It is with sadness that we announce the death of Justice Carmen Maria Argibay on May 10, 2014. Justice Argibay was a founding member of the IAWJ and a beloved friend of many IAWJ members around the world.
Justice Carmen Argibay was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She began her legal career in 1959 as a junior clerk in the Correctional Court, and then took the same position in 1961 in the Juvenile Criminal Court, where she remained until 1965. She received her law degree from the Faculty of Law and Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires in 1964. Justice Argibay began work as a private attorney in 1965 but returned to the courts in 1969 and remained there until 1976, when she was removed following the military coup in Argentina. She was imprisoned for nine months, without trial or charges, by the military dictatorship in Argentina in 1976.
On her release, Justice Argibay returned to private practice, but she returned to court work in 1984 after the return of democratic rule, when she was appointed trial judge. In 1988, she was promoted to court judge at the National Court of Criminal and Correctional Appeals, a position she held until 1993, when she became Judge to Criminal Oral Proceedings.
In December 2000, she participated in the Tokyo Tribunal to adjudicate charges of sexual slavery and other war crimes allegedly committed by the Japanese military against women from Korea, the Philippines, and Japan.
In 2002, Justice Argibay was appointed ad litem judge to the International Criminal Tribune for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In 2004 she became first woman nominated to the Supreme Court of Argentina.
Justice Argibay also had a wide teaching career, including several teaching and advisory posts at the University of Buenos Aires. Beginning in 1988, she served on the Academic Advisory Board of the Higher Institute of Judicial Education for the postgraduate course in Administration of Justice. She was also director of the Free Education for Women Workers and Retirees Programme of the Women’s Library Association and a lecturer at the Universities of Belgrano and El Salvador.
Justice Argibay was a founding member of the International Association of Women Judges and served as its president from 1998-2000. She was also the founder and first president of the Argentine Association of Women Judges/Asociación de Mujeres Jueces en Argentina or AMJA. She was instrumental in the introduction of the IAWJ’s ‘Jurisprudence of Equality Program (JEP)’ in Argentina.
Justice Argibay was awarded the 2007 Gruber Prize for Justice (shared with Chilean judge Carlos Cerda and Peruvian lawyer, Mónica Feria) for her promotion of gender equality eliminating corruption within the justice system. Upon receiving the Gruber Prize, she demonstrated her commitment to the IAWJ and AMJA by sharing part of her prize with each organization. To date, her wonderful gift to the IAWJ remains the single largest contribution to our organization.
As a sitting justice of the Supreme Court of Argentina, Justice Argibay lay in state at the Court so others might honor her. Her colleague on the Supreme Court and IAWJ member, Hon. Elena Highton-Nolasco, Deputy Chief Justice, spoke at the Supreme Court tribute for Carmen and mentioned her role in both the IAWJ and the AMJA.
Justice Argibay’s career demonstrates a lifelong commitment to promoting gender equality and eliminating corruption within the justice system. Considered one of her great legacies is her work to establish the Women’s Office of the Supreme Court of Argentina, where she led the way to introduce and educate gender perspectives at all levels of the judiciary throughout her country. Upon hearing of her death, many IAWJ members have noted what an inspiration Carmen was to all – old and young. She will truly be missed by many, but her many legacies and memory will live on.