International Judicial Monitor
Published by the American Society of International Law and the International Judicial Academy
Jul/Aug 2007, Volume 2, Issue 2

Leading Figures in International Law

Hans CorellHans Corell
Ambassador (and Judge)

Ambassador and former Swedish judge Hans Corell for ten years, from 1994 until his retirement in 2004, held a job that can best be described as the apex for any career in international law; he was the Under Secretary General and Legal Counsel of the United Nations. In that position he also headed the Office of Legal Affairs in the UN Secretariat.

As such he was the Secretary-General’s representative to the Rome Conference on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998, a conference that resulted in the creation of the Rome Statute and then the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, one of his many efforts to create international criminal tribunals (the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Sierra Leone are among his successes).

Ambassador Corell began his legal career in 1962, entering the Swedish judiciary as a clerk, before being promoted as a presiding judge to a small crimes court and then later onto a district court. Even after he left the judiciary to join the Swedish Ministry of Justice, he returned intermittently to the courts. He was an additional member of the Svea Court of Appeal in 1973, an Associate Judge of Appeal in 1974, and Judge of Appeal in 1980. In the Ministry of Justice, he was successively Legal Advisor, Assistant Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs, and then Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs.

In 1984 Ambassador Corell joined the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he was Ambassador and Under-Secretary for Legal and Consular Affairs. He was a member of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations General Assembly prior to his appointment in the Secretariat of the United Nations. During that period of his life, he also served on working groups within the Council of Europe, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).  In the latter capacity, he was co-author of the CSCE proposal for the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Retirement from the United Nations did not end Ambassador Corell’s involvement with international affairs nor dim his enthusiasm for promoting the rule of law around the world. He was almost immediately appointed to chair the Club of Madrid’s Working Group on Legal Responses to Terrorism, charged with drafting the Madrid Declaration, which established “a common strategy to confront terrorism.”  He also lectures widely in the U.S. and other countries (see Global Judicial Dialogue in this issue of International Judicial Monitor) and serves on several significant international boards, two of which are the Board of Trustees of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Lund University, Sweden, and the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ambassador Corell works with the International Bar Association and the American Bar Association in promoting the rule of law in the world.  In 2005, he received the first Frederick K. Cox International Law Center International Humanitarian Award for Advancing Global Justice at Case Western Reserve School of Law in Ohio.

In January 2006, he gave the keynote address at the 4th Brandies Institute for International Judges in Dakar, Senegal. He currently serves as a consultant in the largest law firm in Sweden, Mannheimer Swartling. He has also authored numerous articles and treatises during his long career.

Ambassador Corell was a featured speaker at the first Sir Richard May Seminar on International Law and International Courts in The Hague, Netherlands in 2005 conducted by the International Judicial Academy and supported by the American Society of International Law. He spoke again at the second Richard May Seminar in 2006 and will deliver two lectures at the third Seminar scheduled for September of this year.

Ambassador Corell currently has three personal “initiatives” that he is pursuing:

  1. Reviving the movement and promoting conferences on disarmament.
  2. Promoting a global compact for corporate social responsibility (a program started by former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan) which includes his meeting with representatives of business organizations and interests to encourage a section in corporate reports on efforts to protect human rights.
  3. Promoting a “rule of law” movement among existing organizations around the world.

For the latter effort, Ambassador Corell, responded in an interview:

“We are discussing what is possible, how to start a global rule of law movement. The AVA has been very active here, but so has the IBA. We shouldn’t be inventing new institutions. There are plenty of institutions out there. What is important is that we have existing institutions join hands and work in the same direction. What I would like to see is a general mapping of the countries of the world on their status as to the rule of law. Like a doctor makes a physical examination, with a checklist. When you discuss the rule of law, there’s a tendency for people to think immediately in the direction of criminal law. I don’t view it in that way, because of my background. I came from the courts, but the government also works a lot with administrative law. If you think about it, in any society, most people will never face a court. I would suggest that the fewer the better. But everyone will sooner or later interact with administrative authorities – paying taxes, receiving permission to build, registering a land title, that sort of think. It is important that they deal with people who also apply the rule of law, that they do their jobs in a just manner. Corruption is one of the major diseases in many countries of the world. It destroys so many efforts to establish rule of law societies.”

Ambassador Corell was born in Vastermo, Sweden in July 1939. He received his law degree from the University of Uppsala and holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Stockholm. He was recently honored in May of this year with the same degree from the University of Lund. He also finds time in his busy schedule to write hymns (see and poetry (see

Ambassador Corell has devoted his entire adult life to justice and the rule of law, first in his native country of Sweden, and then in the international arena. He is a “first among many equals” as a “leading figure in international law.”

James G. Apple, Co-Editor, International Judicial Monitor and President, International Judicial Academy

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© 2007 – The American Society of International Law and International Judicial Academy.

Editors: James G. Apple, Veronica Onorevole and Andrew Solomon.
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