International Law Commission International Law Commission

Last update: July 15, 2015

Sixty-first Session (2009)

Tribute to Nick Jotcham

Nick JotchamAt the first meeting of its sixty-first session, the International Law Commission paid a tribute to Nick Jotcham, a long-serving précis-writer and then reviser of the Commission's summary records, who died suddenly in August 2008. This must be the first time that a United Nations body has acknowledged the work of a member of the conference staff in such a way, and attests both to the close, even collegial relations, between the Commission and its support staff and, most movingly, to the impact Nick made through his work.

Members of the Commission took the floor during the proceedings to make known their personal feelings at Nick's passing. In addition, behind the scenes, a number of Commission members spoke to members of the précis-writing team about the shock and sadness that they felt upon learning that Nick was gone.

Some of the statements delivered during the formal meeting of the Commission are reproduced below.

From the Chair of the International Law Commission:

"Before proceeding, I would like to inform you of the sad news regarding the death of Mr. Nick Jotcham, who was a familiar face to us all, as he was an ever present, jovial personality during our sessions, diligently working on our summary records and asking us whether indeed what was recorded was what we wanted to say! Nick passed away suddenly last year while on vacation. Some in this room worked with Nick almost on a daily basis and admired his expertise, valuable knowledge and tremendous responsibility. He will be sadly missed by us all. I invite you to observe a minute of silence in Nick's memory."

From Ms. Xue, member of the Commission:

"I would also like to say a few words about Mr. Nick Jotcham, who has left us suddenly. In order to make it easier for my colleagues to understand my position, I often choose to speak in English rather than my native language, Chinese. I remember vividly many occasions when Nick would come up to me to check whether the summary record reflected what really I meant to say. I was deeply touched by his dedication and professionalism in his service to the United Nations, and it is indeed sad news to learn that he has left us. I hope that, through the Secretariat and his colleagues, I can pass on my deep condolences to his family."

From Mr. Dugard, Special Rapporteur on diplomatic protection:

" I wish to pay a special tribute to Nick Jotcham, who helped me tremendously with the draft articles on diplomatic protection. I never found out whether he had legal qualifications, but certainly he seemed to know more about international law than most international lawyers. He had a thorough command of the big picture and could discuss the great works of international law with great familiarity, but he was also interested in the minutia of the law and often drew attention to issues that had been missed. I will miss working with him."

In addition to his knowledge of international law, Nick had a keen interest in all kinds of music, literature and theatre and sought to live his life with his favourite quotation always in mind: "It is never too late to be what you might have been". He will be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues at the English and French Translation Sections in Geneva, as well as the English Translation Section in New York.