Sunt la Geneva la 100 sesiune a Comitetului Drepturilor Omului. Astazi o veste trista: moartea lui Louis Henkin, fost membru al Comitetului, una dintre cele mai mare personalitati din domeniul drepturilor omului. Mai multi colegi care l-au cunoscut pe Profesorul Henkin, ca si membru al Comitetului, au evocat modul in care l-au conscut pe Louis Henkin. Sir Nigel Rodley si-a amitit de Louis Henkin, in calitatea de Profesor la Columbia Law School, Christine Chanet, Abdelfattah Amor.
Republic un text scris de unul dintre fostii lui studenti:
In memoriam: Louis Henkin, “father of human rights law”
by Seneca Doane
Thu Oct 14, 2010 at 02:22:08 PM PDT
I had the pleasure of taking a course in Human Rights law a decade ago that was co-taught by Louis Henkin, who died this morning after a long illness. At Columbia Law, he was routinely referred to as the “father of human rights law.” I don’t know who else may lay claim to that title — and I don’t recall Prof. Henkin ever saying it himself — but I think his claim is as good as anyone’s.
I just did a quick web search, but didn’t find his birthday. He graduated from college in 1937, so for most people I’d be tempted to say that he was probably born in 1915, and so was around 95. In Prof. Henkin’s case, I can’t rule out that he graduated at age 7 or something so extraordinary was he. He looked plausibly to be 85 when I took his class — and when he spoke his words were those of a man at the peak — or rather, the high plateau — of his intellectual power.
The field of international human rights law would not be what it is, or what at its best it ever might be, without Louis Henkin’s work. To celebrate his life, on this sad day, I want to share his story with you. It’s worth knowing.
Seneca Doane’s diary :: ::
I won’t do a better job of recounting Henkin’s history off the cuff than Columbia’s crack PR staff could do after ample time to research and revise, so I’ll start with a long quote from his Columbia Law School biography (I believe that Fair Use applies to this non-commercial information; editors, I’ll be happy to cut this down if you think it is necessary. I doubt that the Law School would mind what I’m doing here.)
Louis Henkin was a clerk to Judge Learned Hand and to Justice Felix Frankfurter. He served as the book review editor for the Harvard Law Review. After a period as consultant to the United Nations Legal Department, Professor Henkin served with the Department of State from 1948 to 1956 in the U.N. Bureau and in the Office of European Regional Affairs (NATO). He went on to represent the U.S. on the committee drafting the Convention on the Status of Refugees and to serve on U.S. delegations to the U.N. and to international conferences.
Professor Henkin then spent a year at Columbia from 1956-1957 as associate director of the Legislative Drafting Research Fund while writing his first book, Arms Control and Inspection in American Law. After five years as professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, he became a member of the Columbia Law School faculty in 1962. Simultaneously, Professor Henkin was also a faculty member of the School of International and Public Affairs, as well as of the Political Science Department in Columbia’s Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences. He was the Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy. Later, Professor Henkin was the Harlan Fiske Stone Professor of Constitutional Law, a position he held until he was designated University Professor in 1981.
Professor Henkin held positions in numerous domestic and international governing bodies. He served as a U.S. member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration from 1963-1969, as well as a member of the Advisory Committee on International Law at the U.S. Department of State from 1967-69, 1975-80, 1993-2010. In addition, he was an adviser on the Law of the Sea from 1973-80; president of the American Society of International Law from 1992-94; co-editor-in-chief of the American Journal of International Law from 1976-1984; chief reporter of the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States (Third); a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the board of directors of Human Rights First. Professor Henkin was a member of the Institut de Droit International, the American Philosophical Society, and the Human Rights Committee pursuant to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Professor Henkin’s publications include Law for the Sea’s Mineral Resources (1968); The Rights of Man Today (1978); How Nations Behave: Law and Foreign Policy (1979); The International Bill of Rights (ed., 1981); The Age of Rights (1989); Constitutionalism, Democracy, and Foreign Affairs (1990); Constitutionalism and Rights: The Influence of the U.S. Constitution Abroad (coed., with Rosenthal, 1990); International Law: Politics and Values (1995); Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Constitution (1996); Human Rights (coed., with D. Leebron, G. L. Neuman, and D. Orentlicher, 1999); International Law: Cases and Materials (coed., 2001); among other numerous books and articles.
Professor Henkin earned a Silver Star for service in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Impressive — incredibly so, in fact — but a little dry. To get a better flavor of the man and his accomplishments, I prefer this page reporting on a 2006 symposium in Prof. Henkin’s honor. I’ll only quote from part of this; it’s worth reading the whole thing.
Dubbed “the father of human rights,” he has pioneered human rights law study and established centers that serve as beacons of scholarship and that train scores of new advocates. Above all, he has stood up for the recognition of the dignity of every individual around the world over deference to national interests.
… [I omit a great World War II war story here.]
Prof. Henkin became a consultant to the United Nations legal department. [He and] Oscar Schachter … wrote a brief that successfully protected the UN when a lawsuit threatened to prevent its establishment on U.S. soil. In 1948, Prof. Henkin became a U.S. State Department officer and served in the UN Bureau and in the Office of European Regional Affairs through 1956. In these roles, he explored how international norms play out on a domestic landscape governed by the U.S. Constitution.
His publications, such as the seminal book How Nations Behave (1968), The Age of Rights (1989), Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Constitution (1975), and International Law: Cases and Materials, now in its fourth edition, have “created the body of doctrine by which constitutional law and international law connect,” says Professor Lori Damrosch, a co-editor on the casebook. That connection informs how the U.S. gov ernment observes the rights of citizens and foreigners, both at home and abroad.
Prof. Henkin works tirelessly outside the ivory tower. His scholarship influences judges, legislators, and politicians. In addition to a long publication list, he has written amicus briefs, advised human rights NGOs, and led organizations committed to promoting international relations on the basis of law and justice. From 1992-94 he served as president of the American Society of International Law, whose American Journal of International Law he co-edited from 1976-84. He is also a charter member of Human Rights First, founded in 1978 as the Lawyers Commit tee for Human Rights.
Prof. Henkin has demonstrated his integrity in the face of criticism in many arenas, notably as chief reporter for the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, undertaken by the American Law Institute. [n.b. A restatement presents the current, semi-official understanding of the law in a given area as informed by disparate court decisions, and greatly influences future understandings. As you can imagine, interests do lobby to influence its content.] Harold Hongju Koh, former U.S. State Department official and current dean of Yale Law School, has recounted watching Prof. Henkin in action. The Restatement meetings reminded Koh of “Daniel in the lions’ den,” with high-powered lawyers, among others, criticizing the wording of the law. After one harsh remark, Prof. Henkin responded, “That may be what your clients pay you to advocate, but that’s not the law, and I’m not going to say that.”
Widely considered the most influential statement of both international law and the U.S. constitutional law of foreign relations, the 1987 Restatement is cited in 18 Supreme Court opinions and more than 251 federal Court of Appeals opinions, and will define international affairs for years to come.
In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), which concerned the rights of a detainee in Guantánamo, the U.S. Supreme Court referred to Prof. Henkin’s amicus brief arguing that individuals have enforceable rights under the Geneva Conventions. While the decision granting relief to Hamdan used a different but related argument, Prof. Damrosch says, “The court had the Henkin brief in mind in drafting its opinion.”
The court’s decision is not an endorsement of one political side but rather a confirmation of the principles Prof. Henkin seeks to uphold. His commitment to human rights transcends party lines; it is rooted in his belief in the fundamental value of all people. The arguments Prof. Henkin made nearly decades ago in Age of Rights continue to spur growth of a system that honors the worth of every individual, no matter his or her spot on the globe: “Every man and woman between birth and death counts, and has a claim to an irreducible core of integrity and dignity.”
A law school friend once assured me that Henkin himself had written the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — and if you’ve never read that document, that would be a wonderful way to celebrate his legacy today. I don’t think that’s quite true — France’s Rene Cassin seems to be granted the credit — but I can certainly believe that Henkin influenced it from the background. Even if not, he became one of the most influential exponents of its principles.
I had occasional further dealings with Prof. Henkin through school, some through my involvement with Amnesty International — and that’s another good link to consider checking out today — but the last I remember of him was when Noam Chomsky spoke on campus in or around early 2002. Henkin was sitting in the row behind me and to my right. I remember only snippets of the event. I think that Henkin did ask Chomsky a challenging question, but couldn’t swear to it. I do remember a couple of things clearly, though.
Chomsky was, as you’d expect, agitating in fine form at this time when the war drums were being beaten for what would become the invasion of Iraq. He argued sarcastically that there was indeed a case to be made for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam, but that we weren’t the ones who should do it. Instead, he said, the opportunity to defend the Shi’ites should fall to Iran, and we should welcome an Iranian invasion of the country. (As it turns out, it looks like Iraq will end up under Iran’s influence anyway.)
I don’t remember if it was at this point in the talk or later, but: Henkin walked out of the talk in protest. He was not one who — as many in the Cheney circle would promote over the next year or so and especially after “Mission Accomplished” day in 2003 — wanted to see the U.S. invade Iran. But something in Chomsky’s speech, and I think it was this, truly riled this gentle man. Chomsky was, as his wont, being a gadfly, opening up people’s minds by challenging the notion of American exceptionalism and unquestioned virtue. There is a danger with doing so, of course, and that is sentimentalizing those who oppose us. Henkin was as completely unsentimental about Iran (or any other nation) as anyone I could imagine. He held every nation to what are, after all, universal standards — and Iran was and remains a major human rights abuser, not a country to reward in such a fashion. Iran was not a convenient foil to bring out to teach a lesson about U.S. imperialism, it was a real place, with real people, real victims of its violations of human rights. If and when Henkin favored the actions of the U.S., it was if and when we acted in the true and unselfish interests of universal principles of human rights. And when we didn’t, he would raise his influential voice in protest.
Henkin was on the side of the individuals who are crushed under the boot of any nation — the U.S., Iran, Russia, China, East and West, North and South. He was, in this respect, positioned between Cheney (who would forgive and justify anything the U.S. did wrong) and Chomsky (who would forgive and justify nothing the U.S. did wrong.) As I understood him, Henkin saw only progress and regress, and he graded each country, for each of its individual actions, dispassionately. Of necessity, he was a man of deep principle.
Ten years ago, as we were approaching what then seemed like a relatively inconsequential election in 2000, the influence of groups like Amnesty International was still on the rise. (Opening room for such sorts of percolating politics is one reason to prefer Democratic Administrations.) One could at the time seriously imagine creating international norms where torture was taboo. It has been a hellish decade since, where the dream of ending torture everywhere was cut forcibly from the international agenda and replaced, by the Cheneyites, with a dream of using torture to keep the rest of the world at bay while Western Imperial Capitalism did as it will. They did this intentionally, of course, not only to shift the Overton Window but to kill the spirit of people who had listened to the likes of Henkin. When we fight them, we do so armed with the intellectual and legal armor that Henkin played a large role in crafting.
I like this page from Columbia Law’s website in which Henkin explicates some of the meaning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It contains a long quote from him, with which I’ll conclude.
For Jefferson-Locke, rights have a source but no teleology, no purpose: they are a given. In the Universal Declaration, rights are not a “given”; they are declared by contemporary spokesmen for contemporary mankind (and perhaps for future generations) for a purpose: to realize agreed values. Rights in the Universal Declaration derive from and are essential to “human dignity,” a concept vague enough to raise few issues, ideological or political. The purpose of recognizing rights is to promote other agreed values: recognition of rights “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace.” “Peace,” and “justice,” undefined, were accepted as universal values. And the declared relation of human rights to peace warranted sponsorship of the Declaration by the United Nations, since maintaining peace was its raison d’etre, and muted, somewhat, objections that the United Nations was invading the domestic jurisdiction of states (contrary to article 2(7) of the U.N. Charter).
I’d say that we’ll never again see the likes of Professor Louis Henkin, but of course we will. Through his writings, his teaching, and his advocacy, he made sure that we will — in universities and law schools across the nation and throughout the world. He leaves behind him many scholars, activists, and political leaders who walk the trails he helped blaze. They are a living legacy of his commitment to international human rights. They are his legacy of hope.