Dr James UpcherFietta LLP and Oxford University Law Faculty have established a new DPhil scholarship in memory of James Upcher, who passed away tragically on 18 May 2017, aged 37.

The James Upcher Memorial Scholarship is intended to facilitate post-graduate study at Oxford by those who, like James, have a passion for public international law and its practical application as a force for good in today’s fast-changing world.

James was a DPhil student at Oxford’s Merton College, gaining his doctorate in 2006.  His thesis examined the rights and duties of neutral or non-belligerent States (i.e., States that do not participate in an armed conflict) in international law.  In 2004, when an undergraduate at the University of Tasmania, James was awarded the Tim Hawkins Memorial Scholarship, which provided an opportunity to intern at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.  In his own words, James explained where this legal interest was born.

I have always had an academic interest in international law and was particularly drawn to international humanitarian law from the beginning of my studies. The legal regulation of armed conflict presents issues of moral philosophy in an acutely practical context; these very difficult issues have to be translated into a legal framework that is clear and effective.  The events of 11 September 2001 and subsequent acts of global terrorism – one of which tragically took Tim Hawkins’ life – have given rise to new and urgent questions of international humanitarian law.

James was a consultant at Fietta from its foundation, and had been a colleague of several of us at the firm for years before that.  He was one of the leading public international lawyers of his generation, as both an academic and a practitioner.  Most importantly, he was also a close friend, mentor, humourist and an inspiration to all who worked with him and knew him well.

The first recipient of the Scholarship is Tsvetelina van Benthem, also of Merton College.  Tsvetelina’s DPhil will analyse the status and implications at international law of artificial intelligence in armed conflict.