In Memorium: Sir Ian Brownlie Q.C. (1932 – 2010)

By Elizabeth Whitsitt

March 11, 2010

A prominent figure in the field of public international law passed unexpectedly on January 3, 2010 at age 77.  According to reports, Professor Brownlie died in a car accident while vacationing with his family in Egypt.

The untimely death of Sir Ian Brownlie some two months ago has undoubtedly left a void in the international legal community.  Indeed, news of his tragic passing has been met with great sadness.

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Professor Brownlie was elected three times to the International Law Commission.  The esteemed barrister was involved in some of the most significant cases at the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice.  He was also a member of the Institut de droit international, and was knighted for his service in the area of public international law last year.

Ian Brownlie grew up in Liverpool, where he attended Alsop high school.  He read law at Hertford College, Oxford, and was awarded a first-class degree.  Subsequently, Professor Brownlie completed a doctorate at Oxford on the use of military force by states, and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn.

Professor Brownlie began his academic career at Nottingham University, in 1957, but he soon returned to Oxford as a fellow and lecturer.  In 1976 he became a professor of international law at the London School of Economics.  Four years later he was elected to the Chichele chair in public international law, which he held until his retirement from academia in 1999, and to a fellowship of All Soul’s College, Oxford (he was made a distinguished fellow in 2004).

During the course of his career Professor Brownlie also authored numerous works on a wide range of topics in international law.  His first book, International Law and the Use of Force by States (1963) identified the United Nations Charter as a significant development for the rules governing military force.  Three years later, he published Principles of Public International Law, which is now in its seventh edition, and one of the most widely read discourses on the subject.  Ian Brownlie’s other writings cover such topics as African boundaries, the law of state responsibility, human rights and the rule of law.

A widely-recognized leader in the field of international law, Professor Brownlie was serving as a panelist in two ICSID arbitrations at the time of his passing.*  Previously, Ian Brownlie had presided in two other ICSID arbitrations: Occidental of Pakistan, Inc. v. Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Compagnie Minière Internationale Or S.A. v. Republic of Peru.  In both instances the parties agreed to settle their disputes resulting in a discontinuance of the arbitral proceedings.  Professor Bronwlie was also an arbitrator in Scimitar Exploration Limited v. Bangladesh and Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation, a case that was dismissed at the jurisdictional stage of the proceedings.

Ian Brownlie is survived by his daughter Hannah and son James; his other daughter, Rebecca, was killed in the car accident, in which his wife Christine Appleby was also injured.

* Following this tragedy, Professor Georges ABI-SAAB (Egyptian) has been appointed to serve as an arbitrator in Conocophillips’ ongoing dispute with Venezuela (ICSID Case No. ARB/07/30).  An arbitrator has yet to be appointed in a dispute involving Urbaser S.A. and Consorcio de Aguas Bilbao Biskaia, Bilbao Biskaia Ur Partzuergoa and Argentina over water concession services (ICSID Case No. ARB/07/26).