In 1993, the scholar and international lawyer Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, who has died aged 88, played a leading role in the genocide case filed against Serbia at the international court of justice in The Hague. As an ad hoc judge appointed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, he ruled to ensure that the court protected the needs of individuals, the “ultimate beneficiaries of the legal system”, in a case he believed to have “a human dimension of a magnitude without precedent in [the ICJ’s] history”.

Serving on the World Bank administrative tribunal (1980-98, for the last two years as president), he contributed to a series of landmark decisions to protect the rights of employees against the power of international organisations. As an advocate, he took on cases that consistently broke new ground, including New Zealand’s 1995 challenge to French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, which led to the ICJ’s recognition that the protection of the environment formed part of general international law.

Called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1950, he began a career that touched on a multitude of subjects and places, among them the negotiation of the UN convention on the law of the sea, the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and the peaceful resolution of a land dispute between Egypt and Israel. From his first case at the ICJ – the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – in 1951 to the last in 2014, and at other courts in between, he engaged with the changes to the international legal order that followed the end of the second world war.

The ICJ, the primary judicial body of the United Nations, had begun work in 1946, and Lauterpacht’s early role in it enabled him to help others to follow. In advising a panoply of individuals, NGOs, corporations and other organisations, he contributed to the enhanced role they now play in international affairs.

Source: The Guardian

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