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Felix Ermacora

Austrian united nations official
The basics
Occupation Politician Human rights activist Educator
Country Austria
Date of birth Klagenfurt, Carinthia, Austria
Date of death Feb 24, 1995 Vienna, Austria
Awards Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Order of the Polar Star, Great Silver Medal with Star for Services to the Republic of Austria, Bruno Kreisky Award, European Human Rights Prize
Education University of Innsbruck
Authority Library of congress id ISNI id VIAF id
The details

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.

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. 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.

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". 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.

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.

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.

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
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