Rosalyn Higgins, Baroness Higgins

Rosalyn C. Higgins, Baroness Higgins, GBE, QC (born 2 June 1937, London)[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 President in 2006. Her term of office expired on 6 February 2009. She was succeeded as President by Judge Hisashi Owada, and Sir Christopher Greenwood was elected in her place as Judge in the International Court of Justice.

The Lady Higgins

Rosalyn Higgins (cropped)
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

2 June 1937 (age 82)
Spouse(s)Terence Higgins, Baron Higgins
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Yale Law School


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

Education and career

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]

Titles, styles, honours and awards

Titles and styles

  • Miss Rosalyn Cohen (1937–1961)
  • Mrs Rosalyn Higgins (1961–1962)
  • Dr Rosalyn Higgins (1962-1978)
  • Prof. Dr Rosalyn Higgins (1978-1986)
  • Prof. Dr Rosalyn Higgins, QC (1986–1993)
  • Prof. Lady Higgins, QC (1993–1995)
  • Dame Rosalyn Higgins, DBE, QC (1995–1997)
  • The Right Honourable The Lady Higgins, DBE, QC (1997–2019)
  • The Right Honourable The Lady Higgins, GBE, QC (2019–present)
    • in International Court of Justice: Her Excellency Dame Rosalyn Higgins, DBE, QC (1995–2009)

Honours and awards

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. ^ "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2014. Dame Rosalyn Higgins, QC, President, International Court of Justice, 2006–09, 74
  2. ^"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

Christopher Greenwood

Sir Christopher John Greenwood (born 12 May 1955) is a former British judge at the International Court of Justice, on which he served from 2009 to 2018. Prior to his election, he was professor of international law at the London School of Economics and a barrister who regularly appeared as counsel before the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the English courts, and other tribunals. Greenwood has been appointed as the new master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, succeeding Rowan Williams, and will be taking up his post from 1 October 2020.

Girton College, Cambridge

Girton College is one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge. The college was established in 1869 by Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon and Lady Stanley of Alderley as the first women's college in Cambridge. In 1948, it was granted full college status by the university, marking the official admittance of women to the university. In 1976, it was the first Cambridge women's college to become coeducational.

The main College site, situated on the outskirts of the village of Girton, about 2.5 miles (4 km) northwest of the university town, comprises 33 acres (13.4 ha) of land. In a typical Victorian red brick design, most was built by architect Alfred Waterhouse between 1872 and 1887. It provides extensive sports facilities, an indoor swimming pool, an award-winning library and a chapel with two organs. There is an accommodation annexe, known as Wolfson Court, situated in Cambridge's western suburbs, close to the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. This annexe was opened in 1961 and provides housing for graduates, and for second-year undergraduates and above.

The College's formal governance is led by a Mistress, Susan J. Smith, who has held the position since 2009.

The College has several equal-access admittance schemes. It has a reputation for musical talent. Several art collections are held on the main site, including People's Portraits, the millennial exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and an Egyptian collection containing the world's most reproduced portrait mummy.

Among Girton's notable alumni are Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, UK Supreme Court President Lady Hale, HuffPost co-founder Arianna Huffington, the comedian/author Sandi Toksvig, the comedian/broadcaster/GP Phil Hammond, the economist Joan Robinson, and the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern, also Mistress from 1998 to 2009.

Its sister college is Somerville College, one of the first two women's colleges of Oxford.


Rosalyn may refer to:

"Rosalyn" (song), a song by Pretty Things

Rosalyn Borden (1932–2003), an American actress

Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President of the United States Jimmy Carter.

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (born 1987), an American basketball analyst

Rosalyn Higgins, Baroness Higgins (born 1937), former President of the International Court of Justice

Rosalyn Landor (born 1958), an English actress

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, an American medical physicist, winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology

Rosalyn Tureck (1914-2003), an American pianist and harpsichordist

Rosalyn (Calvin and Hobbes), a minor character in Calvin and Hobbes

Rosalyn, a character in the concept album Psychoderelict (1993)


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