Former U.N. human rights chief wins Tang Prize in rule of law (update)

Taipei, June 21 (CNA) Louise Arbour, a Canadian lawyer and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was named the winner of the second Tang Prize in rule of law Tuesday.

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," Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, who chairs the Tang Prize Selection Committee, read the citation in a video shown at a press conference in Taipei.

Arbour, 69, served as the U.N. 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. In the trial of Akayesu, the tribunal defined rape as a means of perpetrating genocide -- the first time that rape was considered an act of genocide by an international tribunal.

The following year, as the chief prosecutor for the ICTY, Arbour 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. A Tang Prize award ceremony will be held Sept. 25 in Taipei. The laureate will receive a cash prize of NT$40 million (US$1.23 million) and a research grant of up to NT$10 million to be used within five years, as well as a medal and a certificate.

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, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law. The first Tang Prize was awarded in 2014. Arbour graduated from Collge Regina Assumpta and completed an LL.L from the Faculty of Law at the University de Montreal.

She specializes in criminal law and is a leading figure in the constitutional and legal protection of human rights, civil liberties, rights of war crime victims and rights of other oppressed people. In 1995, while serving as a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, Arbour led an investigation into the correctional service of Canada following allegations of abuse at a women's prison in Kingston, Ontario. Her investigation report recommended placing cross-gender staff in the prison and implementing culturally sensitive measures for aboriginal female inmates, which improved rights for the prisoners.

During her term at the ICTY, Arbour introduced legal tactics such as "sealed indictments" to reduce interference by local authorities in legal proceedings and to take war crime suspects by surprise. As a result, the number of arrests made by the tribunal more than tripled during her term. Later, while serving as the U.N. 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.

Arbour has also provoked controversy by criticizing Israel's military policies in Lebanon and by criticizing the U.S-led war on terror for undermining the global ban on torture."It would be extremely problematic to do this kind of work and make only friends," she told Canada's CBC News in 2008, when speaking about the nature of her work.

From 2009 to 2014, she served as president and CEO of the International Crisis Group and focused on conflict prevention and resolution. She is currently a counsel for the Canadian law firm Borden Ladner Gervais. Winners of the 2016 Tang Prize were announced over a four-day period from beginning on June 18.

Arthur H. Rosenfeld, former commissioner of the California Energy Commission, was named the winner of the prize in sustainable development; Jennifer A. Doudna and Feng Zhang of the United States, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of France, shared the prize in biopharmaceutical science; and American scholar William Theodore de Bary won the prize in sinology. (By Christie Chen)