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Sir Hersch Lauterpacht QC (16 August 1897 – 8 May 1960) was a Polish-British lawyer and judge at the International Court of Justice.

Sir Hersch Lauterpacht
Hersch lauterpacht.jpg
Born(1897-08-16)16 August 1897
Died8 May 1960(1960-05-08) (aged 62)
OccupationJudge of the international court of justice



Hersh Lauterpacht was born on 16 August 1897 to a Jewish family in the small town of Zolkiew, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Ukraine), near Lemberg, the capital of East Galicia. In 1911 his family moved to Lemberg. In 1915 he enrolled in the law school of the University of Lviv; it is not clear whether he graduated. Lauterpacht himself later wrote that he had not been able to take the final examinations “because the university has been closed to Jews in Eastern Galicia". He then moved to Vienna, and then London, where he became an international lawyer. He obtained a PhD degree from the London School of Economics in 1925, writing his dissertation on Private Law Sources and Analogies of International Law, published in 1927.[1]

By 1937 he had written several books on international law. He assisted in the prosecution of the defendants at the Nuremberg trials- helping to draft the British prosecutor's (Hartley Shawcross) speech [2]. Lauterpacht was a member of the United Nations' International Law Commission from 1952 to 1954 and a Judge of the International Court of Justice from 1955 to 1960. In the words of former ICJ President Stephen M. Schwebel, Judge Sir Hersch Lauterpacht's "attainments are unsurpassed by any international lawyer of this century [...] he taught and wrote with unmatched distinction".[3] Hersch's writings and (concurring and dissenting) opinions continue, nearly 50 years after his death, to be cited frequently in briefs, judgments, and advisory opinions of the World Court. He famously said "international law is at the vanishing point of law".[4]

The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge is named after him and his son, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, CBE, QC, who founded the Centre and was its first director;[5] Elihu remained actively involved in its work as Director Emeritus and Honorary Professor of International Law until his death in February 2017.

Samuel Moyn has suggested that Hersch was one of the few international lawyers actively campaigning for human rights in the late 1940s, and that he had "denounced the Universal Declaration as a shameful defeat of the ideals it grandly proclaimed".[6]

Major worksEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Sir Hersch Lauterpacht (1897-1960)". International Judicial Monitor. 1 (5). 2006.
  2. ^ Oona Hathaway and Scott J. Shapito The internationalists and their plan to outlaw war pp. 282-4
  3. ^ Schwebel, Stephen M. (1987). International Arbitration: Three Salient Problems by Stephen M. Schwebel. Hersch Lauterpacht Memorial Lectures 1987. Cambridge: Grotius Publications. p. xiii. ISBN 9780949009029.
  4. ^ Butler, William Elliott, ed. (1991). Control Over Compliance With International Law. Dordecht: Nijhoff. p. 195. ISBN 0-7923-1025-X.
  5. ^ "Establishment and Development - Lauterpacht Centre for International Law". Cambridge University. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  6. ^ Moyn, Samuel (2014). Human Rights and the Uses of History. New York: Verso. ISBN 9781781682630.

Further readingEdit

  • Koskenniemi, Martti (2004). "Hersch Lauterpacht (1897–1960)". In Beatson, J.; Zimmermann, R. (eds.). Jurists Uprooted: German-speaking Émigré Lawyers in Twentieth-century Britain. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 601–661. ISBN 0-19-927058-9.
  • Marrus, Michael R. "Three Roads From Nuremberg", Tablet magazine; Nov. 20, 2015.
  • Christopher R. Browning, "The Two Different Ways of Looking at Nazi Murder" (review of Philippe Sands, East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity", Knopf, 425 pp., $32.50; and Christian Gerlach, The Extermination of the European Jews, Cambridge University Press, 508 pp., $29.99 [paper]), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXIII, no. 18 (November 24, 2016), pp. 56–58. Discusses Hersch Lauterpacht's legal concept of "crimes against humanity", contrasted with Rafael Lemkin's legal concept of "genocide". All genocides are crimes against humanity, but not all crimes against humanity are genocides; genocides require a higher standard of proof, as they entail intent to destroy a particular group.
  • Sands, Philippe, East West Street, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016

External linksEdit