATO leaders during the 1999 bombing of Serbia.

Honors and awards

  • LL.D. hon., Concordia University, 2001
  • LL.D. hon., University of British Columbia, 2001
  • LL.D. hon., Lakehead University, 2002
  • LL.D. hon., Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France, 2003.
  • LL.D. hon., St. Francis Xavier University, 2003
  • Life member of the Association of French Speaking Jurists of Ontario, 1992
  • Award Medal of the University of Montreal, 1995.
  • Award Medal of Women’s Law Association (Toronto), 1996
  • G. Arthur Martin Award Medal, Criminal Lawyers’ Association (Toronto), 1998
  • Medal of Honor, Association internationale des procureurs, 1999
  • Medal of Merit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, 1999
  • Fondation Louise Weiss award, Paris, 1999
  • Pennsylvania Bar Foundation's Second Annual Service to Humanity Award, Harrisburg (Pennsylvanie), 2000
  • Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal (Freedom from Fear), Roosevelt Study Centre, Middleburg (Pays-Bas), 2000
  • Women of Distinction Award, Toronto Hadassah-Wizo, 2000
  • Peace Award, World Federalists of Canada, 2000
  • Human Rights Award, Lord Reading Law Society, 2000
  • Wolfgang Freidman Memorial Award, Columbia Law School, 2001
  • EID-UL-ADHA Award, The Association of Progressive Muslims of Ontario, 2001
  • Quebec Bar Medal, 2001
  • National Achievement Award 2001, Jewish Women International of Canada, 2001
  • 2002 Stefan A. Riesenfeld Symposium Award, Berkeley Journal of International Law
  • Person of the Year Award, McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women (MCRTW), 2002
  • Award from Foundation Justice in the World, International Association of Judges, 2002
  • University of Montreal Law School Medal, 2003.
  • Inducted in Hall of Fame, International Women's Forum, 2003
  • Honorary Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers, 2003
  • Honorary Professor, Warwick University, Coventry (R.-U.), 1999–2004
  • Vice-president, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, 1985–1987
  • Honorary Member, American Society of International Law, 2000
  • International Crisis Group board of directors member, 2000
  • Honorary Member, Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society 2001
  • Honorary Member, Golden Key National Honour Society, 2000
  • Honorary Member, Grays Inn, London (UK), 2001
  • Member of the International Council, Institute for Global Legal Studies of Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri, 2001
  • Advisory Board member, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Oxford University Press (New York Law School), 2001
  • Editorial Board member, Journal of International Criminal Justices 2003
  • Grand Prize of the Conseil québécois des gais et lesbiennes (CQGL), 2008
  • United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, 2008
  • Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, 2009
  • North-South Prize, 2010
  • Laureate[22] of the Special Jury Prize for Conflict Prevention,[23] awarded by the Fondation Chirac, 2011.
  • In 2014 she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame

See also


  1. ^ "International Crisis Group - President". International Crisis Group. July 2009. 
  2. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Governor General of Canada. December 28, 2007. 
  3. ^ "National Order of Quebec citation" (in French). Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  4. ^ "AWARDS TO CANADIANS". Canada Gazette. 
  5. ^ "Supreme Court Justice, Noted Social Activist Among Honorary Degree Recipients". 
  6. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipient Announcement". May 1, 2001. 
  7. ^ "UBC Honorary Degree Recipients - Alphabetical List". November 22, 2001. 
  8. ^ "UN's human rights commissioner to receive honorary degree". September 25, 2006. 
  9. ^ "Humanitarians, philanthropists, leaders celebrated at U of A spring convocation". April 8, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Eight to Receive Honorary Degrees". June 1, 2009. 
  11. ^ "SFU 2009 Honorary Degree Recipients". Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  12. ^ The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: CASE No. IT-99-37,; accessed April 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Statement by Justice Louise Arbour, Prosecutor ICTY: "I presented an indictment for confirmation against Slobodan Milošević and four others, charging them with crimes against humanity", UN press statement (JL/PIU/404-E), May 27, 1999.
  14. ^ Profile,; accessed April 29, 2015.
  15. ^ Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights website; accessed April 29, 2015.
  16. ^ Arab Charter on Human Rights enters into force, Publication Date 25/1/2008
  17. ^ League of Arab States, Revised Arab Charter on Human Rights, May 22, 2004, reprinted in 12 Int'l Hum. Rts. Rep. 893 (2005), entered into force March 15, 2008, available online here
  18. ^ "The UN enables hatemongers", The Ottawa Citizen, February 1, 2008.
  19. ^ UN Rights Chief Must Clarify Endorsement of Arab Charter with Anti-Semitic Provisions,; accessed April 29, 2015.
  21. ^ The Arab Charter,; accessed April 29, 2015.
  22. ^ Louise Arbour, laureate of the Special Jury Prize for Conflict Prevention, Fondation Chirac, 2011
  23. ^ Special Jury Prize for Conflict Prevention 2011 awarded to Louise Arbour by Kofi Annan, and speech (French)

External links

  • Louise Arbour's action in video, Fondation Chirac's website
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Profile of Louise Arbour
  • News: Arbour to take UN human rights post
  • Supreme Court of Canada biography
  • Address to Convocation at Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Louise Arbour (HCDH) (fr)
  • Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of International War Crimes Tribunal, Interview
  • Profile at JURIST
  • CBC podcast: Louise Arbour interviewed by Carol Off for the radio show As It Happens, aired March 21, 2008
  • Louise Arbour's Account on Twitter
  • Concordia University Honorary Degree Citation, June 2001, Concordia University Records Management and Archives
  • Lecture transcript and video of Arbour's speech at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego, September 2008
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