Obituaries at ILC (Mr. Chusei Yamada)

Tribute to the Memory of Ambassador Chusei Yamada (8 May 2013)

[Ambassador Yamada was a Member of the ILC (1992 – 2009), its Chairman (2000), and Special Rapporteur on the topic of Shared Natural Resources (2001 – 2008).]

I would like to begin with an episode from Ambassador Yamada’s boyhood. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on the morning of 6 August 1945, Ambassador Yamada was a junior high school student at Hiroshima. He was 14. He happened to be on the outskirt of the city on that particular day, and survived. His school, attached to the Hiroshima University for Education, was known for its high standard of science education for selected students. After the bombing, a nuclear scientist, Dr. Shinichiro Tomonaga, who was later to receive the Nobel Prize for Physics, came down to Hiroshima to investigate the damage done to the city. When Dr. Tomonaga visited Ambassador Yamada’s class and explained the nature of the atomic bomb, Ambassador Yamada asked him from the floor: “How can we stop the use of such disastrous weaponry?” Dr. Tomonaga was said to have replied: “Well, that is not the type of task scientists can handle; it should be the task for diplomats”. This dramatic encounter with Dr. Tomonaga changed the course of Chusei Yamada’s life – from that moment onward, he decided to be a diplomat.

Subsequently, he entered the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo, and studied international law under Professor Kisaburo Yokota, who was the first Japanese member of this Commission in the 1950s. [While he had profound respect for Professor Yokota, who was a typical Kelsenian scholar, it appeared to him that Professor Yokota was too theoretical to be useful, and he thought that a more pragmatic approach was necessary. Ambassador Yamada’s practical mind was an anti-thesis to the academia’s prevailing trend at the time, and he strove to strengthen the practical utility of international law all through his professional life.]

Ambassador Yamada joined the Foreign Ministry in 1954. After having studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he received his Master’s Degree, Ambassador Yamada was assigned to the preparatory work for Japan’s admission to the UN in 1956. Thereafter, he spent many years as a legal officer of the Japanese mission to the UN in New York, and later, served as Director General for UN Affairs in the Japanese Foreign Ministry. He was acquainted with the procedures and custom of the UN better than anybody else. He spent three years in the late 1980s as Ambassador on Arms Control and Disarmament here in Geneva, the post which was most fitting for a man who had witnessed firsthand the horrors of atomic weaponry in his youth. He also served as Ambassador to Egypt and India, two countries he loved immensely.

Two years ago, I edited a book entitled The International Law Commission at a Crossroads to commemorate Ambassador Yamada’s 80th birthday. Some twenty scholars, many of whom were former assistants to Ambassador Yamada at this Commission, contributed to the book, including Ambassador Yamada himself. Unfortunately, the book is published in Japanese, but I have circulated a copy of the book review by Professor Yuji Iwasawa which summarizes the content of the book in English.

Ambassador Yamada was a born diplomat who was an incarnation of post-war Japanese diplomacy. During his 17 years of service with this Commission, he tried to be friendly to everybody, carefully avoiding any assertive or offending remarks to his colleagues, [which may be viewed as quite a contrast to his current successor in the Commission]. He was always ready to offer compromise solutions to differing parties in the Commission, and contributed a great deal to the creation of a friendly and collaborative atmosphere at the Commission.

Everybody would agree that Ambassador Yamada made a significant contribution to the Commission as Special Rapporteur for the topic of Shared Natural Resources, an achievement that he was able to attain while working in close cooperation with Ambassador Enrique Candioti as Chairman of the Working Group. The topic on transboundary aquifers required certain scientific knowledge, but, having been one time a science student, it did not prevent him from acquiring necessary scientific information to cope with the topic. The UNESCO’s International Hydrological Program (IHP), led by Dr. Alice Aureli, was particularly helpful in pursuing the project. With his diligence and hard work, and backed by the strong support he had by the whole Commission, Ambassador Yamada was able to complete the draft articles in only six years. [The Sixth Committee is scheduled to deliberate in October this year about the final outcome of those draft articles, and it is hoped that the Sixth Committee will come up with a meaningful resolution.]

I shall conclude my statement with a brief reflection on a session held last year at the meeting of the Japanese Society of International Law in Tokyo. The session was on the ILC, and both Professor Don McRae and I were speakers, with Ambassador Yamada acting as commentator. Ambassador Yamada’s main concern was the relationship between the ILC and the Sixth Committee. He believed that it would be irresponsible for the Commission to forget abot the fate of its draft articles after they are sent to the Sixth Committee. For him, it was disgraceful to see the ILC draft articles hanging over the Sixth Committee for so many years. As you recall, Ambassador Yamada was one of the rare colleagues who succeeded in creating fruitful links between the Commission and the Sixth Committee, which was exemplified by the successful adoption of the Watercourses Convention and the State Immunity Convention. Now that he is no longer with us, both law-making organs face serious challenges in realizing the kind of collaboration and partnership that he envisioned. Nevertheless, what he strove to accomplish was – and still is – a worthwhile and much-needed task for all of us. The present obstacles should be overcome with the spirit of constructive collaboration among lawyers coming from different legal cultures, the spirit demonstrated most vividly by the splendid life of Chusei Yamada.

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