Ladies and gentlemen, members of Shabtai Rosenne's family,
I would like to thank all the participants in this afternoon's UNOG Library Talk. Primarily, of course, Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan, for your fascinating presentation. A special thanks to our discussant Alan Stephens, who is also the living spirit behind what has become the yearly Shabtai Rosenne Memorial Lecture. Thank you, Mr. Tokayev and Ms. Blukacz-Loisfert, for your meaningful contributions.
Geneva is the world capital of human rights and humanitarian affairs. International law is the gate keeper for safeguarding universal human rights and guaranteeing their global observance. It is, therefore, befitting that Shabtai's memory is invoked in Geneva, in a memorial lecture devoted to international law and by Dr. Ramcharan, who has such a distinguished career in the promotion and safeguarding of human rights, serving as a UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights and being active today in a wide-ranging array of activities in the field of human rights protection and the teaching of international law.
I joined Israel's Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1973. I started as a cadet and my first assignment was as an archivist in the UN and legal archive of the Ministry. There I came across Shabtai's reports from Geneva, where he served as Israel's Permanent Representative at the time. His reports attracted me in their trenchant and highly opinionated style, not at all what I thought of diplomacy and diplomatic style at that time. He wrote on a many and diverse subjects, imbuing them with life and substance. These reports produced in me an ambition to become, one day, Israel's Permanent Representative in Geneva. As you can see, Shabtai - who never met me - did manage to have a lasting influence on my life and career. Just as he had on many others.
Ladies and gentlemen, Shabtai's life followed closely the establishment and development of Israel.
He was born on November 24, 1917, three weeks after Lord Balfour sent his letter to Lord Rothschild declaring it British policy to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. When the Holocaust raged in Europe, he served in the R.A.F. Then, the ardent Zionist that he was, he went to work for the Jewish Agency, which represented the Jewish community in Palestine in the pre-state era and then joined Israel's Foreign Ministry in 1948, with the establishment of the State. He was involved with the 1949 Armistice Agreements concluded at the end of our long and bloody war of independence. He became the Ministry's first legal adviser. Shabtai died in 2010, active in Israel's public affairs to the end, a member of the Turkel Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel's raid on the Gaza-bound 2010 Flotilla.
After retiring from diplomatic service, Shabtai took on a long and distinguished career in international law, serving on law commissions, holding professorships of international law at a number of leading legal institutions, including the Hague Academy and Cambridge University and writing textbooks which are today the bedrock of study on the International Court of Justice and the Law of the Sea. It is, in fact, as a scholar that Shabtai is most admired today. It is befitting, therefore, that his native Israel has awarded him its highest honor, the Israel Prize for jurisprudence, in 1960. More international awards and prizes followed, testifying to Shabtai's scholarship in, service to and contribution for the promotion of human rights and international law.
His style in diplomacy was sharp, his style in writing was sharp and incisive and his friends recalled that his mind remained sharp, incisive and alert to the end. His motto throughout his long life and career was drawn out of Deuteronomy16:20 "Justice, justice shalt thou pursue".
Which he did, admirably. And so we shall remember him.
Thank you all for coming.