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                               KEITH HIGHET:

                               By Dr. Enrique Lagos

    The death of Keith Highet, an American international trial lawyer who for
the past 5 years had been a member of the Inter-American Juridical
Committee, has saddened the inter-American community of scholars, lawyers,
diplomats, international staff and people in general. Dr. Highet appeared in
our offices as a large, friendly, and charismatic personality. His death at the
age of 67 is a loss to the legal profession and to the international civil service.

     Keith Highet was an extraordinary man who had extraordinary careers in
academia, law practice, and in serving his country. Keith was a big jolly
fellow with a wonderful sense of humor, a quick smile, and a friendly manner.
But what stands out in my mind more than any physical characteristic, is
Keith’s open mind. In spite of, or perhaps because of, his very fine education
at Harvard University, where he received his bachelor’s degree magna cum
laude in 1954 and his law degree in 1960, Keith always had this desire and
willingness to know more about things and people.

     Early on in his international law career, Keith took an international law
case and represented the governments of Ethiopia and Liberia before the
International Court of Justice. In that case, Keith argued that the apartheid
policy of the then South African government violated a mandate from the
former League of Nations. His clients did not win that case, but no doubt
litigating before the World Court awakened some keen interest on Keith’s part
in the subject of international law. At the time of his death, he had litigated
17 cases before the International Court of Justice, even representing OAS
Member States before the world court.

   The International Court of Justice was truly a court of law for Keith
Highet. He did not hide his disappointment with the United States when his
own government walked out of the Court after losing the jurisdictional

        Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs, OAS
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decision in a case brought by the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.
Military and Paramilitary Activities In and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v.
United States of America) (Jurisdiction and Admissibility), 1984 I.C.J. 392
(Nov. 26). This was before the merits were ever argued. Keith was alarmed
because he knew both international law and the International Court of Justice
were “fragile” and that both depended on the express or implied consent of
sovereign states. See Highet, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place-The United
States, the International Court, and the Nicaragua Case,” 21 International
Lawyer 1083 (Fall 1987). Again, this criticism of his government’s
unilateralist behavior is but another example of Keith’s open mind on legal
and political issues.

    Looking over Keith’s curriculum vitae and his list of publications, I am
struck by how interested he was in legal issues arising from border disputes
and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But I suppose this
is no surprise since before Keith became involved with Organization of
American States (OAS) activities, he had been president of the American
Society of International Law (ASIL) for two terms between 1986 and 1988.
He also was involved in international arbitration, and occasionally taught
international law at schools in the United States, Paris and Accra, Ghana. But
I believe what is most important about Keith professionally as a lawyer is that
he practiced law for 37 years.

    In 1995, Keith was elected to his first term as a member of the Inter-
American Juridical Committee. He was elected Vice Chairman in 1996, and
Chairman in 1998. In 1999, the General Assembly of the OAS reelected
Keith to a second term on the committee.

    Keith’s work on the Inter-American Juridical Committee included reports
on the representation of the principal juridical systems of the Hemisphere at
the World Court, the draft Inter-American Convention for the elimination of
all forms of discrimination by reason of disability, and the obligation of
member states under the recently-ratified United Nations Law of the Sea

    In tribute to this distinguished international lawyer, who gave so much of
his time and energy to the development of law in this hemisphere, the Inter-
American Juridical Committee and the General Secretariat of the OAS are
publishing this volume in remembrance of Keith Highet. In 1999, during the
regular session of the Inter-American Juridical Committee, Keith wrote the
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following article on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. At
its 30th regular session, just one month before Keith’s death, the OAS General
Assembly passed a resolution accepting the annual report of the Inter-
American Juridical Committee. That vote included the General Assembly’s
mandate requesting that the Committee continue to study the application of
the maritime convention by the states in the Western Hemisphere and to send
Dr. Highet’s paper to the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the
Law of the Sea for comment.

   (This Preface can be found in the book “Rights and Duties of States
Under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention”. Inter-American Juridical
Committee, Secretariat for Legal Affairs, OAS General Secretariat.
Washington, D.C., 2000)

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