René Samuel Cassin
| (5 October 1887 – 20 February 1976)
René Samuel Cassin
was a French lawyer and judge. He served on the UN's Human Rights Commission and the Hague
Court of Arbitration. He was also a member (1959-1965) and president
(1965-1968) of the European Court of Human Rights. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968
for his work in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United
Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. That same year, he was also awarded one of the
UN's own Human
Rights Prizes. European Court of Human Rights
The ECHR should not be mistaken for the European
Court of Justice, an institution of the European
Union for the resolution of disputes under EU law.
European Court of Human Rights building in Strasbourg
The current incarnation of the European Court of Human Rights
was instituted on November
1, 1998, as a
means to systematise the hearing of Human Rights complaints from Council
of Europe member states. The court's mission is to enforce the Convention
for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ratified in 1953.
The court replaced the existing enforcement mechanisms, which included the European
Commission of Human Rights (created in 1954)
and the previous, limited Court of Human Rights, which was created in 1959.
The new court was the result of the ratification of Protocol 11, an
amendment to the Convention, which was ratified in October 1997.
Judges were subsequently elected by
of Europe, and the court was opened approximately one year later.
The court consists of a number of judges equal to the number of Council of
Europe member states, which currently stand at forty-four. Despite this
correspondence, however, there are no requirements that each state be
represented on the court, nor are there limits to the number of judges
belonging to any nationality. Judges are assumed to be impartial arbiters,
rather than representatives of any nation.
The court is divided into four "Sections", each of which consists
of a geographic and gender-balanced selection of justices. The entire court
elects a President and four Section Presidents, two of whom also serve as Vice-Presidents
of the court. All terms last for three years. Each section selects a Chamber,
which consists of the Section President and a rotating selection of six other
justices. The court also maintains a 17-member Grand Chamber, which consists
of the President, Vice-Presidents, and Section Presidents, in addition to a
rotating selection of justices from one of two balanced groups. The selection
of judges alternates between the groups every nine-months.
Complaints of violations by member states are filed in Strasbourg,
and are assigned to a Section. Each complaint is first heard by a committee of
three judges, which may unanimously vote to strike any complaint without
further examination. Once past committee, the complaint is heard and decided
by a full Chamber. Decisions of
great importance may be appealed to the Grand Chamber. Any decisions of the court are binding on the member
states. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, a commission supervised by the Office
of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is composed of
representatives from 53 member states, and meets each year in regular session in
March/April for six weeks in Geneva. As of January 2003 it has been chaired by
The United Nations vision is of a world in which the human rights of all are
fully respected and enjoyed in conditions of global peace. The High Commissioner
works to keep that vision to the forefront through constant encouragement of the
international community and its member States to uphold universally agreed human
It is our role to alert Governments and the world community to the daily
reality that these standards are too often ignored or unfulfilled, and to be a
voice for the victims of human rights violations everywhere. It is also our role
to press the international community to take the steps that can prevent
violations, including support for the right to development. Réne Cassin of France
was one of the most influential members of the
Commission on Human Rights. Having been a professor of civil law at the
University of Paris, Cassin was an expert in international law with an
impassioned concern for human rights. For these reasons, the delegates to the
Commission on Human Rights selected Cassin to compose the first full draft of
the Universal Declaration. This early draft would contain most of the rights and
much of the language that would later be set forth in the final document.
Réne Cassin spent his life defending the rights of men, women, and children.
His dedication to bettering the lives of others and his contribution to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights were eventually recognized with a Nobel
Peace Prize. As he worked to bring former enemies together around a common cause, so too
he advocated human rights that must be enjoyed by all, regardless of nationality,
culture, or religion. Cassin was one of the first diplomats of international
prominence to voice concern for universal human rights. He also championed the
cause of unilateral disarmament in the hope of preventing any future armed
conflicts. By the 1920’s, his commitment to peace and human rights was famous
throughout France, where he was lauded as "The Father of France’s Orphans."
In 1924 Cassin was appointed to the French Delegation to the League of Nations.
Cassin’s interest in human rights was borne of his experience in World War
I. Having fought and been wounded, Cassin developed a great concern for the
welfare of other wounded veterans. His dedication to helping people knew no
national boundary. He encouraged veterans to disregard their former national
allegiances and focus their energies upon creating a world free from war. Cassin
worked to help these men and women recognize the similarity of their
circumstances rather than dwell on their cultural differences. His advocacy of
veterans' rights led to the formation of first a national and later an
International Confederation of Associations of Wounded and Former Combatants.