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Dame Rosalyn Higgins, DBE, QC (b. in London, 1937) is the former President of the International Court of Justice. Higgins was the first female judge to be appointed to the ICJ, and was elected President in 2006. Her term of office expired on 6 February 2009. She was succeeded as President by Judge Hisashi Owada, and Sir Christopher Greenwood was elected in her place as Judge in the International Court of Justice.



Born to a Jewish family in 1937 as Rosalyn Cohen, she married the politician Terence Higgins in 1961 (Sir Terence from 1993, Lord Higgins since 1997). [1]

Education and career

She was elected to the Court as of July 12, 1995, re-elected as of February 6, 2000 and ended her second term on 6 February, 2009.

Higgins studied at Girton College, University of Cambridge receiving her B.A. in 1959 and LL.B in 1962. She was Harkness Fellow in 1959-61. As well as her undergraduate degrees she also qualified with a M.A. She continued her studies at Yale University earning a J.S.D.. Her competence has been recognised by other academic institutions, having received over thirteen honorary doctorates, as well as the Yale Law School Medal of Merit and also the Manley O. Hudson Medal.

Following her education Higgins was a practising barrister, and became a Queen's Counsel in 1986, and is a bencher of the Inner Temple.

Her professional appointments include:

She is a member of the Institut de droit international and became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1995. In 2007 she was awarded the Balzan Prize for International Law since 1945.

Dame Rosalyn is the author of several influential works on international law, including Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It (1994).

In October 2009 she was appointed advisor on international law, to British government’s enquiry into the Iraq war (Headed by Sir John Chilcot). [2]

Titles from birth

  • Miss Rosalyn Cohen (1937-1961)
  • Mrs Terence Higgins (1961-1986)
  • Mrs Terence Higgins, QC (1986-1993)
  • Lady Higgins, QC (1993-1995)
  • Her Excellency Dame Rosalyn Higgins, DBE, QC (1995-present)




  1. ^ [1]"Was it any more difficult for her to be so critical in the Israel case because she is Jewish? "I don't think so," she says, stressing that she judged the case as an international lawyer and not because of her background. "I also think that the fact you happen to be Jewish doesn't mean you think that everything the State of Israel does is right." When the Foreign Office put her name forward for election to the court, there were fears that some countries in the UN would not vote for a Jewish woman. She dismisses such concerns. "I don't think I have ever been perceived as Rosalyn Higgins, the Jewish international lawyer - and I hope not Rosalyn Higgins, the woman international lawyer."
  2. ^

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