CASSIN, RENÉ SAMUEL


CASSIN, RENÉ SAMUEL (1887–1976), French jurist, statesman, and Nobel Prize laureate. Born in Bayonne, Cassin studied literature and law in Aix-en-Provence and Paris. He was called to the bar in 1909, while continuing his studies preparatory to an academic career. Cassin's university career was interrupted by World War I. He fought in the infantry and was severely wounded, being awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Militaire. In 1920, Cassin was appointed professor of law at Lille and in 1929 at Paris, where he continued to teach until 1960. In addition, he taught at the Academy of International Law of The Hague, and at the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales of Geneva, among other places. Cassin, who had a passion for justice as well as being a jurist and educator, was also a man of action, and devoted himself to social problems and human rights. He helped to found the first war invalids' associations in France and to coordinate their efforts in the Union Fédérale des Anciens Combattants, of which he became president in 1922. In this capacity, he was concerned in the education of 800,000 French war orphans and in organizing action for peace. Representing France from 1924 at the League of Nations and later at the United Nations and UNESCO, Cassin collaborated in the elaboration of a new legal system to counteract war and further the progress of civilization.

World War II, during which several members of his family were murdered by the Germans, revealed Cassin's full stature. He was one of the first civilians in high positions to respond to the call for resistance by General de Gaulle in June 1940, found his way to London, and drew up the agreements between Churchill and de Gaulle which defined the status of the Free French Forces. In his broadcasts from the BBC, he restored the courage of his fellow countrymen and lent his gifts as a jurist to de Gaulle in the work of liberation and reorganization of France from the chaos of defeat. As a member of the Comité National Français, Cassin presided over the first Free French study commissions, and became national commissioner for justice and education in the French government in London (1941–43), a member of the consultative assembly of Algiers, and president of the judicial committee. After Cassin returned to France, he held high positions in the state, becoming vice president of the Conseil d'Etat (1944–60), president of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration and the Cour Suprême d'Arbitrage (1945–60), and, in 1960, member of the Conseil Constitutionnel. He also served as president of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, of which he was a member from 1947. In the international sphere, Cassin served from 1946 as a member and president of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights. In this capacity, he was one of the initiators and the principal draftsman of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was largely due to Cassin's skilled diplomacy that the text was adopted in Paris in December 1948.

While striving for the establishment and consolidation of the United Nations, Cassin also contributed to the organs of a united Europe. He served as president of the European Court of Human Rights, of the Society of Comparative Legislation, of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences, of the Committee of Foreign Legislation and International Law, and of the International Institute of Diplomatic Studies. In 1943, General de Gaulle entrusted to Cassin the direction of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle, when its central committee ceased to function in Vichy France. As its president he took part in the rehabilitation of contemporary Jewry, reorganized its work, and developed its educational and cultural activities in France, the free world, the Muslim countries, and Israel. Cassin also became honorary president of the World Sephardi Federation. Cassin is the author of numerous books. He has been awarded the highest French and foreign honors. The United Nations awarded him one of the six prizes in the sphere of Human Rights. In 1968, Cassin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

The Times (Oct. 10, Dec. 4, 11, 1968); JC (Oct. 18, 1968). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Israël, René Cassin, 1887–1976, La guerre hors-la-loi, avec de Gaulle, les droits de l'homme (1990); M. Agi, René Cassin: prix Nobel de la paix, 1887–1976, père de la "Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme" (1998).

[Andre N. Chouraqui]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.