Professor Marcelo Kohen retired from the Geneva Graduate Institute at the end of August. He was a member of our faculty for almost 30 years, beginning his career at the Institut de hautes études internationales (as it was called at that time) in 1995 as chargé d'enseignement, after which he became professor. Through his prolific scholarly and professional activity, Marcelo Kohen has contributed greatly to the prestige of the Geneva Graduate Institute and the Department of International Law, and for this, we are grateful.
His commitment to the academic life of the Institute has been extraordinary in many respects. Much loved by his students for his humanity and kindness, he has always taught courses of the highest level, combining in-depth theoretical study with a focus on jurisprudence and international practice. Through his mentorship and dedication in supervising undergraduate and doctoral theses, he has inspired generations of students who then went on to achieve important professional goals in their academic careers and in the legal profession. He has always been a good citizen at the Institute, and has been actively involved in its institutional life, including by taking on positions such as head of the BA (Licence) in International Relations (1999-2002) and head of the International Law Department (2007-2009). He also made key contributions to the creation and activities of the LL.M. in International Dispute Settlement (MIDS) and the Geneva Center for International Dispute Settlement (CIDS), serving as a Lecturer and member of the respective Board of Directors since 2008 (for MIDS) and 2018 (for CIDS).
In the scholarly field, Professor Kohen's research activity has favoured classical issues of international law with a focus on questions of statehood in international law, international dispute resolution, border delimitations, and in general, the fundamental institutions and principles of international law. His first book, entitled Possession contestée et souveraineté territoriale (Adverse Possession and Territorial Sovereignty) was awarded the Paul Guggenheim Prize in 1997. The list of his publications is impressive. It includes 14 books as author, co-author or editor, and more than one hundred articles, courses, reports and contributions to collective works. His latest book, Flexibility in International Dispute Settlement – Conciliation Revisited (2020) (co-authored with Christian Tomuschat) explores the recent revival of settling international disputes by informal methods and portrays the potential of mechanisms not yet activated.
Secretary General of the prestigious Institut de droit international since 2015, of which he was an associate member (2007-2013) and then a full member (since 2013), Professor Kohen has also been heavily invested in the work of other academic institutions such as the Latin American Society of International Law (of which he was a founder and the Director General from 2007 to 2015) and the French Society for International Law (as a Council member from 2008-2016).
He has held courses and lectured in all parts of the world, and has participated in various capacities in the editorial activities of a number of scientific journals. He has also been Rapporteur or Co-rapporteur on matters of State Succession and State Immunity for the International Law Association and the Council of Europe.
On top of all this, Marcelo Kohen has worked extensively as a Legal Counsel and Advocate before the International Court of Justice and other international courts and tribunals, as well as a state-appointed Arbitrator in numerous disputes. He is also a Member of the Argentine-Chilean Permanent Conciliation Commission (2022) (elected by the Member States) and Chair of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Performance Review Panel (2008).
In both the scientific and professional fields, Professor Kohen has always distinguished himself by his intellectual rigour, vast subject knowledge, keen intelligence and humanity. He has always carried out his tasks and profession as a jurist and a professor with the firm conviction that respect for law and international legality are an essential tool for peace and the prosperity of peoples, with a particular sensitivity to the perspectives of Global South countries.
An Argentine citizen, he began his university studies in Rosario, obtaining the title of lawyer in 1983 and then 'Docente Libre' in Public International Law at the Law Faculty of the National University of Rosario in 1986. He obtained his PhD from the University of Geneva in 1995 summa cum laude.
He loves his country deeply and cheers for Rosario Central. In 2011 he was awarded Profesor Distinguido de la Ciudad de Rosario by the Municipal Council of the City of Rosario. However, he is a citizen of the world, and has travelled every corner of the globe. At the Institute and in the Department of International Law, Marcelo has been a strong advocate of the need to safeguard French and English bilingualism and has always offered courses in both languages. This was to preserve one of the Institute's original characteristics, but also in the belief that the esprit of multilingualism broadens horizons and opens hearts. Marcelo Kohen is fluent in at least five languages. It is therefore no surprise that he has a vast horizon and a big heart.
Marcelo Kohen has four daughters and four grandchildren. He also has many 'academic' children and grandchildren scattered around the world. He has never forgotten the tragic and untimely death of an Assistant in the International Law Department, Mariano Garcia Rubio. He actively supported the establishment in 2004 of the Mariano Garcia Rubio Prize, which is awarded each year to a student who writes the best master’s dissertation in international law. He remains in contact with Mariano’s family and contributes a substantial sum to the award every year.
His asados are famous in the Department (a typical Latin-American barbecue), which he has generously offered and cooked for decades to generations of international law students at the end of each academic year – without revealing the secrets of marinating the meat and preparing the perfect chimichurri.
Marcelo Kohen is now a candidate for election as a judge at the International Court of Justice. The election will take on 4 November. We wish him every success, but deep in our hearts, we know that as a professor, mentor, colleague and friend, he has already won.
A conference in his honour will be held on 30 September. More information is available here.
Professor of International Law
Geneva Graduate Institute