Georges Abi Saab was born in Egypt and is an honorary professor of international law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (where he taught from 1963 to 2000). While he is best known for playing a central role in the drafting of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, he has also left his mark in other areas of international law.
Professor Abi Saab notably served as a consultant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the preparation of two reports on “Respect for human rights in armed conflicts” (in 1969 and 1970). The first two reports influenced the language and content of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, extending the full protections of international humanitarian law to wars of national liberation. According to Professor Andrew Clapham, these reports today act as the starting point for anyone grappling with the question of human rights and armed conflicts.
Professor Abi Saab also represented Egypt at the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law (1974 to 1977) which elaborated and adopted the two additional protocols. He also served as counsel and advocate for several governments in cases brought before the International Court of Justice. He has also sat twice as judge ad hoc on the ICJ, as judge on the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Tribunal for Rwanda, as well as Member and some time President of the Appellate Body of the WTO Dispute Settlement Organ. He is also a member of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Monetary Fund and as President or Member of various international arbitral tribunals.
Throughout his career, Professor Abi Saab has endeavoured to project a Third World perspective on International law, to the point of being considered by the members of the present movement called (TWAIL), as first generation TWAILer. This is a critical school of international legal scholarship and an intellectual and political movement which seeks to unpack and deconstruct the colonial legacies of international law. But, Professor Abi-Saab, while sharing most of its criticism of international law, distances himself from this school which limits itself to denunciation, in favour of a more constructive criticism proposing better alternatives and the means to attain them. Georges Abi Saab’s wife, Rosemary Abi-Saab-Saudan, is also an Institute alumni who worked in the field of international humanitarian law.