Obituary: Antonio Cassese 1937 - 2011 24 Oct 2011
Antonio Cassese, the 'father of international criminal justice' passed away on Saturday at his home in Florence, aged 74

Antonio Cassese resigned just two weeks ago as President of the Special Tribunal of Lebanon (STL), and had previously served as the first President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He was replaced at the STL by David Baragwanath, who said over the weekend that ‘the tragedy of Nino’s (Cassese) departure is beyond words’. He added that Cassese’s ‘towering ability as a jurist and a statesman was equaled by the immense personal warmth and humanity which made him our dear friend’. Judge Ralph Riachi, the Vice-President of the STL, said that ‘international justice has lost one of its pioneers and human rights activists have lost one of their veterans’.

A prolific international law jurist, Cassese wrote many influential books, law journals and legal decisions over the course of an illustrious career, which he began as a professor of law in Florence. He was editor in chief of the Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice and founder and editor of the Journal of International Criminal Justice. He served as Professor of International Law at the University of Florence from 1975 until 2008, and Professor of Law at the European University Institute between 1987 and 1993. He was the recipient of many honorary degrees and awards.

In 1993 he became ICTY president, and is credited with playing a key role in the successful development of the Tribunal and international justice as a whole, in particular in expanding the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in internal conflicts. Theodor Meron, the new president of the ICTY, described Cassese as a ‘visionary and the architect of international criminal justice’.

In 2004, he led the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, which led the Security Council to ask the International Criminal Court to open a criminal investigation in the region. He was later appointed by the then Secretary General Kofi Annan as an independent expert to review the judicial efficiency of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Saturday, describing Cassese as a ‘giant of international law’ and as 'a loyal friend who was always there when the Organization needed his wise counsel and dedicated services', as well as 'an exceptionally charming and warm human being who courageously stood up for justice, for human rights and for humanity'.

The Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, said that ‘Antonio Cassese has been a master of legal culture and an example of civic engagement, serving the cause of justice, democracy and human rights’.

He died peacefully at home in Florence following a long battle with cancer and is survived by his wife Sylvia and their son and daughter and two grandchildren.

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