Author: Hans Smit*
Published: May 2005
Description: This issue of The American Review of International Arbitration pays homage to Vratislav Pechota, a man of all seasons, who has remained true to his devotion to the law through the turbulent times he has traversed in his most varied life and career.
Both the United States, and the world generally, owe a great debt to legal scholars who fled repression and persecution in their home countries. Examples such as Wolfgang Friedmann (Columbia), Arthur Nussbaum (Columbia), and Charles B. Szalditz (Columbia), Rudolf B. Schlesinger (Columbia and Cornell), Albert B. Ehrenzweig and Steven Riesenfeld (Berkeley), and Max Rheinstein (Chicago), readily come to mind. Their contributions have greatly enriched American law.
Vratislav Pechota fits right into this rich tradition. Driven from Czechoslovakia, his country of birth, in the aftermath of the Soviet repression of the Dubcek revolution, with remarkable energy and skill, he took up in the New World where he had left off in the Old.
In Czechoslovakia, after having obtained law degrees, both in his native country and in the Soviet Union, he rose quickly in the ranks of the Czech Foreign Ministry and became a principal delegate for his country to the United Nations. There, both his consummate legal and interpersonal skills led to his election as Chairman of the important Sixth Committee, in which capacity he attended to the birth of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). This resulted in such leading contributions to the development of transnational commercial law as UNCITRAL’s Rules of Arbitration and Model Law on International Arbitration, as well as the Vienna Convention on the International Sale of Goods and the Convention of Time Limitations in the International Sale of Goods.
*Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law and Director, Center for International Arbitration and Litigation Law, Columbia University.