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The Honourable
 Louise Arbour CC GOQ

In office
September 15, 1999 – June 30, 2004
Preceded by Peter Cory
Succeeded by Rosalie Abella/Louise Charron

Born February 10, 1947 (1947-02-10) (age 62)
Montreal, Quebec

Louise Arbour, CC, GOQ (born February 10, 1947) is the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She has since July 2009 served as President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.[1]


Early life

Born in Montreal, Quebec to Bernard Arbour and Rose Ravary, the owners of a hotel chain, she attended convent school, during which time her parents divorced. As editor of the school magazine, she earned a reputation for irreverence.

In 1967, she graduated from College Regina Assumpta, and proceeded to the Université de Montréal where she completed an LL.L. with distinction in 1970. She became the Law Clerk for Mr. Justice Louis-Philippe Pigeon of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1971-1972 while completing graduate studies at the Faculty of Law (Civil Section) of the University of Ottawa. She was called to the Bar of Quebec in 1971 and to the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1977. She was made a Companion to the Order of Canada in 2007 "for her contributions to the Canadian justice system and for her dedication to the advancement of human rights throughout the world".[2] She was made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2009.[3]

She has received many honorary Degrees, including Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of Western Ontario in June 2000[4], Doctor of Humane Letters from Mount Saint Vincent University in May 2001[5], and Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of British Columbia in November 2001[6], the University of Waterloo in October 2006[7], in June 2009 from the University of Alberta[8] and University of Guelph[9], and from Simon Fraser University in October 2009[10].

She has three children: Emilie, Patrick and Catherine Taman.

Legal career

From 1972-73, Louise Arbour was research officer for the Law Reform Commission of Canada. She then taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, first as a Lecturer (1974), then as Assistant Professor (1975), Associate Professor (1977-1987), and finally as Associate Professor and Associate Dean (1987). She also was Vice-President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association until her appointment to the Supreme Court of Ontario (High Court of Justice) in 1987 and to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1990.

In 1995, Madam Louise Arbour was appointed as President of a Commission of Inquiry, under the Inquiries Act, for the purpose of investigating and reporting on events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, following allegations by prisoners of abuse.

In 1996, she was appointed Chief Prosecutor of War Crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. In that capacity she indicted then President Slobodan Milošević for war crimes, the first time a serving head of State was called to account before an international court. Also indicted were Milan Milutinović, President of the Republic of Serbia, Nikola Šainović, Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Dragoljub Ojdanić, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Vlajko Stojiljković, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.[11][12][13]

In 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Arbour to the Supreme Court of Canada.[14]

Throughout her career, Arbour has published in the area of criminal procedure and criminal law, in both French and English. At various times, she has served as an editor for the Criminal Reports, the Canadian Rights Reporter, and the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

Madam Louise Arbour has been awarded honorary doctorates by twenty-seven universities.

In 2005, Arbour was awarded the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, along with Justice Richard Goldstone, in recognition of her work on the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.[15]

She is also the subject of a 2005 fact-based Canadian-German made-for-television movie, entitled Hunt For Justice which follows her quest to indict Bosnian war criminals. Arbour was played by Canadian actress Wendy Crewson.


On February 20, 2004, she was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,[16] a position she took officially on July 1, 2004. She replaced Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, along with other members of his staff, in August 2003.

On 29 July 2006, at the international Conference for LGBT rights in Montreal, she participated as a keynote speaker for adoption of the Declaration of Montreal and she also gave a profound influence to the adoption of tha Yogyakarta Principles proclaiming absolute prohibition of discrimination against LGBT people by International Human Rights Law.

In July, during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, she stated that "those in positions of command and control" could be subject to "personal criminal responsibility" for their actions in the conflict. In Arbour's full statement, she did not single out a side for war crimes.[17] However, some have taken the statement to be directed to Israel. Alan Baker, Israel's ambassador to Canada, said he "completely reject[s] Louise Arbour's warning."[18]. In 2006 during a trip to Israel and the occupied territories, Arbour initially refused to meet with the families of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and Gilad Shalit, but later changed her mind following a media furor and accusations of bias. In the meeting, she offered to do "all she can" to help obtain their release. As High Commissioner she was criticized by the soldiers' families for not using this trip as an opportunity to call attention to their kidnapping. "[19]

In Nov. 2006, Arbour met backlash for her comments on the Israel-Lebanon conflict. While visiting Sderot, an Israeli town often attacked by rockets, she was heckled and her motorcade was stoned. Asked by the Jerusalem Post[20] if there was a distinction under human rights law between missile attacks aimed at killing civilians and military strikes in which civilians are unintentionally killed, Arbour said the two could not be equated.

“In one case you could have, for instance, a very objectionable intent - the intent to harm civilians, which is very bad - but effectively not a lot of harm is actually achieved,” she said. “But how can you compare that with a case where you may not have an intent but you have recklessness [in which] civilian casualties are foreseeable? The culpability or the intent may not sound as severe, but the actual harm is catastrophic.”[21]

More recently Arbour has been accused of acquiescing in the Ugandan government's "forcible disarmament" campaign against the Karamojong minority, in which rape, torture and mass killing are widely reported. She is quoted as saying “The actions of the UPDF do not comply with international human rights law and domestic law.” But, she also stipulated, “the decision of the Government to undertake renewed efforts to eradicate illegal weapons in Karamoja is essential….”[22]

Arbour's four-year term expired on June 30, 2008 and she did not seek a second term.[23]

United Nations Watch Report on Louise Arbour's Record

In July 2008, United Nations Watch published an analysis of Arbour's conduct as UN High Commissioner. The report acknowledged that Arbour did not devote "more time to condemning democracies instead of tyrants" as claimed by many of her critics. However, the report discovered that many of the "inflated claims" made by her defenders were false. The claim that Arbour “routinely singled out” UN Security council members countries such as Russia, China and United Nations Human Rights Council member-state Egypt were found to be largely inaccurate following a review of all her UN statements issued between 2007 and 2008. UN Watch accuses Arbour of holding back criticisms from "many countries that wield power and influence at the UN." The report also found that during 2007 and 2008, Arbour published no statements for the "billions of victims residing in 153-countries whose human rights records range from poor to appalling." Countries such as Algeria, Bangladesh, North Korea, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam were never mentioned in any of Arbour's reports submitted to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "International Crisis Group - President". International Crisis Group. July, 2009.  
  2. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Governor General of Canada. December 28, 2007.  
  3. ^ "National Order of Quebec citation" (in French).  
  4. ^ "Supreme court Justice, Noted Social Activist Among Honorary Degree Recipients".,_noted_social_activist_among_honorary_degree_recipients_20000301436901/.  
  5. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipient Announcement". May 1, 2001.  
  6. ^ "UBC Honorary Degree Recipients - Alphabetical List". November 22, 2001.  
  7. ^ "UN's human rights commissioner to receive honorary degree". September 25, 2006.  
  8. ^ "Humanitarians, philanthropists, leaders celebrated at U of A spring convocation". April 8, 2009.  
  9. ^ "Eight to Receive Honorary Degrees". June 1, 2009.  
  10. ^ "SFU 2009 Honorary Degree Recipients".  
  11. ^ International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
  12. ^ The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: CASE No. IT-99-37 UN document
  13. ^ Statement by Justice Louise Arbour, Prosecutor ICTY "I presented an indictment for confirmation against Slobodan Milosevic and four others charging them with crimes against humanity" in a UN press statement (JL/PIU/404-E), 27 May 1999
  14. ^ From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website
  15. ^ Dodd Prize Website,
  16. ^ Louise Arbour Takes Up Mandate of High Commissioner a UN press statement, 1 July 2004
  17. ^ High Comminsioner for Human Rights Calls for Protection of Civilians and Accountablity in Latest Mideast Crisis, July 19 2006
  18. ^ Israeli ambassador says Louise Arbour doesn't get it, July 21 2006
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Ibid.[3]
  22. ^ Kopel, David. "Guns Don't Kill People, Gun Control Kills People" Reason 23/02/2007
  23. ^ "Louise Arbour will not be seeking a second term as High Commissioner". press releases, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2008-03-22.  
  24. ^

External links

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