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International jurist to receive honorary degree

12 August 2004
Public Affairs
Ph: 463 5873; Fax: 463 5108

Distinguished international jurist to receive honorary degree

One of New Zealand's most distinguished international lawyers, judges and academics, the Rt Hon Sir Kenneth Keith, is to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Victoria University.

Sir Kenneth's many credentials include representing New Zealand before the International Court of Justice to object to France's nuclear testing in the Pacific and as an inaugural judge of New Zealand's Supreme Court, which replaced the Privy Council as New Zealand's final court of appeal.

Sir Kenneth has received several honours for judicial and legal education, including a knighthood in 1988, a 1990 Commemoration Medal, appointment as a Queen's Counsel in 1994 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Auckland in 2001.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said Sir Kenneth was a worthy recipient of an honorary doctorate.

"In any one of the fields that Sir Kenneth has been active, both nationally and internationally, as a jurist, academic, scholar, lawyer and adviser to governments, he has achieved at the highest level, providing advice, commentary or decisions that are seen as wise, fair and balanced.

"Despite the heights to which he has risen, he has avoided the temptation to see the law as an abstraction or an end in itself. Instead, he remains committed to the vision of the law as a force not only for order, but also justice and humanity for aggrieved individuals and nations."

Born in Auckland in 1937, Sir Kenneth began studying law at the University of Auckland before graduating from Victoria with a Bachelor of Laws (1961) and Master of Laws with First Class Honours (1964). This was the beginning of a lifelong association with Victoria and he has been strong supporter of the University ever since.

After working in the Department of External Affairs (1960-62), he joined Victoria University as a lecturer before being appointed as Professor in 1974 and Dean of the Faculty of Law (1977-81). He also spent two years studying at Harvard University (1964-65), as well as two years as a Visiting Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto (1981-82). On retiring from the University in 1991 he was appointed as an Emeritus Professor. He continues to write and speak on international, humanitarian and New Zealand law, with articles published in leading New Zealand and international law journals.

Sir Kenneth has made a substantial contribution to the reform of New Zealand law as a member of several committees and commissions that have successfully recommended wide-ranging changes to law governing official information, constitutional, electoral and civil and political rights. This has included a decade (1986-96) as a member of the Law Commission, including five years as President, and as a member of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System (1985-86) that lead to New Zealand adopting a new proportional representation system for electing its Parliament.

Sir Kenneth's skills as a jurist and adjudicator have gained international attention. He was a member of the New Zealand legal team that opposed France's nuclear testing in the Pacific in 1973, 1974 and in 1995 and has been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration since 1985. Since 1991 he been a member of the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission elected under the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims and in 2002 he was appointed as its President. He also served as a member of the international tribunal in the Rainbow Warrior case between New Zealand and France in 1990.

Sir Kenneth has extensive judicial experience in courts throughout the world. Appointed to New Zealand's Court of Appeal in 1996, he has also served on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Court of Appeals for Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue and the Supreme Court of Fiji. In 2004, he was appointed as an inaugural judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court and has been nominated for election to the International Court of Justice.

Full biographical detail is available at:


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