• Dan Canta

James Crawford - Australia's International Lawyer


Current Judge of the International Court of Justice (‘ICJ’) James Richard Crawford is one of the most notable names in the area public international law (‘PIL’). This article aims to detail the path into international law (1), academic career (2) and professional career (3) of “the most eminent international lawyer Australia has produced.”[ii]

1. Path into IL

Crawford was born in Adelaide, South Australia on the 14th of November 1948. Following completion of his secondary schooling at Brighton Secondary School, Crawford attended the University of Adelaide obtaining a Bachelor of Laws and Arts in 1971. Here, Crawford learnt international law from Daniel Patrick O’ Connell who was later appointed as Chichele Professor of PIL at the University of Oxford for his work on international law and state succession.[iii]

Following O’ Connell, Crawford completed his doctorate on State formation at Oxford in 1977 under the supervision of Ian Brownlie. In the youngest election of its kind, Crawford was then elected an associate of the Institut de Droit International in 1985 and was later elevated to full membership in 1991.

2. Academic Career

Following his doctorate and associateship, Crawford lectured international and constitutional law at the University of Adelaide until 1986, where he was then awarded the Challis Professorship of International Law at the University of Sydney. He remained in Sydney until 1992, serving 2 years as Dean of Law, where he was then awarded the Whewell Professorship of International Law at Cambridge.

In 1996, Crawford was appointed director of the Lauterbach Centre of International Law (‘LCIL’) at Cambridge until 2003, also becoming a Doctor of Laws. He later served as director of the LCIL for a further 4 years in 2006 and has been a Curatorium member of the Hague Academy of International Law since 2003.

He has also served as editor and senior editor of the British Yearbook of International Law, co-editor of the Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law and ICSID Reports, Senior Treasurer of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law, and member of the editorial panels of the World Trade Review and the American Journal of International Law.

Further, Crawford is responsible for several eminent texts concerning international law, including State Responsibility, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law, The Rights of Peoples, and The Creation of States in International Law.[iv]

3. Professional Career

Somewhat departing from academia, Crawford also sat on the Australia Law Reform Commission providing reports on aboriginal customary law, sovereign immunity, and admiralty law between 1982 to 1984. He also served as a member of the United Nations International Law Commission (‘ILC’) from 1992 to 2001, and Special Rapporteur on State Responsibility from 1997 to 2001.

As Special Rapporteur on State Responsibility, Crawford led the progressive development and codification of one of the 14 original ILC topics,[v] with particular focus on State crimes, countermeasures, and settlement of disputes.[vi]

This led to the creation of the ILC’s Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts,[vii] which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (‘UNGA’) and has been cited by the International Court of Justice.[viii] While Crawford was originally admitted to practice in Australia in 1979, as Senior Counsel in 1997, and to the English bar in 1999, his practice centres predominately in his academic area of interest - international law.

Crawford has acted as counsel for Australia before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and the ad hoc tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,[ix] Eritrea before the Eritrea/Ethiopia Boundary Commission,[x] Sudan in the Abyei Dispute,[xi]and China before the World Trade Organisation Dispute Settlement Body.[xii]

He has also practiced as an arbitrator in international law, both in matters concerning the law of the sea and in investor-State disputes before the International Centre for the Settlement Disputes in some of its most pivotal cases.

Most notable to PIL however, Crawford has acted as counsel in 23 cases before the ICJ that have widely changed the landscape of the law governing State action including:

- Case Concerning the Oil Platforms;[xiii]

- Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros;[xiv]

- Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons;[xv] and,

- Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.[xvi]

Following a nomination supported by the Australian Government in 2012, Crawford was elected as a Judge of the ICJ in November 2014 with an absolute majority from the UNGA and Security Council.[xvii]


Through his extensive academic writing and teachings, influence over legal reform, and involvement in countless arbitral and ICJ decisions, Crawford has been named “the most eminent international lawyer Australia has produced” by Australia’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Attorney-General, Julie Bishop and George Brandis.[xviii]

Correspondingly, it is near impossible for a law student or legal professional, especially those interested in PIL, to have not come into contact with law influenced by “juris of the first rank” James Richard Crawford.[xix]

Dan Canta

Chief Publications Officer & Director - Article 33 Institute

Extensive documentation of Crawford’s work by the ICJ may be found at: https://www.icj-cij.org/files/members-of-the-court-biographies/crawford_en.pdf

ENDNOTE [i] See International Court of Justice, Members of the Court Biographies - Judge James Richard Crawford (Blog Post) <https://www.icj-cij.org/files/members-of-the-court-biographies/crawford_en.pdf>; See also United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law, Biography - Mr. James Crawford, Professor of International Law, Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge <https://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ls/Crawford_bio.pdf>; See also Lesley Dingle and Daniel Bates, Judge James Crawford (Blog Post) <https://www.squire.law.cam.ac.uk/eminent-scholars-archive/judge-james-crawford>; See also Wikipedia, James Crawford (jurist) (Encyclopedia entry, 28 August 2019) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Crawford_(jurist)>. [ii] Sydney Morning Herald, Australian James Crawford elected judge of International Court of Justice in The Hague (news article, 8 November 2014) <smh.com.au/national/australian-james-crawford-elected-judge-of-international-court-of-justice-in-the-hague-20141108-11iyx4.html> (‘SMH Article’). [iii] DP O’Connell, The Law of State Succession (Cambridge University Press, 1956); DP O’ Connell, International Law (Cambridge University Press, 1965); DP O’ Connell, State Succession in Municipal Law and International Law (Cambridge University Press, 1967); Wikipedia, D. P. O’Connell (Encyclopedia entry, 28 August 2019) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._P._O%27Connell>. [iv] James Crawford, State Responsibility: the general part (Cambridge University Press, 2013); see also James Crawford, The International Law Commission’s Article on State Responsibility: Introduction, Text and Commentaries (Cambridge University Press, 2002); James Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (Oxford University Press, 8th ed, 2012); James Crawford, The Rights of Peoples (Oxford University Press, 1988); James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (Oxford University Press, 1nd ed, 1979). [v] James Crawford, First report on State Responsibility, 50th sess, Agenda item 3, UN Doc A/CN.4/490 [1]. [vi] Ibid [6]. [vii] Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, GA Res 56/83, UN Doc A/RES/56/83 (28 January 2002, adopted 12 December 2001). [viii] Ibid; see for example Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v Slovakia) (Judgment) [1997] ICJ Rep 7, 4. [ix] Southern BlueFin Tuna (Australia and New Zealand v Japan) (Provisional Measures) (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, 117 ILR 148, 27 August 1999); Southern BlueFin Tuna (Australia and New Zealand v Japan) (Provisional Measures) (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, 119 ILR 508, 4 August 2000). [x] Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission Decision Regarding Delimitation of the Border (State of Eritrea v Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) (Decision) (Permanent Court of Arbitration, 2001-01, 13 April 2002). [xi] The Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army on Delimiting Abyei Area (Sudan v The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army) (Final Award) (Permanent Court of Arbitration, 2008-07, 22 July 2009). [xii] Appellate Body Report, United States – Definitive Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties on Certain Products from China, WTO Doc WT/DS379/AB/R (11 March 2011). [xiii] Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v United States of America) (Judgment) [2003] ICJ Rep 161. [xiv] Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary v Slovakia) (Judgment) [1997] ICJ Rep 7. [xv] Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons (Advisory Opinion) [1996] ICJ Rep 226. [xvi] Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestine Territory (Advisory Opinion) [2004] ICJ Rep 136. [xvii] SMH Article (n ii). [xviii] Ibid. [xix] Ibid.

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