Joseph Weiler: Pursue justice with just means
5 months ago, 10 July 10:55
Prof Joseph H. H. Weiler is a practising Jew and a law scholar of gigantic reputation. He was born in Johannesburg, where his father was the Chief Rabbi.
His family emigrated to the United States when Apartheid was introduced. His father had founded a good school for African children, and all African schools in South Africa were banned from teaching any academic subject (they had to restrict their teaching to areas like cooking, farming, plumbing, mechanics, etc.)
His father could not take this nonsense and decided to leave South Africa, with all his family, forever. Young Joseph Weiler settled in New York.
Weiler is the recipient of honorary degrees from 27 renowned universities across the world. He co-founded the Academy of European Law and served as professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, Harvard Law School and now New York University (NYU), where he is the Jean Monnet Chair at NYU Law School and senior fellow of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University.
He is a visiting professor at the University of Oxford, the Chicago Law School, Stanford Law School, Yale Law School, the University of Paris, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Max Planck Institute for International Law, Strathmore University Law School and several other universities.
He holds degrees from Sussex, Cambridge, the European University Institute (EUI) and The Hague Academy of International Law. He was president of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence from 2013 until 2016. The EUI is one of the most prestigious social research institutions in the world.
He has also been a principal attorney at the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Lautsi v. Italy, a landmark case in favour of pluralism and cultural heritage. In that case, Weiler intervened pro bono on behalf of eight governments before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights and reversed the unanimous decision of the lower Chamber.
Weiler has visited Kenya several times, and he has always been flabbergasted at how sharp, enthused and engaging Kenyan students are. In Kenya, we may take this for granted, but, as he says, “what I have seen in Kenya, I have not seen even in the best universities around the world”.
He visited Kenya again last week to receive an honorary doctorate. I found his speech to be an inspiring piece for anyone interested in justice, and therefore, with his permission, I have decided to reproduce the most important paragraphs in this week’s piece:
“You will forgive me if instead of referring, say, to BREXIT, or to the European Union or the WTO and GATT, I refer instead to a passage from the book of Deuteronomy which encapsulates something distinct about justice without which all our legal studies are worthless.
Justice, Justice, shalt thou follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Deut. XVI:20
The legal mind immediately asks: Why do we find, then, in Deuteronomy a repetition of ...
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