Honorary Degree Recipient
Doctor of Laws
College of Liberal Arts, May 18, 2003
Judge Thomas Buergenthal, a survivor of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, has dedicated his life to the betterment of humankind, working as both a scholar and public servant worldwide. His work focuses particularly on protecting the dignity of all people by applying international norms of human rights, which he helped to develop and make a serious matter among American lawyers. He was influential in introducing international criminal rights law to U.S. school curriculum; educating through his capacities as professor, dean, and director of many international law and human rights departments at universities around the nation. Perhaps most notably, he has been a part of the groundbreaking international institutions that have enforced or written international law. In 1979, he was nominated by the Costa Rican Embassy to serve on the Inter-American Court of Justice. He served two distinguished six-year terms, writing several of the most influential decisions regarding state responsibility for systematic human rights violations in the Americas. In 1992, he was appointed to the Commission for Truth in El Salvador by Secretary-General Bhoutros Bhoutros Ghali; the commission was designed to investigate the most serious abuses of power during the war. In 1995, he was the first American to be elected to the U.N. Human Rights Committee. He resigned from his position in 1999 to work for the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts, which handles claims for the return of stolen property from the Holocaust survivors. In March 2002, he was appointed to the International Court of Justice.
Biographies are as-of time of award presentation.