International law leader remembered

Flinders University Associate Professor of Law Dr Hossein Esmaeili has paid tribute to a high-profile leader in international law Professor Ivan Shearer AM.

The international law scholar, academic, international arbitrator and international judge passed away in Adelaide on 9 July aged 80.

“Professor Shearer AM RFD left a significant mark both in Australia and beyond Australian borders, due to his work in academia, his scholarly writings and national and international legal professional activities,” according to Associate Professor Esmaeili, who taught in the Masters of International Law and International Relations at Flinders University later in his career.

“His legal career in international law started from Adelaide but extended to the rest of Australia and far beyond into the rest of the world including to South East Asia and Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, the United States and Africa.”

Dr Esmaeili says Professor Shearer became the most senior international lawyer in Australia, after graduating from the University of Adelaide and teaching at the University of NSW and University of Sydney from the 1970s to his retirement in 2004 when he returned to Adelaide and continued working at the three SA law schools.

As well as a distinguished academic career, Professor Shearer excelled in significant international and domestic professional activities, including:

  • Service in the RAAF Reserve, reaching rank of Squadron Leader, and the RANR, retiring at the rank of Captain after 40 years of reserve service.
  • In 1991 he acted as an international advisor to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and served on the United Nations Human Rights Committee from 2000-2008.
  • Appointed legal advisor to the Kingdom of Lesotho in the early 1970s on treaty succession, other international matters and on the law of the sea. He also advised the governments of Nauru in 1979 and Kiribati in 1981 on international law issues.
  • He was also the Judge ad hoc in a number of international disputes between Australia and other countries, including in the Southern Bluefin Tuna Cases brought by Australia and New Zealand against Japan in 1999.

“James Crawford, a Judge of the International Court of Justice, regarded him as an exemplary colleague and contributor in that role. He also noted the multifaceted nature of Shearer’s overall influence on the law, which was ‘national and international, domestic and foreign, naval and civil, forensic and academic’.”

Associate Professor Esmaeili says Professor Shearer was “a great man of principle and character”.

“On a personal note, he was my supervisor, mentor and personal and family friend for 28 years.

“As an overseas student coming to Australia in 1991, he became my PhD supervisor, helped me to find my way into a new world. He mentored me and taught me so much, both professionally and in life.

“Ivan Shearer was a citizen of the world and a legendary international law figure that Australia offered to the world.

“He was kind, open to friendship, decent and always ready to help others. He has left the international legal community a far reaching and lasting legacy.”

Professor Shearer will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues and students.

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