Rosalyn Higgins, Lady Higgins

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The Lady Higgins
Higgins at the International Court of Justice.
President of the International Court of Justice
In office
6 February 2006 – 6 February 2009
Preceded byShi Jiuyong
Succeeded byHisashi Owada
Personal details
Rosalyn C. Cohen

(1937-06-02) 2 June 1937 (age 86)
SpouseTerence Higgins, Baron Higgins
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Yale Law School

Rosalyn C. Higgins, Baroness Higgins, GBE, KC (born 2 June 1937)[1] is a British former president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). She was the first female judge elected to the ICJ, and was elected to a three-year term as its president in 2006.


Born to a Jewish family in 1937 as Rosalyn Cohen, she married the politician Terence Higgins, Baron Higgins in 1961.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Higgins studied at Girton College, University of Cambridge, receiving her B.A. degree in 1959 and an LL.B. degree in 1962. She was a Harkness Fellow between 1959 and 1961. Besides her undergraduate degrees, she also qualified with a M.A. degree. She continued her studies at Yale Law School earning a J.S.D. degree in 1962.[3]

Following her education, Higgins was a practising barrister, and became a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1986, and is a bencher of the Inner Temple. She served on the UN Human Rights Committee for 14 years. Her role as member of the leading body for supervising implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights earned her respect for her diligence and competence. She resigned from the Human Rights Committee when she was elected to the International Court of Justice on 12 July 1995, re-elected on 6 February 2000, and ended her second term on 6 February 2009.

Her professional appointments include:

Higgins is the author of several influential works on international law, including Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It (1994). Despite delivering many balanced judgements in different cases, Higgins's dissenting opinion in the ICJ's advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or the Use of Nuclear Weapons has been widely criticised by some legal scholars, on the grounds that it provides sovereign states with an unjustifiable amount of latitude in resort to the use of nuclear weapons in times of armed conflict.[4]

In October 2009 she was appointed advisor on International Law, to the British government's inquiry into the Iraq war (Headed by Sir John Chilcot).[5]

Honours and awards[edit]

Higgins is a member of the Institut de droit international. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1995, and was advanced to Dame Grand Cross (GBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours. In 1988 she was appointed a Knight of the French Order of Academic Palms. Furthermore, in 2007 she was awarded the Balzan Prize for International Law since 1945.

Her competence has been recognised by many academic institutions, having received at least thirteen honorary doctorates, as well as the Yale Law School Award of Merit[3] and also the Manley-O.-Hudson medal.



  1. ^ "Birthdays today". The Telegraph. London. 2 June 2011. Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2014. Dame Rosalyn Higgins, QC, President, International Court of Justice, 2006–09, 74
  2. ^[dead link] 6 April 2006 "Was it any more difficult for her to be so critical in the Israel case because she is Jewish? 'I don't think so,' she says, stressing that she judged the case as an international lawyer and not because of her background. 'I also think that the fact you happen to be Jewish doesn't mean you think that everything the State of Israel does is right.'" When the Foreign Office put her name forward for election to the court, there were fears that some countries in the UN would not vote for a Jewish woman. She dismisses such concerns. "I don't think I have ever been perceived as Rosalyn Higgins, the Jewish international lawyer - and I hope not Rosalyn Higgins, the woman international lawyer."
  3. ^ a b Award of Merit - Yale alumni website
  4. ^ A. Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and Making of International Law, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 293
  5. ^

External links[edit]