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2018 M.C. Bassiouni Justice Award winner

Mr. Benjamin B. Ferencz painted by Roberto Caruso.


Benjamin B. Ferencz

Mr. Benjamin B. Ferencz has been granted the 2018 M.C. Bassiouni Justice Award in recognition of (a) his lifelong service to the cause of international criminal justice, spanning more than seven decades of unflagging activity, including his leadership in the prosecution of the historic Einsatzgruppen case at Nuremberg; (b) his continuous advocacy for reparations to victims of core international crimes and their reintegration into functioning communities; (c) his unyielding contributions towards the establishment of an effective and universal International Criminal Court and his patience with the emerging institution; (d) his pleading for criminalisation of aggression between States – enforceable and applicable to all – in recognition of the Nuremberg legacy; (e) his broad, unprejudiced vision of the overarching importance of world peace through a rules-based global order, undimmed by the resignation among many of his interlocutors from government and academia; and (f) his inspiring qualities of dedication, selflessness of spirit, fearlessness in the face of state power, and his strength of faith in humanity.

Mr. Ferencz was born in Somcuta Mare, Maramures in today’s Romania on 11 March 1920. He came to the United States as a young child, and later studied at the City College of New York and Harvard Law School under Roscoe Pound and Sheldon Glueck. Upon graduating from Harvard in 1943, he joined an anti-aircraft artillery unit of the United States Army in World War II. In 1945, he was transferred to the headquarters of General Patton’s Third Army to serve on the team tasked with setting up a war crimes branch and collecting evidence. He saw the concentration camps as they were liberated. He became a prosecutor in the legal team of Telford Taylor, with responsibility for the Einsatzgruppen case, one of the twelve military trials held by the United States authorities at Nuremberg. He participated in setting up reparations and rehabilitation programmes for victims of Nazi persecutions, and played a role in the process leading to the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany in 1952 and the first German Restitution Law in 1953.

In 1956, Mr. Ferencz and his family returned to the United States where he entered private law practice as a partner of Mr. Telford Taylor. In numerous publications – including his 1975 book Defining International Aggression: The Search for World Peace – he argued for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court and a strengthened international legal order. From 1985 to 1996, Mr. Ferencz also worked as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University at White Plains, New York. In 2009, he was awarded the Erasmus Prize together with Antonio Cassese, and in April 2017, the City of The Hague named the footpath next to the Peace Palace the ‘Benjamin Ferencz Path’, to honour him as “one of the figureheads of international justice”. His son, Professor Donald M. Ferencz, has carried on the work and is prominent in the world of international criminal justice.

The 2018 Award Committee consisted of Professor LING Yan (China University of Political Science and Law), Assistant Professor CHEAH Wui Ling (National University of Singapore), Mr. Arne Willy Dahl (former Judge Advocate General, Norway), Mr. Alf Butenschøn Skre (Secretary), and Professor Morten Bergsmo (Chair). It reached its decision by consensus. 

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