A giant of the law, Christopher Gregory Weeramantry, died peacefully at his home in Sri Lanka on January 5, 2017.
He was everything a lawyer could be: barrister, professor, judge. From 1967 to 1972 he served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then as a judge of the highest tribunal on matters of international law in the world, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, from 1991 to 2000, the last three of those years as its Vice-President.
From 1972 to 1991 he taught at Monash University, Australia, and he was a frequent lecturer elsewhere, including Harvard and universities in Stellenbosch, Tokyo and Hong Kong. He was the recipient of numerous prizes and awards.
Renowned though he was as a legal scholar par excellence, he was more than that. He was an activist. The law, for him, was a guide to a better world and he was not afraid to speak and write with unacademic passion about areas of society where the law could remedy injustice or avert catastrophe. Human rights, peace, the environment, technology and nuclear weapons were such areas, the last perhaps even more than the others.
In his majestic 127 page dissent in the ICJ’s nuclear weapons case, he set out to demonstrate that the court’s opinion holding that threat and use of nuclear weapons are generally illegal under international law did not go far enough: he insisted that such threat and use are illegal under any circumstance whatsoever and just to make sure that everyone got his point he put these words in italics.
After the end of his term on the ICJ Judge Weeramantry – Christie to his friends – was active in IALANA, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, for some years as its Co-President. To say that he will be missed in the advocacy for a nuclear weapons free world is a gross understatement. We will miss his razor sharp mind and his warm friendship.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife Rosemary and his entire family.
Peter Weiss, Peter Becker, and Takeya Sasaki
January 5, 2017