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Victoria celebrates international appointment

8 November 2005

Victoria celebrates international appointment

The election of Victoria University Emeritus Professor, the Rt Hon Sir Kenneth Keith, as a Judge of the International Court of Justice is just recognition of a lifetime of achievements, says Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh.

The appointment of Sir Kenneth was announced today following the New Zealand Government having nominated him for election in August 2003.

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. A Victoria alumnus, he has served as Professor of International Law, Dean of Law and as an Emeritus Professor. The University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Law degree on him in December 2004.

Professor Walsh said Sir Kenneth had had a distinguished career on both the national and international stage.

“As a New Zealander, Sir Kenneth’s contribution to the development of international law is unparalleled. Whether as an academic, lawyer, judge, adjudicator or adviser to governments, both here and abroad, he has worked tirelessly to promote international issues. He has achieved at the highest level, providing wise, knowledgeable and balanced advice, commentary or decisions.

"Despite the heights to which he has risen, he has avoided the temptation to see the law as an end in itself. His knowledge and wise counsel, when combined with his vision of the law as a force not only for order, but also for justice and humanity for aggrieved individuals and nations, will greatly enhance the work of the International Court of Justice.”

Born in Auckland in 1937, Sir Kenneth graduated from Victoria with a Bachelor of Laws (1961) and Master of Laws with First Class Honours (1964).

After working in the Department of External Affairs (1960-62), he joined Victoria 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'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 has 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.

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 led to New Zealand adopting a new proportional representation system for electing its Parliament.


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