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By Lesley Dingle and Daniel Bates

Judge Stephen Myron Schwebel (1929-

  • 1929 born 10 March, New York
  • 1942-1946 Secondary School
  • 1946-1950 Harvard College
  • 1950-1951 Cambridge & Trinity College
  • 1951-1954 Yale Law School
  • 1952 Lecturing in India
  • 1952 The Secretary General of the United Nations
  • 1953 Assistant for Trygve Lie's memoirs In the Cause of Peace
  • 1954-1959 Attorney, White & Case
  • 1959-1961 Assistant professor, Harvard Law School
  • 1961-1966 Assistant Legal Advisor, State Department
  • 1967-1973 Executive Director, American Society of International Law
  • 1967-1980 Burling Professor of International Law, Johns Hopkins University
  • 1973-1984 Counsellor on International Law, State Department
  • 1974-1980 Deputy Legal Advisor, State Department
  • 1977-1981 Member, UN International Law Commission
  • 1981-2000 Judge, International Court of Justice
  • 1987 International Arbitration: three salient problems
  • 1994-1996 Vice President, International Court of Justice
  • 1994 Justice in International Law: Selected Writings of Judge Stephen M. Schwebel
  • 1994-2009 President, Administrative Tribunal, International Monetary Fund
  • 1997-2000 President, International Court of Justice
  • 1997 Medal of Merit Yale Law School
  • 1998- Hon. Bencher, Gray's Inn
  • 2000 Manley O. Hudson Medal, American Society of International Law
  • 2001-2009 Member, Panel of Arbitrators and Panel of Conciliators, ICSID
  • 2006- Member, Permanent Court of Arbitration
  • 2007- Member, Administrative Tribunal, World Bank 

Additional Material

"Judge Stephen Schwebel: International Jurist Extraordinaire" (2011) 11 (1) Legal Information Management  55 - 64 

Judge Stephen Myron Schwebel was interviewed by Lesley Dingle on 13 May 2009 in the Squire Law Library, and he began by saying that he was credited by his brother with precipitating the Great Depression by the occasion of his birth in Brooklyn, New York, on the 10 March 1929. Although this seems a little unfair, as the Black Tuesday stock market crash did not begin until Stephen was seven months old1, for much of his life he did play many significant parts on the international legal stage, and was a friend, colleague or close acquaintance of numerous notable academic, judicial and political figures of the second half of the last century. His career culminated in his becoming Judge and then President of the International Court of Justice for nineteen years.

Judge Schwebel’s associations with the Faculty of Law and Cambridge University extends back over sixty years. Although he was never a formal member of its legal fraternity, he had, and retains, close ties with the University. In the conversation he speaks of his long and varied career, which spanned his student days (Harvard, Cambridge and Yale), an early period as an advocate in New York, two spells at the US State Department, periods of academia (Harvard & Johns Hopkins), a long incumbency at the International Court of Justice, and latterly, as a member of the World Bank's International Centre for the Settlement  of Investment Disputes.

Arriving salt-encrusted at Cambridge, after a particularly rough Channel crossing from France, Stephen Schwebel was “fascinated” by the aura and institutions of Trinity College, which proved to be such a contrast to his erstwhile home in Harvard College. He seemed to have derived an also perverse delight in its eccentricities and often “repellent” food (remember it was only five years after the deprivations of the Second World War and Great Britain still laboured under severe food rationing), but was deeply impressed by what it had to offer both on the cultural and academic side. His time here was summed up as: “Cambridge was marvellous and I liked it hugely....[it] was a very meaningful year for me”.

Cambridge can also lay claim to being the inspirational catalyst for Judge Schwebel’s conversion to international law in the form of the then Whewell Professor of International Law, Hersch Lauterpacht. It was Lauterpacht’s awesome reputation as the “leading public international lawyer in the world at that time” that initially drew the new Harvard graduate to Cambridge in the autumn of 1950, while his “gripping” lectures, combined with tutoring from Professor Lauterpacht’s son (Elihu Lauterpacht, then working at the Bar in London), that were his “ pursue international law as a career...”. It was during this relatively brief period (until 1951) that he also made lasting and influential friendships with other Cambridge luminaries, including Professors Tony Jolowicz2, Derek Bowett3, Clive Parry4, Robbie Jennings5 and last but not least his life-long friend Sir Eli Lauterpacht6. He also met and befriended, on his first day in the Squire Law Library (when the Faculty was housed in the Old Schools), an American law student who was to have such an important influence on Stephen Schwebel’s legal career, but who died so tragically at the height of his own - US Army Captain Dick Baxter7.

Apart from the personal contacts and associations established during his time at Trinity College, he was able to repay some of his debt to Professor Hersch Lauterpacht while he was in law practice in New York (circa 1955). Here, Stephen Schwebel interceded, via his friendship with Henry Ford's personal assistant, Forrest  D. Murden8, on Lauterpacht’s behalf with the Ford Foundation. This organisation subsequently injected desperately needed funds into the International Law Reports, and although he was too modest to claim it, the publication possibly has Judge Schwebel to thank for its continuation and pre-eminent position in international law to this day9.

Later, Judge Schwebel shared the honours (and rigours) of duty at the International Court of Justice at The Hague with two of his earlier Cambridge colleagues, Eli Lauterpacht and Robbie Jennings, while other Cambridge friends appeared before the Court as counsel during his tenure: professors Derek Bowett and James Crawford10.

Visitors to the oral/written transcripts will also obtain Judge Stephen Schwebel’s first-hand accounts of international events, including inter alia: impressions of and close relationship with the first Secretary General of the United Nations11; his acquaintance with Eleanor Roosevelt; involvement as a junior attorney in the Onassis/Aramco litigation (early 50s); the ICJ proceedings over UN Article 17 of the UN Charter (1962, and its affect on the Cold War and US policy towards the UN since); the UN Charter of Economic Rights (1974); the ICJ Nicaragua/USA case (1984); and his role in upgrading the ICJ facilities at the Peace Palace.

It was pleasure to have been able to record for the Eminent Scholars Archive some unique reminiscences and anecdotes of this renowned jurist who has been involved in various ways in many notable international happenings and legal cases over the last half century. All were recounted with clarity and wit, and an obvious admiration and affection for Cambridge and its institutions.

Lesley Dingle - Acquisition and Creation of Content

Daniel Bates -  Visual Presentation, Technical Enhancement and Audio Editing

  • 1 29 October 1929.
  • 2 b. 1926, John Anthony Jolowicz, Professor of Comparative Law (1976-93).
  • 3 1927-2009, Sir Derek William Bowett, Whewell Professor of International Law (1981-91).
  • 4 1917-1982, Clive Parry, Professor of International Law (1969-82).
  • 5 1913-2004, Sir Robert Yewdall Jennings, Whewell Professor of International Law (1955-81), Judge International Court of Justice 1982-95, President International Court of Justice 1991-94.
  • 6 b. 1928, Professor of International Law (1964-), Founder & Director of the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law 1983-95.
  • 7 Professor of Law at Harvard, Judge of ICJ.
  • 8 Special Assistant to Henry Ford II and former Economic Advisor to the US delegation to the United Nations.
  • 9 Started in 1919, now published by Cambridge University Press, 2009 see volume 136.
  • 10 Current Whewell Professor.
  • 11 Trygve Halvdan Lie (1896-1968).