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Graduation Speaker 2012

The Honorable Thomas Buergenthal

American Judge on the International Court of Justice, Retired


Hon. Thomas BuergenthalJudge Thomas Buergenthal served as the American Judge on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) from 2000 until 2010. Between 1979 and 1991, he was a judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In the 1990s, he served as a member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee and on the U.N. Truth Commission for El Salvador.

On his retirement from the ICJ, Judge Buergenthal returned to the George Washington University Law School as the Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence, a position he held prior to his election the the ICJ. He is a member of the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee and the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Buergenthal was the Dean of the Washington College of Law of the American University from 1980 to 1985. At different times, he also seved as professor of International law at the SUNY/Buffalo Law School, the University of Texas Law School, and Emory University Law School. While at Emory, he was the Director of the Human Rights Program of the Carter Center.

Buergenthal graduated from Bethany College in West Virginia, and the New York University Law School. He received LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees from the Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from various American and European universities, including the American University, New York University, University of Minnesota, University of Göttingen and Brandeis University. Among his recent awards is the 2008 International Justice Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation.

Buergenthal is the author of more than a dozen books and a large number of professional journal articles dealing with international law and human rights subjects. In his memoir, A Lucky Child, he recounts his experiences as one of the youngest survivors of the Ghetto of Kielce and the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen.