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About M. Cherif Bassiouni

In Memoriam

Human rights advocate, renowned legal scholar and DePaul University Emeritus Professor of Law M. Cherif Bassiouni died September 25, 2017, at the age of 79. We maintain this page as a memorial to Professor Bassiouni and his work.
More information about Professsor Bassiouni and his career can be found at as well as in the biographical information included below.

Bassiouni was born in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 9, 1937. He was the son of an Egyptian ambassador and the grandson of the first president of the Egyptian Senate. He fought for the Egyptian National Defense in the Suez War of 1956 and immigrated to the United States in 1962. 

His legal education was in Egypt, France, Switzerland and the United States where he received the following degrees: LLB University of Cairo; JD Indiana University; LLM John Marshall Law School; SJD George Washington University. In addition, he received several honorary degrees from: Doctor of Law honoris causa University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium (2011); Case Western Reserve University, USA (LLD) (2010); Catholic Theological Union, USA (Doctor of Humane Letters) (2009); National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland (LLD) (2001); Niagara University, USA (LLD) (1997); Docteur dEtat en Droit honoris causa, University of Pau, France (1986); Dottore in Giurisprudenza honoris causa, University of Torino, Italy (1981).

Bassiouni joined DePaul’s College of Law in 1964. As a professor, he introduced the field of international human rights law to generations of students and inspired many to follow in his footsteps, forging careers fighting for the rights of powerless people around the globe. 

In 1972, he co-founded the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, formerly the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences, which has become one of the world’s largest training institutes for jurists. More than 39,000 judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers and academics from 165 countries have participated in the institute’s activities. Bassiouni oversaw all of those programs and 120 publications containing the proceedings and materials relating to those programs. He was the honorary president of the International Association of Penal Law after having served three terms as president from 1989 to 2004. He was a guest scholar at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. in 1972, visiting professor of law, New York University Law School in 1971, Fulbright-Hays Professor of International Criminal Law, The University of Freiburg, Germany in 1970, non-resident professor of criminal law at the University of Cairo from 1996 to 2006, and was a frequent lecturer at universities in the United States and abroad.

In 1990, he founded DePaul’s International Human Rights Law Institute, over which he presided until 2008, a year before he retired. During those years, the institute became world famous, involving many students who went on to pursue international careers.

During his career, Bassiouni testified before Congress 18 times, authored, co-authored or edited 80 books and wrote 269 articles. He studied law in Dijon, France, and Geneva, Switzerland before obtaining an LL.B. from the University of Cairo in Egypt. These publications have been written in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish. Some of them have been cited by the International Court of Justice; the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY); the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); the United States Supreme Court; U.S. circuit and federal district courts; and various state supreme courts. Several of his works have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

He served as chair of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry established pursuant to Royal Order of the King of Bahrain (June 29, 2011). After 1975, he served in the following United Nations positions: chair, then member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Libya (2011); independent expert, Commission on Human Rights in Afghanistan, (2004-2006); independent expert on the Rights to Restitution, Compensation and Rehabilitation for Victims of Grave Violations of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1998-2000); chairman, Drafting Committee, United Nations Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (1998); vice chairman, General Assembly's Preparatory Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (1996-98); vice chairman, General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (1995); chairman of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to Security Council 780 (1992) to Investigate Violations of International Humanitarian Law in the Former Yugoslavia (1993-1994), and the Commission's Special Rapporteur on Gathering and Analysis of the Facts (1992-1993); consultant to the Sixth and Seventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention (1980 and 1985); consultant to the Committee on Southern African, Commission on Human Rights (1980-1981); co-chairman of the Independent Committee of Experts on Drafting the Convention on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture (1978); honorary vice president, Fifth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention (1975).

He also served, between 1973 and 1980, as a consultant to the U.S. Departments of State and Justice on projects relating to international traffic in drugs (1973) and international control of terrorism (1975 and 1978-1979) and as a consultant to the Department of State on the defense of the U.S. hostages in Iran (1979-1980).

His teaching, scholarship and international accomplishments garnered dozens of awards from many nations, including 11 medals of honor and 10 honorary degrees, including one conferred by DePaul University in 2015. Among some of the distinctions and awards he received were: nomination to the Nobel Peace Price (1999); Special Award of the Council of Europe (1990); the Adlai Stevenson Award of the United Nations Association (1993); Defender of Democracy Award, Parliamentarians for Global Action (1998); the Saint Vincent DePaul Humanitarian Award (DePaul University 2000); the Hague Prize for International Law (2007); the Via Sapientiae Award (DePaul University 2009); the World Peace Through Law Award (Washington University School of Law 2009); George Washington University Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award (2010-2011); Bradford O'Neill Medallion for Social Justice, Dominican University (2011).

He received the following medals from Austria, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy and the United States: Order of Merit of the Republic, Italy (Cavaliere di Gran Croce) (2006); Ordre des Palmes Acadmiques, Republic of France (Commander) (2006); Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, Federal Republic of Germany (2003); Legion dHonneur (Officier), France (2003); Order of Lincoln, Illinois, USA (2001); Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Austrian Republic (1990); Order of Scientific Merit (First Class), Egypt (1984); Order of Merit of the Republic, Italy (GrandUfficiale) (1977); Order of Merit of the Republic, Italy, (Commendatore) (1976); Order of Military Valor, Egypt (1956).

M. Cherif Bassiouni died Sept. 25, 2017, at his home in Chicago, from complications from multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in plasma cells.. He was 79.

Harris Institute. (2017 Sept 29) "In Memoriam: Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni (1937-2017)" Crimes Against Humanity Institute.

Smith, H. (2017 Sept 26) "M. Cherif Bassiouni, ‘father of international criminal law,’ dies at 79." Washington Post.

Sula, M. (1999 March 4) "On Top of the World: DePaul law professor Cherif Bassiouni believes an international criminal court could stop genocide, war crimes, and other atrocities. After a 30-year crusade, he’s getting a chance to prove it." Chicago Reader.


Present (deceased), DePaul University College of Law



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