Magnitsky Awards
Winner’s Bio

Irwin Cotler

Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,
Long-time Member of Parliament and International Human Rights Lawyer

Award Winner 2015

Outstanding Contribution to the Global Magnitsky Campaign

The Honourable Irwin Cotler is Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, long-time Member of Parliament, international human rights lawyer, counsel to prisoner of conscience, and Founder- Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

A constitutional, comparative, and international human rights scholar, Professor Cotler is the author of numerous publications and seminal legal articles, and has intervened in landmark Supreme Court of Canada cases in the areas of free speech, freedom of religion, minority rights, peace law and war crimes justice; he has also intervened before the Supreme Court of the United States, the Supreme Court of Israel, the Cour de Cassation of Egypt, and the International Criminal Court.

As Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Irwin Cotler initiated the first-ever comprehensive reform of the Supreme Court appointment process and helped make it the most gender-representative Supreme Court in the world; appointed the first-ever aboriginal and visible minority justices to the Ontario Court of Appeal; initiated the first-ever law on human trafficking and crafted the Civil Marriage Act.

Professor Cotler made the pursuit of international justice a government priority, including initiating the first ever prosecution for genocide in Rwanda under the War Crimes. A leading Canadian Parliamentarian- chosen by his peers as Parliamentarian of the Year- he initiated a host of Private Member Bills in the areas of constitutional law, criminal law, international law and human rights law.

He is Founder-Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a unique international consortium of parliamentarians, scholars, jurists, human rights defenders, NGOs, and students united in the pursuit of justice. The Centre is organized around five pillars of pursuing justice, each of which reflects and represents Wallenberg’s humanitarian legacy, with democratic renewal, defending political prisoners, and empowering women being three of those pillars.

In his varied roles as law professor, , international human rights lawyer, counsel to prisoners of conscience , public intellectual, peace activist, Member of Parliament, and Minster of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Mr. Cotler has been a leader and role model.