04 Jan Vale, Rob Cryer
A guilty admission: I had not seen Rob in person for the past few years. He was in Birmingham; I was in Amsterdam. He wasn’t traveling as much, and our paths didn’t cross. I didn’t even know how sick he was for a while. Rob wasn’t the type to make or want people to feel sorry for him.
Fortunately, Rob and I took the time to Zoom for nearly two hours in mid-December, about a week before he was to undergo a major procedure at the hospital. I knew that it might be the last time I got to talk to him, and it was an emotional conversation. At least it was on my part. True to his nature, Rob was in fine spirits and spent most of the call comforting me, even though he was the one facing his own mortality. Indeed, I think the call was, in part, to say goodbye — just in case. That was the kind of person Rob was. Caring and considerate to the last.
I first met Rob nearly 13 years ago, a few months after I had moved from the University of Georgia to the University of Auckland. We were both at a conference organized by Neil Boister in Christchurch — the precise topic now escapes me. We quickly became fast friends, which says more about Rob than about me. I’m difficult to like; Rob was not. On the contrary, it was impossible not to fall a little bit in love with Rob almost immediately. He was brilliant, charming, warm, funny — the list of adjectives goes on and on. And my lord could he drink! My most striking memory of the conference was watching Rob down a seemingly endless amount of beer while I carefully nursed my two glasses of whiskey. He was supposed to be the first speaker the next morning, at 9:00 am, so I watched his growing inebriation with even faster growing concern. And yet… he was amazing. It was like he had spent the evening downing shots of wheatgrass instead of pints of dark ale. I was truly in awe.
I could write endlessly about what a superb scholar Rob was. Everyone in our field knows his work, and a generation of students no doubt first encountered the wonders (good and bad) of international criminal law through the seminal textbook he co-wrote, An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure, with Darryl Robinson, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, and the late Håkan Friman. (Joined by Sergey Vasiliev for the fourth edition.) For my part, I was constantly inspired by Rob’s scholarship. When I wrote my book on the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, Rob’s book with Neil Boister, The Tokyo International Military Tribunal — A Reappraisal, was my bible for structure and for method of analysis. And when I wrote my revisionist take on the nature of international crimes, Rob’s chapter “The Doctrinal Foundations of International Criminalization” was one of my key points of reference. I have probably written an article or chapter that doesn’t cite Rob — but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
Rob also defined what it means to be a generous scholar. He always promoted my work, even when he passionately disagreed with it. Indeed, second only to my friend Mark Drumbl, who has posted his own reflection, Rob was one of my earliest and most important supporters in ICL. My professional debt to him is incalculable — as it is for many of us, if the outpouring of grief on my Twitter timeline is any indication. Check out the dozens of responses to my tweet passing along the sad news and see for yourself just how loved and admired Rob was. He touched so many of us with his kindness and generosity.
I need to stop writing now, because the tears are flowing again. My deepest sympathies go out to the many people who loved him as I did, particularly his family. I’m glad he achieved his goal of becoming a full professor at an absurdly early age, and I’m glad he was with us for many more years after that. I wish it could have been longer. Life is unfair that way, as we all know.
Vale, Rob. I will miss you. And I will never forget you.