Recognized For International Human Rights Work, UWindsor Prof Receiving Prestigious U.S. Law Award

Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, president of the International Criminal Court, has served as Judge of the organization since March 2012. He's also served as legal advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. (International Criminal Court)

ONTARIO, CANADA (CBC)--A professor at the University of Windsor will be accepting a prestigious award in Washington this April.

Chile Eboe-Osuji is accepting an award for his work to further international human rights and accountability — as a jurist, teacher, scholar, prosecutor and international official.

The award is called the Goler T. Butcher Medal, and it's presented by the American Society of International Law. It also came as a bit of a surprise.

"I feel greatly elated by it. It was not something I expected," said Eboe-Osuji. "When it came I was here in Toronto preparing my course for my students at the University of Windsor and I got this email from the American Society and it was a letter and I was greatly, greatly elated by it."

Eboe-Osuji said it was his family that initially pushed him in the direction of law.

"You have parents who encourage you into a certain direction ... my father was very instrumental in nudging me in the direction of the law and I accepted it, I did not rebel. I was not the rebellious kind," he said.

Born during the Nigerian Civil War, Eboe-Osuji said it left a "lasting impression on his mind," but that his work in international law was "happenstance."

In 1997, while practising law in Toronto, Eboe-Osuji said a colleague asked him to be part of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

From there, his extensive resume continued; He is the president of the international criminal court and has served as a judge for the organization for nearly 10 years, and he was the legal advisor to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights — all while he is teaching law and political science at the University of Windsor and Lancer University.

Despite this work, Eboe-Osuji is quick to point out the work that still needs to be done abroad and at home in Canada.

"There has been some progress made, in fact progress came about amid a horrid global experience in the Second World War," he said, referring to the formation of the UN and recognition that "human beings have a role in international human rights."

But genocide continues, he said, and it's almost like 1945 was forgotten.

"Canada has come a long way this country has done important things some on a global stage," said Eboe-Osuji.

"The reconciliation project is important to pursue it and ensure there is confidence that lessons of that experience have been learned," he said.

"And Canada also, I do believe, can come back to what it used to be known for during the eras of Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, as that middle power that was the voice of conscience amongst nations."

One positive step, is seeing more non-white Canadian judges, he said.

Eboe-Osuji will be presented this award on April 7 in Washington, D.C.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.