Diplomat and Human Rights Champion to Receive Ralston Prize at Stanford Law School

April 24, 2024 – Stanford, CA – Stanford Law School (SLS) announced today that Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, president and CEO of the International Peace Institute (IPI), former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the first President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, has been awarded the Jackson H. Ralston Prize in International Law. The Ralston Prize recognizes original and distinguished contributions to the development of the role of law in international relations and the furtherance of international peace and justice.

Diplomat and Human Rights Champion to Receive Ralston Prize at Stanford Law School
Ralston Prize winner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Zeid will accept the prize during a ceremony on May 23 at SLS and will take part in two on-campus events focusing on international human rights, including the Ralston Lecture. Zeid joins a distinguished group of past recipients of the Ralston Prize, including former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, JD ’49. The first recipient of the Ralston prize was Olaf J. Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden, in 1977.

Zeid’s record of international public service includes a distinguished career as a Jordanian diplomat, including serving as Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as Jordan’s ambassador to the United States. In 2014, he was named the sixth United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He was the first Asian, Arab, or Muslim to hold that post. In 2002, he was elected the first President of the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court.

Today, as head of the nonprofit IPI, Zeid works on a variety of fronts to strengthen inclusive multilateralism around the world, including by helping governments, NGOs, and the private sector to cooperate in addressing existential issues such as climate change and pandemic preparedness. He is also the Perry House Professor of the Practice of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I am grateful and filled with humility that the prize committee wants to recognize the work that the teams around me are engaged in,” said Zeid, who, in 2019, was invited to join The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace, justice, and human rights founded by Nelson Mandela. “I am touched to be among so many amazing prior recipients of the Ralston Prize—every one of them is someone I admire. To be included in their company is a huge honor.”

Zeid underscored that the true heroes in the realm of international human rights are “those people who most people don’t know: the dissidents who are locked away, incarcerated in remand centers around the world for expressing a dissenting opinion, people who have exhibited enormous courage, and have sacrificed their lives for the law and for principle.”

Allen Weiner, director of the Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law and director of the Stanford Humanitarian Program, called Zeid a leading defender of universal human rights. “Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has played a vital role in building and shaping the international institutions seeking to promote international human rights and to ensure accountability for international war crimes,” Weiner said. “In his role as the first President of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, he was central in turning the ICC from an idea captured on a piece of paper into a functioning international criminal law investigative and judicial body. And later, as the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, he was a fearless defender of human rights, always willing to speak truth to power.” Weiner served on the prize nominating committee and will host the May 23 ceremony and lectures.

About the Ralston Prize

The Jackson H. Ralston Prize in International Law recognizes original and distinguished contributions to the development of the role of law in international relations. The concept of law broadly includes all human efforts to enhance the establishment of international peace and justice. It broadly encompasses activity in arbitration, diplomacy, international organization, and other steps toward the peaceful settlement of disputes and conditions promoting world order. Each Ralston Prize winner gives a lecture. Over the years, the Ralston Prize Lectures have addressed a broad range of topics, including social justice and individual freedom, disarmament and development, transformation in South Africa, and the principles of negotiation.

The Ralston Prize is given in honor of Jackson H. Ralston, a lawyer born in 1857 who practiced international and labor law in Washington, D.C. for most of his career. After moving to Palo Alto in 1924, Ralston served as an international law lecturer at SLS. He died in 1945. His widow, Opal Ralston, established the Ralston Prize at Stanford in his memory in 1972 and, in 2007, the prize fund was enhanced with an additional gift from other Ralston family members. According to the terms of the prize trust, the prize is to be awarded only when specially merited and only to a person whose contributions toward the objectives of the award have attained the highest professional competence.

Additional previous recipients were: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi; former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Robert S. Mueller; former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell; former member of the South African Parliament and anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman; former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel; former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliot Trudeau; former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias Sanchez; and former ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. from Singapore Tommy T. B. Koh.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.