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Statement by M.C. Bassiouni

It is an honor for me that the Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law has decided to establish the M.C. Bassiouni Justice Award. Let me explain why I accepted the kind request by the Forum to give the award this name.

As I see it, the Forum has created a platform through which future Award winners will gradually constitute a gallery of role models for younger persons in the field of international justice. When considering this gallery, I hope five qualities will stand out.

First, in order to serve international justice effectively, it is necessary to understand international law and justice processes. Study, research and discourse in international law are essential formative steps. Maintaining knowledge later in life is also very important. The Internet and new technologies can further academic activity and dissemination of international law literature in ways that democratize access to knowledge on international law and expand the discourse community. I think the Forum's establishment of the Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher sets an important example for others to follow. My colleague in the UNSC Commission of Experts for the former Yugoslavia - the late Professor Opsahl - would have been most pleased to witness the publisher that now carries his name.

Secondly, public service should stand out as a common denominator among future Award winners. Justice is administered by public institutions. Police investigators, prosecutors, judges and those who otherwise support criminal justice processes are public servants. They may not make as much money or enjoy the same status as, for example, lawyers in large law firms or others in the private sector. But they play an essential role in justice processes around the world, as do professional actors in non-governmental organizations.

Thirdly, it is not sufficient to be a good international lawyer and to have a position. Without integrity and courage our service may not yield results. Integrity entails that we follow the law even if it displeases someone with power. It means that we subordinate our personal interests to those of the law and the mandate we serve. It requires that our personal conduct instils trust. Without integrity, our service will not have a lasting impact. Without courage, we are unable to speak up or act when others dare not.

Fourthly, there should be great diversity in the backgrounds of future Award winners. Travelling, learning languages and reading can assist in developing a sense of the diversity and inter-connectedness of the countries and peoples of the world. But that is neither a prerequisite nor a privilege available to all. In 1795 Immanuel Kant wrote in "On Perpetual Peace" that a sense of world citizenship is required for lasting international peace. And he himself never left his native Königsberg during his lifetime. A global vision is a mental state that can grow out of countryside primary schools around the world as easily as Yale Law School. The recognition that all humankind is one and that international law should serve the legitimate interests of all countries and peoples is important.

Finally, knowledge, integrity and an inclusive global vision should be supplemented by a keen sense of the practical needs of society. This applies as much to academics, as public servants and those in civil society. Only by understanding relevant social needs can our work address what is important. International law is ultimately about needs and interests. Those who understand them well are more likely to stand out in the service they render.

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