Leidschendam, 22 October 2011 - The former President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Judge Antonio Cassese, has died after a long fight with cancer. He passed away peacefully at home in Florence overnight. He was 74.
Judge Cassese was one of the most distinguished figures in international justice. He was the first President of both the STL and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Judge Cassese also had a long career in academia.
"The tragedy of Nino's departure is beyond words", said Judge Sir David Baragwanath, the current President of the Tribunal. "For members of the Tribunal he was the Maestro, whose towering ability as a jurist and a statesman was equaled by the immense personal warmth and humanity which made him our dear friend."
"He was a leader whom it was stimulating and a privilege to serve. He created and was the preeminent figure in modern international criminal law. His family extended across the globe to wherever there was injustice. His vision, intellect, dynamism and courage changed attitudes, institutions and lives", said Judge Baragwanath.
The news of Judge Cassese's death has been met with profound sadness amongst staff at the STL. Nino, as he was known to many in the Tribunal, was much admired as an outstanding leader with generosity of spirit, a brilliant intellect and a mischievous sense of humour.
"With Judge Cassese's death, international justice has lost one of its pioneers. Human rights activists have lost one of their veterans", said Judge Ralph Riachi, the Vice-President of the Tribunal, who was a close friend and colleague of Judge Cassese.
"Our consolation is that he has left to his family, friends, colleagues and students a great patrimony of humanism, science and respect for others. Above all, he taught us that no matter how great your achievements, it is always possible to remain modest."
Judge Cassese stepped down as President of the Tribunal on 9 October this year due to ill-health, after more than two years as the head of the institution (March 2009-October 2011). He was a serving Appeals Chamber judge when he died.
This was just the latest of many international legal roles. In 2004 the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, appointed Judge Cassese chairperson of the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur. He was later appointed by the Secretary General as an independent expert to review the judicial efficiency of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Throughout his career Judge Cassese worked to curtail extrajudicial killings, as well as to assert individual responsibility for international crimes in domestic and international jurisdictions.
Judge Cassese was professor of international law at the University of Florence from 1975 until 2008. Between 1987 and 1993 he was professor of law at the European University Institute. Judge Cassese was also a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University (1979-80). He was a member of the Institut de Droit International and former president of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
An enthusiastic proponent of self-determination and human rights throughout his whole life, Judge Cassese wrote extensively on all aspects of international law, with a particular focus on international criminal law. He was the recipient of many honorary degrees and awards.