Colombia has conferred upon University of Notre Dame Law School professor Douglass Cassel the Order of Merit, the highest award Colombia grants to foreign citizens.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos presented the medal to Cassel in a ceremony in the president’s private residence in Cartagena on Sunday (Sept. 25), the day before United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and 15 heads of state gathered for the formal signing ceremony of a peace agreement between the government and the largest rebel group in Colombia. The agreement ends more than half a century of armed insurgency by the FARC (Armed Forces of the Colombian Revolution).
Cassel was awarded the medal for his service to the government in helping to negotiate the transitional justice component of the peace agreement. The justice accord provides that rebels and soldiers who confess to war crimes may benefit from reduced sentences of “effective restrictions” of their liberty, while those who do not confess may be tried before a special tribunal for peace and sentenced to lengthy terms in prison.
The award for service by foreign citizens is officially known as the Order of Merit “Guillermo Ferguson.” It is named for a British military volunteer who, while serving as aide-de-camp to Simón Bolívar two centuries ago, saved the independence leader from an assassination attempt.
Cassel teaches courses at Notre Dame in the field of international human rights law, including a course on accountability for gross violations of human rights.