Remembering Christopher Keith Hall

Christopher Keith Hall was widely respected as Amnesty International’s expert on international justice © Coalition for the ICC

Amnesty International staff have been touched by the outpouring of condolences and the shared memories of Christopher Keith Hall, Amnesty International’s senior legal advisor with the organization for more than 23 years.

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Obituary: Christopher Keith Hall, 1946-2013
Obituary in The Guardian, 5 June 2013




Posted in International Justice | Tagged , | 34 Comments

  1. Irma Perez-Gil says:

    Dear Chris the world is going to miss you. I will never forget everything you taught me about the International Criminal Court.

    • Dear Chris, some of us did not know you or may have met you but cannot remember. However, your wonderful work on international justice speaks volumes. We will always remember you when a person charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity is tried and convicted.

  2. william pace says:

    The news of Christopher’s death today is heartbreaking. As Widney states Christopher was a key architect of Amnesty’s campaign and the international NGO campaign to establish a permanent, fair, effective, and independent International Criminal Court to hold individuals, no matter who they are, accountable for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) has lost one of its greatest experts and most passionate and intellectual leaders.
    Bill Pace, Convenor, CICC

  3. Edna Aquino says:

    Very sad to receive the news that a former colleague at Amnesty International passed away. Chris Hall will always be remembered as an unforgettable character at the international headquarters of AI. He gained a reputation amongst colleagues and outside Amnesty as being solid, unwavering – which we casually termed as ‘rigid’ – in his legal analysis and standpoint. He was always a ‘pain’ to us, self-proclaimed ‘subversives’ or the ‘rebels’ of Amnesty’s legal mindset. I’ve had a few of those ‘fights’ with Chris but deep inside there would always be this positive feeling that beyond the heated exchanges – I knew that it was a privilege to be challenged by the likes of Chris Hall. As a non-legal person, I would get this high whenever I succeeded in getting my point across; made him listen and acknowledge which he did if you argue well. Otherwise, he could be quite ‘merciless’ because there is no room for sloppiness as far as he was concerned. His detailed handwritten comments in the margins of my drafts were always a treat. They were so substantive that one just had to cut / paste and incorporated these into my documents – thus made life easier. But beyond this – the real value was in the realisation that he painstakingly gave his precious time and energies to read and engage with me through my drafts. Chris Hall’s absence will be felt by current colleagues at AI and by us who had the opportunity to work with him. Underlying his diligence and conscientiousness in pursuing his legal mindframe was this passion and uncompromising stand for justice as revealed in his invaluable contribution in the international human rights arena. This what matters most in the end. Goodbye Chris Hall!

  4. Stephanie Barbour says:

    Thank-you for this tribute to Christopher. He is a true legend and none can fill his shoes. We’ve lost an unparalleled legal mind and a great friend. I smile to remember similar battles over press releases, especially when he would hand me a hard copy with his black scrawl correcting the most minute of details – but he was always right and he taught me, and all of us, so much. I will miss his unfailing passion, kindness and generosity. May he rest in peace and his enormous legacy live on.

  5. Noel Kututwa says:

    The news of Christopher’s passing is really shocking and was to me completely unexpected. I worked with Christopher on international justice issues and on numerous press releases and public statements directed at the African Union. With the just ended 21st African Union Summit which has just adopted yet another resolution that goes against what Christopher had dedicated his life to fighting for, his presence, his expertise, passion, commitment, dedication and attention to detail, will be missed even more. As Widney said, we should continue the fight to bring those responsible for the most henious crimes to justice as one way of honouring the incredible contribution that Christopher has made to the fight for justice for the victims of international crime. Rest in peace Christopher.

  6. Claudia Perdomo says:

    It is with great sadness that I have learned on Chris passing. I wish to join with so many others who knew him in offering my deepest sympathy to his colleagues and friends in Amnesty International and through you to his family. Although it is little consolation at this sad time, it should be of some satisfaction to know that in his passing you can celebrate the end of a very productive life.
    His legacy in supporting justice and the promotion and protection of human rights will last for ever.
    May his family and friends find peace and comfort in knowing that his loss is felt by all who knew and loved him.
    In Sympathy,
    Claudia Perdomo
    Head Outreach Unit – International Criminal Court

  7. Julián Liaño says:

    I was surprised and then sad when I heard the news of Christopher Hall’s passing away. He was one of those immense figures one thinks will always be there. I never met him personally, but as a translator, I was honoured to collaborate with this unparalleled legal mind in the translation of most documents on the ICC and then on the Fair Trials Manual. Through his writings and the law-language debates with him (more than debates sometimes, actually) I was inoculated with the passion for international justice and learnt almost everything one can know about the International Criminal Court. His absence will be felt. My condolences to his family and friends.

  8. Fabricio Guariglia says:

    International justice owes a huge debt to Chris, to his knowledge, his committment, his passion, his unwillingness to negotiate those principles that he considered to be fundamental. I was a witness to the depth and quality of his work, which was hugely influencial during the negotiations of the Rome Statute – I can testify as to how widely his famous “Making the Right Choices Reports”, which Chris and I jokingly referred to as “the bricks”, were read. I now realize that the joke wasn’t just that: those were true bricks that Chris, the architect, the builder, was using to skilfully put together the edifice of international justice. He was a great man, and a wonderful and true friend. I celebrate the fact that AI is paying Chris the tribute that he rightly deserves.

  9. Osvaldo Zavala says:

    His vision and his commitment to human rights and justice were a true inspiration to those of us who had the privilege to work together with him. His legacy lives in the spirit of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and in all of us who will continue to fight for a world without impunity for the most henious crimes.

  10. Carla Ferstman says:

    Christopher was, is, such an inspiration. His work for the cause of international justice was never a job; it was his passion, his calling, it was part of who he was. With many of us mere mortals who knew less or were newer to the cause, he had this amazing willingness to guide, to inspire and to help; he was very giving in his time, always encouraging. He was never looking for a personal spotlight, he was never wavering in his positions or his goals whatever the obstacles, just looking for justice without exception for crimes under international law – no more, no less. The work must continue

  11. Louise Vischer says:

    Such devasting news. Christopher – such a remarkable colleague – principled and professional to the end who felt passionately about his work,about AI more generally and his lovely family. Much to miss but much to leave as a legacy to remember.Thank you.

  12. Tanya Karanasios says:

    I am so sad to hear that Christopher Keith Hall has passed away. He was an incredible role model. A smart, kind human being and principled and relentless human rights advocate. It was also quite beautiful to see his transformation to a loving and doting dad. He will be missed so much. He was a very special and remarkable man. His contribution to the cause of international justice will be remembered.

  13. Innocent Balemba Zahinda says:

    Huge loss for the human rights community. I remember Christopher when I joined Amnesty in the 90s. His fight for international justice inspired many of us. He has gone, but his legacy will always live with us. May his soul rest in peace.

  14. Richard Dicker says:

    I learned of Chris’ death yesterday evening and feel such a profound sadness and sense of loss.

    In terms of the one of his many accomplishments that I knew best, Christopher was a absolute visionary. In 1994, he saw what could be done with the International Law Commission’s just-completed draft treaty for a permanent International Criminal Court. In February 1995, he prompted civil society groups to come together and create the Coalition for the International Criminal Court as a means to help realize that vision. This was just after the creation of the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and long before anyone was talking about international justice.

    Christopher’s deep grounding in international human rights practice along with an encyclopedic legal knowledge provided a North Star for so many of us as we found our footing on the terrain of multilateral treaty negotiations. Chris brought principled leadership together with a continual flow of good cheer in the face of formidable adversity. His death is a real loss to the human rights movement and he will be sorely missed.

    Chris leaves behind a wonderful wife, Francoise, and two lovely young daughters, Olivia and Catriona. Our thoughts go out to them.

  15. Demelza Hauser says:

    Working with Chris over the ten years I was at Amnesty was an immense privilege. His was the most rigorous intellect, the sharpest mind, he the most stringent approver and yet also the most generous and witty of colleagues. Within months of arriving at Amnesty in 1993, I had already formulated in my own mind what I called ‘the Chris Hall test’ – that is, would a proposal make it past him? If yes, then it was worth doing, and if not, it needed work. There are very few of us about whom it can be said we genuinely left the world a better place than we found it – Chris was one, and we are all the better for having known him, and feel diminished by his passing.

  16. Herman von Hebel says:

    It is with great sadness that we learned of Christopher Keith Hall’s passing. Throughout his career at Amnesty International, Christopher relentlessly advocated for ending impunity for the gravest crimes, including the creation of an international criminal court. It is thanks to advocates such as Christopher that this institution exits. It is also thanks to activists like Christopher that the support for international justice worldwide continues to grow. He will be sorely missed. Our thoughts go to his family, friends and colleagues.

    Herman von Hebel, ICC Registrar

  17. Cristina Sganga says:

    Chris’ legacy in the promotion and protection of human rights is exemplary and everlasting.
    My thoughts and love go out to his family and friends in this moment of great sorrow.
    Cristina Sganga

  18. We at Amnesty International Ireland echo the sadness – and gratitude – expressed here by Christopher’s colleagues and friends. His legacy is inestimable – he has been such a critical force in the world’s forging a new order where impunity for atrocities will not be tolerated. It is people like Christopher that have made me know how privileged I am to work in AI. No matter how big or small my question to AI’s international secretariat on international justice issues over the years, it was inevitably met with a gracious call from Christopher patiently explaining the answer. We will miss him.

    Fiona Crowley, AI Ireland

  19. Rupert Hitzig says:

    Christopher was my cousin and the memories of him as a youth, a teen and then such a hero at Amnesty are too numerous to catalogue. But qualities that ran through his entire life were his humor, his intelligence, his gentle strength, his observational powers, and his sense of fair play.
    It warms those of us in our family to read the tributes from his colleagues, and we appreciate them for the beauty that has been written in tribute.
    He will long be remembered … and we send our love to Francoise and their two lovely daughters.

  20. Deborah Ruiz Verduzco says:

    I am very sad about the news of Chris’s passing. His work and life have had a huge impact on the international system as we know it, and if we continue on the path that he set for civil society and governments to work on, it may have also an impact on generations ahead. Chris also had a huge impact on my own profession and personal life, as he also influenced many others who have learned from him. His writings on legal history opened the door to many interesting facts that document civilization’s effort for a more just world. His interventions in our meetings at the CICC, and our brainstorming sessions on how to advance our goals were a very important motor to give sense to my daily work. I have been inspired by Chris, and having met him and learned from me has given me a very important sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves, and a very important sense that bigger and better things can be accomplished. I really hope that in leaving us he knew how respected and appreciated he was, and that he left with the tranquility of knowing that we will carry on with what he started. Thank you Chris. My thoughts with Chris’s family. Deborah Ruiz Verduzco, Parliamentarians for Global Action

  21. MOISA SAIDU says:

    Amnesty International Sierra Leone is saddened to hear of the news of Christopher’s death. To the family, friends and relatives please accept our heartfelt condolence. We will continue to ensure from our end that the fight he started many years ago will last.RIP

  22. Kate Orlovsky says:

    Christopher was one of my earliest and toughest mentors in the field of international law, and I will always be grateful for having been the beneficiary of his meticulous, challenging, and brilliant mind. He was generous with his advice and time, and his love for his work and family was so evident. He will be missed.

  23. Mariana Pena says:

    I have met few people in my life who had the passion, courage, precision and knowledge that Christopher embodied. His dedication to the cause of international justice was impressive, and particularly inspiring for some of us who started to work in that field “after Rome”. I was touched numerous times by his humility. I remember that he would rarely state his position when he introduced himself at meetings, and would rather state that he was a colleague of whoever else from Amnesty International was in attendance. He was respectful, kind and had a sense of humour that made it enjoyable to work with him. His sharp analysis capacity and sense of diplomacy were remarkable. I last met him at a conference in Paris last December, where he gave what he described as his first official presentation in French. He worried as he wanted to make sure he would be precise. And precise he was… as always, as ever. He will be missed and certainly long remembered among international justice actors and activists. My thoughts go to his family and to his colleagues at Amnesty International.

  24. BOETON Bernard says:

    I just learned the death of Christopher HALL in a meeting on human rights in Bern (Switzerland) this afternoon, and I wish to express how much Mr Hall was, for me, an example of competence, integrity and humanity. I met him during the Rome Diplomatic Conference in Rome (1998) on ICC and I actually admired his way of managing AI team, his openness to communicate with and to inspire a lot of NGOs, without which the ICC would not exist. In the context of that Congress, some diplomats told me “off the record” that “activists” like Mr Hall were far more competent than many diplomats…
    Mr Hall will remain for me a rare example of the kind of personnality an NGO may promote at the top level of excellency and professionnalism.
    Please transmit to his wife and his daughters that, somewhere, and probably in many places where people met him, he left the image of an “honest man” of this period, and inspired a lot of people, in terms of conviction, competence and simplicity.

  25. I was just so very sad and sorry to hear that Christopher was so ill. I wanted to share the message that a colleague brought and read to him last week:

    Dear Christopher,

    I just learned today about your battle with cancer and I wanted to send you a note to tell you how much I’m thinking about you. Christopher, I wonder if you know how much of an influence you’ve had on me since we met in 1998. You are one of the people who has most inspired me to devote myself to the pursuit of justice in the face of mass abuses of human rights. You are one of the brightest and most strategic lawyers I have ever met, with the possibility of doing virtually anything with your career, and your choice was to work tirelessly for the protection and promtion of human rights. I have such fond memories of the years I got to work closely with you in the ICC Coalition, and you are so clearly among those without whom the Court might never have become a reality. I was also inspired by your humour and collaborative spirit in working with that diverse cast of characters in the Coalition. I can just see your teasing smile and hear your laugh. I can also hear Bill explaining how the Coalition itself would never have been created had the decision about whether or not to collaborate been left to the Directors of human rights organizations rather than their legal advisors. Of course it was you and Richard to whom he was referring, people who never thought to let personal or organizational interests get in the way of doing the right thing for human rights. The dynamics between the two of you were one of my favourite things about the Coalition, and I cherished then and still cherish today the opportunity I had to learn from someone so bright, skilled and dedicated. I am thinking about you and your family Christopher, and sending you my deepest wishes for all the comfort and peacefulness that you have always wished for others. –

    Thinking of Christopher’s family, friends and colleagues, and joining you all in your commitment to continuing to be touched and inspired by such a wonderful person. His legacy can live on in all of us.

  26. I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chris Hall and personally and on behalf of my office, I extend our profound condolences to his family and his many friends. His colleagues at Amnesty International, as well as the wider justice community, have lost a passionate fighter and visionary. The world can be grateful for the energy and commitment he devoted to the cause of international justice and to building the International Criminal Court – Fatou Bensouda.

  27. Ezra Betton says:

    I was saddened to hear of Chris’s passing and extend my sympathy to his family. I worked with him designing the International Justice report covers. He was a pleasure to work with and always very friendly whenever we bumped into each other. Its only after reading the above that I realise what a key figure he was with the ICC. Humbled to have worked with him. x

  28. Susie Kemp says:

    Our deepest sympathy to Chris’ family. As well as being thoroughly professional, well prepared, and putting forward his arguments strongly, Chris was always friendly, kind and courteous. He will be greatly missed in the international justice field.
    Susie Kemp & Paul Seils

  29. Extract from: “Making the right choices: Remembering our Friend Chris Hall”,

    “Making the right choices” was the title of the most important series of publications that a civil society organisation, Amnesty International under the direction of Chris Hall, prepared on the law-making process that led to the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). “Making the right choices” also describes the life and advocacy approach of Chris Hall, the person who contributed more than anyone else, within the framework of civil society, to the drafting of the Rome Statute and to the very conception and realization of the idea of an International Criminal Court.

    …Chris always listened, took notes, smiled and then delivered powerful reasons on why, and above all how diplomats could make the right choices. Our advocacy, thanks to Chris’ contribution, was powerful. It silenced those boycotting progress and those fearful of the consequences, and it empowered those negotiators who wanted to move things further.

    [In the negotiations leading to the adoption of the Rome Statute,] Chris showed how a representative of civil society could know more and better the history and prospective application of a given provision in international law, and how powerful that knowledge was to give hope to victims of human rights violations.

    …from 17 July 1998, date of the adoption of the Rome Statute, Chris continued his restless work in ensuring that the spirit and the idea of the Statute would be realized and its integrity preserved. He became a close advisor to the Parliamentary Campaign for the Ratification and Implementation of the Rome Statute of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA). And the international justice team that Chris led has been an essential partner in all our endeavours, from Tokyo to Mexico City, from Pretoria to The Hague, from Manila to Buenos Aires….

    As the ICC and the fight against impunity continue to face important challenges against those sceptics who favour power over law, or interests over principles, and as civil society continues to work recalling our common mission, providing sound legal advice and appealing to governments to make the right choices, the leadership of Chris Hall will be greatly missed. His teaching and living example will always remain in the hearts and minds of those who had the privilege to work with him.

    For new generations of lawyers practising in the field of international justice, and students graduating in international legal studies, Chris’s and Amnesty International’s work on international law should remain a point of legal, academic and advocacy reference. As his work remains enshrined in the Rome Statute and its preamble’s goal, “to put an end to impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the International Community as a whole”, we shall remain committed to protect the integrity of the Statute, thus honouring Chris’ life and legacy.

    Our thoughts are with his family, his wife and children, from the other family he created with so much love and dedication to a great cause.

    David Donat Cattin
    Senior Director, International Law and Human Rights Programme, PGA

  30. Alain Bovard says:

    J’ai eu la chance de passer quelques jours avec Chris dans les années quatre-vingt-dix à Varsovie et je garde un souvenir lumineux et chaleureux de ce séjour malgré le climat quasi sibérien qui régnait en Pologne en ce mois de novembre. Chris m’a impressionné par ses énormes compétences et par sa ca-pacité à travailler de (très )longues heures sans même prendre la peine d’une petite pause.
    Mais il m’a aussi montré qu’il savait être un charmant compagnon de table une fois le travail terminé et que sa gentillesse était à la hauteur de ses connaissances en matière de droits humains.

    Il restera pour moi un exemple ! C’est à nous qu’il incombe maintenant de maintenir le flambeau et de continuer le combat pour un monde plus respectueux des droits humains.

    Tout ma sympathie et celle de mes collègues va aujourd’hui à sa famille et à ses proches.

    Alain Bovard
    Section suisse d’Amnesty International

  31. Montserrat Carreras says:

    Amnesty International a perdu la mémoire vivante de la justice pénale internationale et c’est l’histoire de la construction pour la Cour pénale internationale qui s’efface avec la mort de Christopher. Pourtant, si la mémoire vivante est partie, son souci à l’extrème de la rigueur, de la perfection, et son combat pour la justice font que cette HISTOIRE, dont il a été un artisan de tout de premier ordre, nous est remise en héritage. Tu la laisses aux militants d’Amnesty, à toutes les victimes et à leurs familles pour que ton oeuvre en faveur de la justice pour tous , puisse continuer avec l’aide de tout ton savoir et il était si prolixe!
    Avec émotion, je transmets mes sincères condoléances aux personnes que tu as tant aimées.
    Montserrat Carreras

  32. Hilary Hunt says:

    I was so desperately saddened to hear that dear Christopher has died. What sorrow – the loss of such a fine, decent man, to his close family, to his human rights family, and, ultimately, to the world.

    Christopher was an inspiration and support to me, as a most highly-principled, dedicated human rights campaigner and lawyer and human being. I knew him from the moment he became our Legal Adviser at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in 1990, and then as Legal Office colleague for 5 years. Chris was such a kind man, with a wickedly mischievous sense of humour, and a chortle or guffaw that reverberated down the corridor. He was an enormously loyal and caring colleague. When I joined the Legal Office, as a non-lawyer, but trying to better understand the application of human rights law to AI’s work, Chris offered to “coach” me. He was my patient guide and mentor, snatching time to discuss basics and intricacies with me although always involved in the pressures of the most critical human rights issues as well as his ICC work, his lasting public legacy to humanity. It’s thanks to Christopher that I have on my bookshelf a copy of the seminal Steiner and Alston tome “International Human Rights in Context”.

    Christopher made time for everything he considered important, for human rights, the people he worked for and with. His death leaves a truly gaping hole in the goodness of the world. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters, and to all his AI and ICC colleagues.
    With fond memories
    Hilary Hunt

  33. Patrice Vahard says:

    Chris was for me a role model. We first met when I was still a law student in my home country of Cote d’Ivoire. He inspired me and encouraged me to join Amnesty’s International Secretariat. We remained friends as you guided me through the realities and work of an international and multicultural environment. I still recall the day you invited me to your home and met with Francoise. I feel so sad that as I remember those days, all I come by his the news of your passing away; a year later. That’s also the other side of our work for human rights globally. I do share most of the tribute and comments about you Chris. Your sens of humor and perseverance in getting things done the right way will continue impacting on me. Adieu et merci mon ami. Patrice Vahard

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