ICJ mourns the loss of Nicholas Howen

Editorial by ICJ President, Mary Robinson on the death of ICJ former Secretary General.

I learned of Nicholas Howen’s death on 26 January in Geneva with deep sadness and a true sense of loss.

Nick was a close friend and colleague. We worked together in many capacities over the years. Most recently during his years as ICJ Secretary-General and mine as ICJ Commissioner and President, but also before then when I was United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Nick was my Asia-Pacific Representative, based in Bangkok. I even remember meeting Nick while I was President of Ireland, and he was part of an Amnesty delegation that came to see me in my official residence in Dublin.

Nick was exceptional in so many ways. He was a passionate, inspiring, and courageous human rights advocate and lawyer. His vision and deep commitment to human rights and the rule of law touched and earned the deep respect of those he worked with throughout the years. His work as Secretary-General of the ICJ rejuvenated the organization, revitalized it, and re-established it as an important voice on the vital human rights and rule of law issues of our time.

When I accepted the role of ICJ President in 2008 I looked forward to continuing to work with Nick to advance respect for human rights and the rule of law. Although he later became ill and resigned as Secretary-General, I had hoped we would continue that work, and for that reason I nominated him for election as ICJ Commissioner.

Just before he died Nick was unanimously elected Commissioner by his colleagues in the ICJ Commission. Although we will not now have the pleasure and honour of his company and contribution, he will be with us in spirit as we continue the work he was so committed to, and was so much a part of, throughout his life.

I hope that Nick’s many friends, and those in the diplomatic, business and wider communities who admired his commitment and passion, will have an opportunity to come together at an event the ICJ hopes to organize in March to celebrate his life and his example as a true human rights defender.

Mary Robinson
President, International Commission of Jurists

ICJ announces Nicholas Howen’s death

It is with great sadness that we at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) learned of the death of our former Secretary General, Nicholas Howen, in Geneva on 26 January 2010. Nick, who served as ICJ Secretary General from 2004-2009, had been seriously ill over the last two years. He had battled his illness courageously and successfully, but in the last weeks his health deteriorated. He died peacefully in hospital surrounded by his family.

Nick was a passionate life-long human rights advocate whose contribution to human rights and the rule of law was an inspiration to many colleagues and friends at the ICJ and throughout the human rights movement. Throughout his decades of work for the advancement of human rights, including as Head of the Legal Division at Amnesty International, as Asia Pacific Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and as Head of the DPKO Human Rights Division in Angola, Nick earned the deep respect of many. Just before his death Nick was elected Commissioner of the ICJ. His election is emblematic of the high esteem in which he was held.

In the coming days and weeks we at the ICJ will identify the ways in which we can best celebrate and honor Nick. For now, our sympathies and thoughts are with his family.

Online Forum in Memory of Nicholas Howen

An online forum has been created where all those who knew Nick can easily post their thoughts, condolences and memories of him. This will allow Nick’s family to hear from all those who knew and valued Nick. To visit the website please click here or visit: www.nicholashowen.org.

Memorial Fund

In honor of Nick, his family with the ICJ have established a fund that will provide an opportunity for young jurists to build and develop their knowledge and experience in human rights and rule of law at the ICJ. If you would like to make a donation please click here.

Account in Memory of Nick Howen-Uncategorise-2010 (full text, PDF)