Hong Kong, June 21 (CNA) Louise Arbour, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who was named the winner of the 2016 Tang Prize in rule of law Tuesday, said she hopes that the prize will inspire young lawyers to recognize the importance of their profession.
The Tang Prize is awarded to Arbour "for her enduring contributions to international criminal justice and the protection of human rights, to promoting peace, justice and security at home and abroad, and to working within the law to expand the frontiers of freedom for all," according to the Tang Prize citation.
Speaking to a CNA reporter in Hong Kong, the Canadian lawyer said she is "very surprised, very humbled" to have won the award. "It's a very inspired gesture of philanthropy. To receive this kind of recognition in the field of rule of law, for me, is the highest possible recognition for my work," Arbour said.
"I hope it will inspire young lawyers to realize that it's a gift to work in this legal profession that gives us the tools to advance the rule of law for the benefit of all people," the 69-year-old said. After winning the Tang Prize, Arbour said she will use the voice and platform that the prize gives her to further the rule of law.
The rule of law is the "fabric" that combines together people from all over the world "who have the same aspirations to live, to live in peace, to live freely, to have the basic opportunities to educate their children, to provide them with health care," she said. Arbour served as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008, and a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1999 to 2004. She was also the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR) between 1996 and 1999.
In 1998, Arbour became the first prosecutor to get a conviction of genocide in an international tribunal, when the ICTR convicted Jean-Paul Akayesu, a mayor in Rwanda, of genocide. The following year, she again made history by indicting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who became the first sitting head of state to be tried for war crimes by an international tribunal. Later, while serving as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Arbour continued to speak out against injustices, taking strong stances against honor killings, human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and war crimes in Darfur.
The biennial Tang Prize was established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin to complement the Nobel Prize and to honor top researchers and leaders in four fields: sustainable development, bio pharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law. The first Tang Prize was awarded in 2014.