International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Winter 2014 Issue

Leading Figures in International Law


M. Cherif Bassiouni (Egypt)(1937 - )

Antonio Cassese

By: Maria A. Chhabria, Director of Academic Programs, International Judicial Academy

M. Cherif Bassiouni is considered by many the father of modern international criminal law. He has played a key role in the creation of every major international criminal law instrument developed in the last 45 years including the Apartheid Convention, the Torture Convention, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court. His writings, diplomatic initiatives, and criminal investigations have contributed significantly to the development of international criminal law as a distinct discipline within the field of international law.

Professor Bassiouni was born in Egypt in 1937. At age 25 he moved to the United States. He has studied and traveled around the world has held numerous academic positions and has worked in the international field for many organizations at regional and international level. Since 1975 he has held numerous positions within United Nations institutions and was a consultant for the U.S. Department of State and Department of Justice for issues related international terrorism, and assisted the U.S. Department of State the during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran. Through his work for the U.N. Professor Bassiouni has been in various countries plagued by war and has investigated crimes violating international criminal law and human rights. As a member of the U.N. commission for the investigation of the crimes in the former Yugoslavia, he had a major role in documenting war crimes and in obtaining the recognition of sexual violence against women as a crime against humanity. At that time he also assisted in the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and later in the foundation of the International Criminal Court. Regarding his work in the former Yugaslavia, Professor Bassiouni said in a recent interview: “I’m in my 70s, I’m a Muslim, I come from the Arab World, I’m from another generation. And yet I have to tell you, I’m absolutely shocked and dismayed and amazed by the totally lack of sensitivity to the plight of women in war, and particularly the raping of women, in war, after war, after war, and how little attention is paid to it.”

As a war crime investigator, Professor Bassioni has been a member of various commissions established to document war crimes and violations of human rights.  Most recently, he served as Chair of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry established to determine whether the events that took place in Bahrain from February 2011 constituted a violation of international human rights. In 2004 he was selected as Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan. He was a member of the Commission of Inquiry for Libya.


Since 1964 he has taught international criminal law and human rights law at DePaul University where he founded the International Human Rights Law Institute. He also held many teaching positions in the U.S. and abroad. He was a Guest Scholar at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and Visiting Professor of Law, New York University Law School. In 1970 he was a  Fulbright-Hays Professor of International Criminal Law at The University of Freiburg, Germany  and later non-resident Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Cairo. He is also one of the founders of Criminal Sciences (ISISC) in Siracusa, Italy and was Secretary General and President of L’Association Internationale de Droit Penal in Paris, France.

Professor Bassiouni is a prolific writer and has written 27 books and edited 45. He published 265 articles on international criminal law, comparative criminal law, human rights, and U.S. criminal law that appeared in numerous law journals and books. Additionally, he has written 14 monographs on such various subjects as politics, history, and religion. His publications and books have been cited by various courts in the U.S. and in other countries, and by numerous international tribunals such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and the European Court of Human Rights. Many of his writings have been translated in different languages.

Professor Bassiouni has received many awards, and medals in recognition for his efforts in the protection of human rights. He also has earned many honorary degrees in addition to his formal education that began in Egypt and then crossed many countries. After receiving his LL.B. from the University of Cairo, he studied law in France, Switzerland, and the United States. In the United States he earned his J.D. from Indiana University, later an LL.M. from John Marshall Law School, and obtained an S.J.D. from The George Washington University Law School.

The professor is currently professor emeritus at DePaul University and President of the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (ISISC) in Siracusa, Italy. In addition he is President emeritus of the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University and honorary president of the L’Association Internationale de Droit Penal in Paris, France.

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© 2014 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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