University of Notre Dame Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights Douglass Cassel won the 2008 Elmer Gertz Award from the Human Rights Section of the Illinois State Bar Association. The award is for a civil and human rights lawyer who has exemplified that commitment to civil and human rights shown by famous Chicago lawyer Elmer Gertz.
Cassel is a scholar, attorney, and journalist specializing in international human rights, international criminal law and international humanitarian law. His scholarly articles in English and Spanish are published in the United States, Latin America and Europe, and he lectures at universities and conferences worldwide. On behalf of retired United States diplomats, and leading experts on international law, he has filed several amicus curiae briefs in the United States Supreme Court, involving the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo, and accountability for human rights violations under the Alien Tort Claims Act. He represents victims of human rights violations in Colombia, Guatemala, Peru and Venezuela, in cases before the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Cassel has served as Legal Advisor to the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador; Executive Council member of the American Society of International Law; co-chair of the International Committee of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Chair of the Independent International Panel on Alleged Collusion in Sectarian Killings in Northern Ireland; and consultant to the Department of State, Department of Justice, Ford Foundation, the President of the American Bar Association, and non-governmental human rights organizations. In 2000 and again in 2003, he was nominated by the US Government, and elected by the Organization of American States, to serve on the Board of the Justice Studies Center of the Americas, of which he was elected President. Since 2000 he has been President of the Due Process of Law Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., which promotes judicial reform throughout the hemisphere.
Cassel is also an award-winning commentator. His regular commentaries on human rights are broadcast on Chicago Public Radio, published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, and accessible on the website of the Center for Civil and Human Rights. His commentaries also appear in the Chicago Tribune, Christian Century, In These Times and other publications.
Cassel earned a B.A. cum laude from Yale in 1969 and a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1972. After serving for three years as a Lieutenant in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, he practiced law for 16 years as staff counsel and later General Counsel of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest in Chicago, where he handled test cases and class action involving civil rights, civil liberties, consumer and environmental law.
Cassel’s current research interests include the human rights responsibilities of transnational corporations, international law options for combating terrorism, strengthening of international human rights institutions, and the history of human rights.