International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Fall 2014 Issue

Leading Figures in International Law


Shabtai Rosenne (Israel) (1917-2010)

Shabtai Rosenne

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor and President, International Judicial Academy

The International Court of Justice (the World Court - ICJ) and its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) have been constant reminders to citizens of many nations of the presence of international law in the world since the creation of the latter in 1922 as a part of the machinery of the League of Nations. The ICJ, which assumed the mantle of the judicial arm of the United Nations in 1945 at the end of World War II, at times, especially in its early years, had a very small docket, sometimes only two cases. In recent years however there has been a steady supply of cases for the 15 judges of the Court with which to wrestle. The Court currently has 14 cases on its docket.

In September, 2010, the ICJ lost one of its most intense and consistent observers, Shabtai Rosenne, an Israeli law professor and diplomat. Of abiding significance to both Courts and their jurisprudence is Professor Rosenne’s monumental work in four volumes, The Law and Practice of the International Court, first published in 1997 and updated in 2006. The Court officially received the first edition in a ceremony held during the year of its first publication, presided over by Court President Stephen Schwebel of the United States and United Nations Deputy Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell of Sweden. The second edition was presented to the then President of the Court Rosalyn Higgins of the United Kingdom at the time of the celebration of the Court’s 60th anniversary.

Shabtai Rosenne was born as Sefton Wilfred David Rowson in London on November 24, 1917. He was educated in England and Israel, receiving his LL.B. degree from the University of London in 1938, and then a Ph.D. degree in naval law in 1959 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Rosenne was intimately involved in the creation of the State of Israel. He first served in the Political Department of the Jewish Agency in London and Jerusalem, and then as a member of the Legal


Secretariat of the Situation Committee involved in the creation of the administrative structure of the new state. After Israel was created he was a Legal Advisor in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which included membership in the Israeli delegation to the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

His work in the Foreign Ministry led to an appointment as ambassador, serving in that rank first as Deputy Permanent Representative and then Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, from 1967-1971. He became  Ambassador-at-Large in 1974.

 In 1962 he became a member of the International Law Commission (1962-1971) and then as a delegate Vice-Chairman and then Chairman to the First, Second and Third UN Conferences on the Law of the Sea (1973 – 1982). He was also a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague from 1994-1996.

Ambassador/Professor Rosenne’s academic career spanned a period of 64 years, beginning with a lectureship at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, England in 1946. It continued at Bar Ilan University in Israel, with the rank of professor, a position he held until his death in September, 2010.  He also taught as a visiting professor at numerous institutions, including the Rhodes Ocean Academy (Greece), the University of Cambridge (U.K.), the University of Utrecht and the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), the University of Virginia (U.S.) and the Hague Academy of International Law.

A prolific writer, Rosenne authored 13 major books on international law and published 14 major academic journal articles, also on international law. In recognition of his many contributions to international law literature he was given six awards, including the Israel Prize in jurisprudence, the Sharett Prize, the Manley O. Hudson Medal for International Law and Jurisprudence, the Hague Prize for International Law, and the Distinguished Onassis Scholar Award from the Rhodes Ocean Academy.

Ambassador/Professor Rosenne died in Jerusalem on September 21, 2010 at the age of 93. His consistent interest in the World Court has been of immense value to the international law community, resulting in an understanding of the Court and its prestige that it has had for many years.

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© 2014 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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