Obituary: Christopher Keith Hall, 1946-2013
Amnesty International paid tribute today to Christopher Keith Hall, a long-serving senior legal adviser at the organization, who died on 27 May, aged 66, following a battle with cancer.
Colleagues described Hall as an impassioned legal advocate whose unswerving dedication to international justice – seeking accountability for crimes under international law including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – was a key component of the successful campaign to create an International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998.
“Christopher was one of the key architects of the campaign to create a court in which those responsible for the worst abuses would be brought to justice, The principle behind the court was to ensure that victims of these crimes could seek justice when the relevant government was unable or unwilling to do so,” said Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for International Law and Policy.
“He and his work were highly respected by leading legal experts, and his enormous efforts in the field of international justice will live on in Amnesty International’s work to campaign for redress for the victims of human rights violations everywhere.”
Whether it was to lobby states to ratify and implement the Rome Statue of the ICC or to ensure that “no safe haven” was granted to the perpetrators of serious violations of human rights, Hall pursued his goals with diligence and an unparalleled precision of language.
His contribution to creating a strong, effective and independent ICC was built on earlier work he was involved in which focused on establishing universal jurisdiction and challenging immunities and amnesties that allow those responsible to escape being brought to justice.
But his connection to the victims of human rights violations and abuses was not merely academic.
Hall came of age in the USA during the Viet Nam war – and his time serving in Viet Nam was partly responsible for his passion for justice – especially for civilians who are targeted in armed conflicts.
Hall did his undergraduate studies at Columbia College in New York City and received his Juris Doctorate (JD) from the University of Chicago Law School in 1978. After being admitted to the bar, he held a variety of positions at law firms, as an adjunct professor of law and as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York. During his tenure at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson he did extensive pro bono litigation on behalf of Cuban and Haitian refugees.
Hall joined Amnesty International’s London-based International Secretariat in 1990. In 2004 he was named senior legal adviser in charge of the International Justice Programme. He published widely on a range of issues and was a recognized authority on international justice.
He is survived by his wife Francoise and their two daughters, Olivia and Catriona.