Oration given on 18 April 2002 by Professor Jane Wright, Department of Law
Chancellor, the University of Essex Foundation has determined that Aisling Reidy shall be the first recipient of the Alumnus of the Year Award.
Aisling graduated with a distinction in her Masters in International Human Rights Law in 1994, but not before my colleagues had been impressed by her intellectual rigour, her formidable skills in advocacy and her determination to ensure that human rights are fully upheld and protected everywhere.
As soon as she graduated her talents were exploited by my colleagues in a series of cases that were taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on behalf of victims of abuses in SE Turkey: the Kurdish cases. She began by researching and preparing the cases but soon became the youngest advocate ever to appear at the Court and indeed the youngest to win a case there.
Those who are committed to the cause of human rights needs grit, determination and complete dedication. Her courage is no better demonstrated than by an encounter she had at the European Commission of Human Rights sitting in Turkey. All 5ft 3inches of her physically intervened to prevent a senior representative of a foreign government from attempting to intimidate witnesses.
From the Turkish cases and Strasbourg Aisling went to Kosovo where amongst her many responsibilities she undertook the grisly task of heading up the missing persons section. It was in Kosovo that, together with forensic scientists and anthropologists, she crated the 'Catalogue'; this is perhaps an innocuous sounding title. In fact, the Catalogue consisted of photographs of clothes taken from the bodies of those exhumed from mass graves. These photographs were then used to help bereaved families to identify their loved ones.
After leaving Kosovo Aisling moved to the Hague where she is now party of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There she is prosecuting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity.
These remarks can give little more than a sketch of Aisling's achievements. It would not be appropriate to conclude without alluding to her personal qualities. She combines with her industry and intellect, warmth, zest and a rich sense of humour. Her career as an advocate will I am sure be no surprise to those who know her well: she is never lost for words.
The human rights community has been enriched by her immense contribution over such a short period of time. She is receiving the Alumnus of the Year Award but this really is just the beginning for Aisling.
Chancellor, I present Aisling Reidy.