Leading figures from the world of Law and the world judiciary paid tribute to the Justice of the United States Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of the fight for civil rights in the United States, especially gender equality. The tribute to the judge, who died in September 2020, centered the first of the two days devoted to the rule of law that the World Association of Jurists (WJA) closes this Tuesday in Madrid. At that event, held at Casa América, the King presented the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Medal of Honor to eight prominent international jurists for their defense of the rule of law.
The tribute to the figure of this judge who demonstrated – first as a lawyer and later as a magistrate – that gender inequality was unconstitutional, brought together jurists from more than 40 countries, including the presidents of the main international courts, presidents of supreme courts and constitutional, jurists and law professors. The Spanish Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, and the Colombian, Wilson Ruiz Orejuela, also attended.
Felipe VI praised the career of the American magistrate. “This international tribute to an exemplary woman whose death has caused sadness in all of us who feel as our own the values that she defended with such tenacity and brilliance is very successful,” he said. The head of state took as an example the work of the judge to defend democratic values in the world. “The social and democratic state of law is the most appropriate political form that civilization has achieved in the face of authoritarianism, arbitrariness, to organize coexistence between citizens and countries,” he emphasized.
The high point of the tribute was the presentation by Felipe VI of an award created in memory of the judge by the World Association of Jurists: the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Medal of Honor, awarded by a jury chaired by the judge’s daughter, also Jurist and Professor of Law at Columbia University Jean C. Ginsburg. In this first edition, the award has gone to eight lawyers who defend equality, non-discrimination and the reinforcement of the rule of law.
The winners are the Peruvian jurist and vice president of the International Criminal Court Luz Ibáñez Carranza, the Spanish judge Rosario Silva de Lapuerta, vice president of the Court of Justice of the European Union; the president of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, Maite Oronoz; Australian jurist and United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Gillian Triggs; South Korean judge Young Hye Kim; the first non-white female member of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Navi Pillay; the judge of the Supreme Court of India, Sujata Manohar and the president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde.
“This award is an effective way to promote the legacy of a giant,” said Lagarde, spokesperson for the eight women awarded, who also praised Justice Ginsburg’s role as an “agent of change.” The judge “inspired and guided many of us and will continue to inspire many more men and women,” she said.
Many other voices of jurists, their former collaborators or colleagues of the judge glossed the figure of a woman described as kind, with a great sense of humor, as a “rock of righteousness”, as defined by videoconference one of her colleagues in the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer.
Law Professor Jean C. Ginsburg also received a special award from the King for presiding over the jury. Ginsburg recounted how her mother had to face the discrimination she fought so hard against. “When my mother died, while I was ordering her papers, I found a letter from a major New York law firm, dated 1958, in which they declined to offer her a permanent position, alluding to the greater productivity of other lawyers,” he said. For the also jurist, it was a clear allusion to the fact that the then lawyer was already a mother.
The first of the days on the rule of law of the WJA also dedicated one of its round tables to a dialogue between the magistrates who preside over the international human rights tribunals of America, Africa and Europe, as well as the president of the Court International Criminal Court in The Hague and the vice-president of the Court of Justice of the European Union. These magistrates agreed to highlight the central role of human rights in the rule of law.