DePaul’s M. Cherif Bassiouni, global human rights activist, dead at 79

M. Cherif Bassiouni, an international scholar who devoted his career to investigating human rights abuses, torture and war crimes, died Monday. He was 79 and had multiple myeloma.

A DePaul University law professor, he held 22 appointments over the years to United Nations positions. He worked on social justice issues involving Afghanistan, Bahrain, Libya and the former Yugoslavia. He also contributed to the Camp David peace accords, according to David Swift, a lawyer who worked with him.

Benjamin Ferencz, who at 98 is the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg war crimes trials, told the Sun-Times Mr. Bassiouni “earned the reputation of the most knowledgeable scholar of international law. . . .he was a real contributor to international criminal law and the rule of law to protect human rights.”

“Cherif Bassiouni was one of the most consistent, courageous and knowledgeable people I have ever met and who never shied from speaking truth to power,” Bianca Jagger said in an interview. She founded the London-based Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

In Bosnia, Mr. Bassiouni worked on a “monumental effort that documented mass killings, human rights abuses. . . . cases of rape, and resulted in the prosecution of hundreds including the top man, [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago.

Born in Cairo, Mr. Bassiouni was a founding member of the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul, where he was a professor emeritus. He started at DePaul in 1964.

He is survived by his wife Elaine Klemen-Bassiouni, stepdaughter Lisa Capitanini and two grandchildren. A private funeral service is planned Tuesday for family and friends. A public memorial is being planned for the future, Swift said.

Maureen O’Donnell

Chicago Sun-Times

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