Edward Laing, 59; Maritime Law Judge

From a Times Staff Writer

Edward A. Laing, a member of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and an influential lawyer and ambassador around the world, has died in his native Belize. He was 59.

Laing, who taught law for many years in the United States, died Tuesday, according to a statement from the tribunal, based in Hamburg, Germany. No cause of death was given.

While he was the Belize ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Laing was elected to the court in 1996 with the highest number of votes among the 21 judges chosen, winning approval of 88 of the 100 voting states. His term would have expired in 2002.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice at The Hague are the world's only two permanent courts established to weigh international legal disputes. The Hamburg court deals with rules and standards governing the uses of the sea, protection and utilization of marine resources and maritime boundaries.

An expert on Caribbean and maritime law, Laing was educated at Cambridge University in England and Columbia University in New York and taught law at the University of the West Indies, Notre Dame University in Indiana, the University of Maryland, New York Law School and Howard University in Washington, where he also directed the graduate program.

He served as Belize's ambassador to the United States and high commissioner to Canada from 1985 to 1990, also representing Belize during that period on the Organization of American States.

In 1993, he was sent to the United Nations, where he was a leader in efforts to reform the Security Council. One proposal he set forth for Belize was sharing seats on the council to increase participation by developing countries.

Laing had long been a familiar face at international meetings on maritime law and U.N. economic, humanitarian, legal and social issues. Among those were meetings of the World Bank, Caribbean Community and Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Earlier in his career, Laing served on the Belize-Guatemala Permanent Joint Commission and in a group that negotiated the treaty for the Assn. of Caribbean States.

He wrote widely on maritime law, international law, international development and legal education.

Laing was married to Margery V. Fairweather and had two children, Obi Uchenna and Nyasha Refaro Laing.

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