The former chair of a United Nations inquiry on North Korea’s alleged human rights violations will address the Indiana University School of Global and International Studies on Thursday, Sept. 22. Michael Kirby led the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea from 2013-2014. His address is titled “The Joys and Nightmare of a UN Human Rights Mandate Holder.” A distinguished jurist in Australia, he was a justice on the High Court, the country’s supreme court, for 13 years.
Kirby will speak at 4:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Global and International Studies building. The auditorium (room 0001) is located on the lower level of the Global and International Studies building at 355 N. Jordan Ave. in Bloomington, adjacent to the Wells Library. The event is free and open to the public.
Aside from a long legal career in Australia, Kirby has been very involved in international activities. As chair of the UN inquiry on North Korea, Kirby oversaw a committee that heard testimony from 300 witnesses about abuse that the Commission’s report called “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations.” The Commission’s report was handed to the UN Security Council.
An expert on international human rights law and privacy law, Kirby has also been active in advocating for gay rights. He is currently an advisor to IU’s Kinsey Institute and served on the Kinsey Board of Governors. Kirby also served as the George P. Smith Professor and Chair in the IU Maurer School of Law. Kirby delivered the commencement address for IU graduates in May, 2009.
Kirby served as a justice of the Australian High Court from 1996 until 2009; as president of the New South Wales Court of Appeal from 1984-96; and as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia 1983-84. Prior to serving on the courts, he chaired the Australian Law Reform Commission and was deputy president of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Known as Australia’s “Great Dissenter,” Kirby dissented on approximately one-third of High Court decisions between 1996 and 1999. He wrote in his book Through the World’s Eye that his disagreement with the majority resulted from “attention to international law and, in particular, to universal human rights norms as touchstones for the expression and development of our own common law in Australia.”
In the 1970s, Kirby chaired the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development panel that created OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data, a foundation for modern privacy and data security law in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
He served critical roles with UNESCO and the United Nations in such areas as bioethics, HIV/AIDS testing, prevention and treatment and international human rights. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from Sydney University and honorary degrees from universities in Australia, India and Northern Ireland.