Louise Arbour Is the Next President of the International Crisis Group

Former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour has been selected as the next President and CEO of the International Crisis Group (ICG). Founded in 1995, the ICG is one of the world’s leading non-partisan think tanks on deadly international conflict. It provides governments and intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank with field-based analysis, policy prescriptions and recommendations on conflict prevention and resolution.

From the ICG’s press release:

The Co-Chairs of the Board of the International Crisis Group, Lord Patten of Barnes and Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, are very pleased to announce that the Honourable Louise Arbour has been selected to be the organisation’s next President and CEO.

She will be formally confirmed by Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees at its meeting in Washington DC in April 2009 and take up the position in July. […]

Her firm dedication to Crisis Group’s mission of conflict prevention and resolution has also been expressed by her service as a Board Member for a number of years.

“Louise comes to this new position with a depth and breadth of professional experience few can match,” said Co-Chair Chris Patten. “We are honoured and delighted to have her as our new President.”

“Her appointment will ensure that Crisis Group maintains and builds upon its reputation as the world’s leading independent, non-partisan source of analysis and advice to governments and intergovernmental bodies on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict,” said Co-Chair Tom Pickering.

“I am thrilled to be taking up this new position,” Louise Arbour said. “Understanding very well the influence Crisis Group has among top policymakers, I look forward to leading the organisation in finding ways to confront conflicts and potential conflicts around the world.”

Louise Arbour’s new role with the ICG will be the latest chapter in an illustrious career spanning criminal law and international human rights. She was a popular professor here at Osgoode Hall Law School before she received her first judicial appointment, in 1987, to the Supreme Court of Ontario (now the Ontario Superior Court of Justice). Soon after in 1990, she joined the Ontario Court of Appeal. In 1996, she briefly left Canada to be Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, during which time she successfully indicted several heads of state for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Arbour’s prosecution of Slobodan Milošević was the subject of a made-for-television movie, Hunt For Justice; she was played by Wendy Crewson.

Arbour’s tenure on the Supreme Court of Canada from 1999 to 2004 was highlighted by several seminal criminal law decisions, including R v Nette, [2001] 3 SCR 488 (in which the standard of causation for homicide was restated as a “significant contributing cause” of death), R v Buhay, [2003] 1 SCR 631 (which deemed that people enjoyed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents they leave in a bus terminal locker), and R v Golden, [2001] 3 SCR 679 (in which Arbour, writing with Iacobucci, elucidated a higher standard of reasonableness for strip searches, for the purposes of s. 8 of the Charter).

Arbour left the SCC in 2004 to accept an appointment as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As The Washington Times notes, the commission is “one of the most politically sensitive and thankless” at the UN, and naturally attracts controversy. It was inevitable, then, that Arbour’s high-profile work would draw both praise and criticism. She spoke out against the atrocities in Darfur and helped bring greater attention to violence towards women; however, she was criticized for not speaking out more against Russia and China’s human rights infractions, and also suffered a backlash from making condemnatory statements about the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Few can deny, however, that Arbour was unafraid to speak out against popular or powerful governments. She courageously used her pulpit to promote humanitarianism and fundamental justice around the world, including lambasting the Bush administration’s detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo. Arbour was made a Companion to the Order of Canada last year.

Last April, we at TheCourt.ca welcomed Louise Arbour back to Canada after four high-profile years at the United Nations. Her new role at the ICG will undeniably be a continuation of her work in international human rights. We congratulate her on her ongoing success and hope that she isn’t kept away from Canada too frequently.

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