Dr. J. Gillis Wetter

Deceased: 6 January 1995

Under: Obituary

The sudden and painfully premature death of Dr J. Gillis Wetter on 6 January, 1995, at the age of 63, is a source of grief to his many friends in the international arbitral community. A leading Swedish international lawyer, and one of the world's experts on international arbitration, Wetter had a notable career as a lawyer, arbitrator and scholar.

Wetter was born in Stockholm in 1931, into a family distinguished for its intellectual and social attainments. His father, Sune Wetter, was for decades one of the most eminent Swedish lawyers, the senior partner of Wetter & Swartling, Solicitor Royal of the King, and chairman of many boards, commercial and civic.

Gillis Wetter graduated in law from the University of Stockholm in 1954 with the highest honours awarded since the inception of the Law Faculty in 1905. He did post-graduate work at King's College of the University of London, took a master's degree and doctorate of jurisprudence at the University of Chicago - where the reigning American jurisprudentialist of the time, Karl Llewellyn, described Wetter as a student of unsurpassed brilliance - and subsequently studied at Harvard Law School. His first book, The Styles of Appellate Judicial Opinions, was published in 1960. The University of Stockholm awarded Wetter an honorary doctorate of laws in 1984.

Wetter joined the New York law firm of White & Case in 1955. He was then thrust into one of the most important international commercial arbitrations of the day, between the Arabian American Oil Company on the one hand, and, nominally, the Royal Government of Saudi Arabia on the other, the real party in interest being Aristotle Socrates Onassis. Onassis had concluded a contract with the Saudi Government which, if implemented, would have given his enterprises a monopoly on the shipment of oil from Saudi Arabia. Aramco maintained that its Concession Contract gave it the exclusive right to ship the oil it extracted from Saudi Arabia. The issue was submitted to arbitration under the presidency of Professor Georges Sauser-Hall and resulted in the well known arbitral award in favour of Aramco.

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