His Excellency Judge Thomas A.Mensah, President of International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), Former Assistant Secretary-General at the International Maritime Organization, and Ghana High Commissioner to South Africa has passed on on April 7, 2020.
Judge Mensah was the former Assistant Secretary-General at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialist agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Following his appointment as the first High Commissioner of Ghana to the Republic of South Africa in 1995, presenting his credentials to His Excellency Mr. Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, Judge Mensah was appointed to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). In 1996 he was elected as the first President of ITLOS and continued to serve as an ITLOS Judge from 1999 to 2005.
H.E. Judge Mensah was born and raised in Ghana. He graduated from the University of Ghana and then studied abroad, first taking Law at the University of London, graduating with a First Class degree in 1959.
In 1961, he joined Yale University Law School, United States, obtaining a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in 1962 and a Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) title in 1964.
Judge Mensah’s career included his tenure as Lecturer and Dean at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria, as well as work with The UN Environment Programme (World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden), Leiden University, Leiden.
He was appointed Professor of Law at the William Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii in 1992, and Director of the Law of the Sea Institute, University of Hawaii, in 1993.
Judge Mensah has published numerous articles, monographs and papers in the field of Public International Law, Law of the Sea, Maritime Law and International Environmental Law. His list of appointments include that of Member of the Institut de Droit International, a Titular Member of the Comité Maritime International, a Member of the Advisory Council of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and a Member of the Standing Committee on Maritime Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
He was an Advisory Board Member of Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), the global organisation dedicated to advancing seafarers’ interests through research, education and legal training on seafarers’ issues.
H.E. Judge Mensah was the recipient of many honorary degrees and awards including induction into the Maritime Hall of Fame in New York in 1998, where his nomination was presented by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
In 1998, he was invited to present a paper to the Pontifical Academy, which he duly presented to His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
H.E. Judge Mensah was nominated by the Government of Ghana and awarded the prestigious International Maritime Prize 2012 for his significant contribution to the work of IMO throughout a distinguished career in international maritime affairs and as a specialist in Public International Law, the Law of Treaties, Shipping Law, the International Law of the Sea and International Environmental Law.
As an international dispute resolution specialist, H.E. Judge Mensah was an arbitrator on many high-profile international cases. He was the President of a five-member tribunal in the Permanent Court of Arbitration that ruled on the case filed by the Philippines against China on the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Most recently, Judge Mensah was a Judge ad hoc on the dispute concerning the delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in 2017, before officially retiring from public service.
Following a period of ill-health, H.E. Judge Mensah passed away peacefully at his family home in London.
He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren and his great-grandson.