Rene Cassin was born on October 5, 1887, in Bayonne, France. Cassin is most remembered as an influential French judge and human rights activist. He was considered one of the world’s principal advocates for the civil liberties.
Cassin began his legal career as a counsel to the Court of Paris in 1909. At the start of World War I, Cassin joined the infantry but was wounded and released from duty. After the war, he became a professor of law at the University of Aix-en-Provence. Finally, in 1929, he moved to the University of Paris where he became the chair of fiscal and civil law. Cassin remained at the University of Paris until 1960 when he retired. Cassin wrote numerous treaties and articles, dealing with everything from women’s inequality to international human rights abuses.
Cassin was the French delegate to the League of Nations from 1924 to 1938. He served on both the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission and the Hague Court of Arbitration (president from 1950-1960). After World War II, Cassin served as the French delegate to the United Nations in 1946, 1948, 1950, 1951, and 1968. Additionally, from 1959 to 1965, Cassin was a prominent member of the European Court of Human Rights. Then, in 1965, Cassin was elected President of the court and held that position until 1968.
After World War II, and the atrocities of the Holocaust had been uncovered, Cassin, together with Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In one of the United Nation’s first votes on Human Rights, the General Assembly approved the declaration on December 10, 1948. Following the vote, the UN honored and commended Cassin’s work on behalf of human rights activism, with the Human Rights Prize. In 1968, Rene Cassin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Cassin died on February 20, 1976, at the age of 89.
Sources: Wikipedia; “Rene Cassin Biography”; “Museum of the Jewish People: Rene Samuel Cassin.”
Photo courtesy of Beth Hatefutsoth, The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv
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