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Tuesday, 1 June 2021

James CrawfordIt is with enormous sadness that the Faculty of Law reports the death of James Crawford.

As an international lawyer of exceptional distinction — recognised by his appointment, among many other honours, as a Companion of the Order of Australia — James made profound contributions as a scholar, practitioner, teacher and jurist, and as mentor to generations of students and scholars of international law. From 1992 to 2014, he was the Whewell Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge. He served as Chair of the Faculty of Law and as Director of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law during his time in Cambridge, where he was also a Fellow of Jesus College. After leaving Cambridge, James went on to become a Judge on the International Court of Justice, where he served from 2015.

James was regarded by all as a towering figure in international law, his work unparalleled in terms of its rigour, its authoritativeness and its comprehensiveness. His lasting legacy includes many important and pathbreaking contributions to the core elements of the field, such as his authoritative book The Creation of States in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2007, 2nd ed) and his insightful and inspirational Hague Lectures and book, Chance, Order, Change: The Course of International Law (Brill/Nijhoff, 2014). As a legendary rapporteur of the UN International Law Commission, he single handedly penned the law on state responsibility, which stipulates the consequences for breaches of international law. A much sought-after litigator and arbitrator, he was responsible for resolving innumerable inter-state disputes.

Eyal Benvenisti, the current Whewell Professor of International Law, commented:

"The world of international law has lost its doyen. James was the pre-eminent international lawyer of our times, and at the same time, a mentor and friend to many of us in Cambridge and around the world. The Lauterpacht Centre thrived under his stewardship and continued to benefit from his good advice even after he left for The Hague."

In 2018 after taking up his place on the International Court of Justice, James was interviewed by the Squire Law Library’s Lesley Dingle as part of the Eminent Scholars’ Archive project. The interviews repay reading in full, but the closing paragraph of Lesley’s biographical article, in which she reflects on the time she spent with James in The Hague for the purpose of the interviews, is testament to James’s generosity, both as a person and as a scholar:

James was the pre-eminent international lawyer of our times, and at the same time, a mentor and friend to many of us in Cambridge and around the world. Professor Eyal Benvenisti

"My visit to the inspirational setting of the Peace Palace in the May sunshine, a memorable lunch in the Judges' dining hall, and over three hours of conversation with Judge Crawford in his chambers, were undoubtedly one of the highlights of my thirteen years of compiling the [Eminent Scholars’ Archive]. The measured and thoughtful manner of his answers, and his unfailing courtesies, lead me to paraphrase the final words of Philippe Sands' 2015 tribute to his mentor: for the “humour, for the generosity, and for the sheer power of his intellect we have reason to be grateful that this Australian came to Cambridge”."

The Faculty echoes those sentiments as we reflect on James Crawford’s extraordinary career as a scholar and jurist, and as we come to terms with the loss of a much-valued friend and colleague.

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