Renowned international law expert Antonio Cassese, who served as first president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal and later as president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, has died after a long battle with cancer, the Lebanon tribunal announced Saturday.
The court set up to prosecute the assassins of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said in a statement that Cassese died peacefully at his home in Florence, Italy, on Friday night.
"For members of the tribunal he was the Maestro, whose towering ability as a jurist and a statesman was equaled by the immense personal warmth and humanity which made him our dear friend," said David Baragwanath, who succeeded Cassese less than two weeks ago as president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon after the Italian stepped down on health grounds.
Cassese was still working as an appeals judge at the tribunal at the time of his death.
Cassese was one of the world's most respected experts in international law. He guided the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia during its first years of operation, from 1993-97, and led the United Nations' International Commission of Inquiry into Genocide in Darfur in 2004.
Cassese was born in 1937 in Italy. The Lebanon tribunal did not release his exact age.
"He created and was the pre-eminent figure in modern international criminal law," Baragwanath said. "His family extended across the globe to wherever there was injustice. His vision, intellect, dynamism and courage changed attitudes, institutions and lives."
Cassese was professor of international law at the University of Florence from 1975 until 2008 and was a visiting fellow at Oxford University's All Souls College from 1979-80.
He published extensively on international law, particularly international criminal law, and received several awards for his work.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.