Felix Ermacora

Felix Ermacora (13 October 1923 24 February 1995) was the leading human rights expert of Austria and a member of the Austrian People's Party.


He was a professor of international law at the University of Innsbruck from 1956, at the University of Vienna from 1964, member of Parliament for the Austrian People's Party from 1971 to 1990, member of the European Commission of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee 1959-1980 and 1984-1987. In 1974 he was President of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and from 1984 he was UN Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan. In 1992, he cofounded the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte, with his students and close collaborators Manfred Nowak and Hannes Tretter, and served as its first director.[1]

He was part of UN delegations investigating human rights abuses in Chile, South Africa, occupied Palestine, Iran and Afghanistan. On behalf of the Council of Europe, he investigated human rights abuses in Algeria, Greece, Ireland, Turkey and Cyprus. As an academic, a legislator and a UN official, he fought unconditionally against injustice and human rights abuses. In an expert opinion commissioned by the Bavarian government in 1991, Ermacora concluded that the Expulsion of Germans after World War II constituted a genocide and crime against humanity.[2] As the UN Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan, he uncovered "gross violations of human rights" by Soviet forces in Afghanistan, made public in a 1985 report.[3]

He received the German Great Cross of Merit, Commander of the Ordre national du Mérite of France, Commander 1st Class of the Order of the Polar Star of Sweden, the European Charlemagne Award of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education in 1983 and the European Human Rights Prize of the Council of Europe in 1992 (jointly with Médecins Sans Frontières) for "an exceptional contribution to the cause of human rights".[4] He received honorary doctorates at the universities of Cologne and Strasbourg, and was a corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences from 1971. He was also a board member of the International Society for Human Rights.[1]

In 1999, the Felix Ermacora Institut was founded, and in 2005, the Felix Ermacora Human Rights Award was established by the Faction of the Conservative Party in the Austrian Parliament. The Felix Ermacora Society was founded in 2005, and is headed by Wolfgang Schüssel, the former Austrian Chancellor.[1]

His students include Andreas Khol, a former President of the Austrian parliament and, mosts prominently, Manfred Nowak.

He died in 1995, of a disease he caught on a UN mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 1994.[3]

Selected works

  • Handbuch der Grundfreiheiten und der Menschenrechte, 1963
  • Allgemeine Staatslehre, 2 vol., 1970
  • Österreichische Verfassungslehre, 2 vol., 1970/80
  • Grundriß der Menschenrechte in Österreich, 1988
  • Die Entstehung der Bundesverfassung, 5 vol., 1986–93
  • Menschenrechte in der sich wandelnden Welt, 3 vol., 1974–94
  • Menschenrechte ohne Wenn und Aber. Erlebnisse und Begegnungen, 1993


  • Manfred Nowak, Dorothea Steurer and Hannes Tretter (eds.), Festschrift für Felix Ermacora - Fortschritt im Bewußtsein der Grund- und Menschenrechte, Kehl am Rhein, Engel, 1988


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2009-12-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2010-06-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. Eric Pace. Felix Ermacora Is Dead at 71; Austrian Human Rights Expert. New York Times. February 27, 1995.
  4. Resolution (92) 10 on the award of the European Human Rights Prize, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 21 May 1992 at the 476th meeting of the Minister's Deputies
Academic offices
Preceded by
Professor of International Law at the University of Innsbruck
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Professor of International Law at the University of Vienna
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Member of the National Council of Austria
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
President of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Succeeded by
Preceded by
UN Special Rapporteur for Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Ali Sadek Abou-Heif
UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education
Succeeded by
Héctor Fix Zamudio
Preceded by
Lech Wałęsa
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
European Human Rights Prize
(jointly with Médecins Sans Frontières)

Succeeded by
Sergei Kovalyov
Raoul Wallenberg
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