The International Institute of Space Law is sad to note the passing on 27 January 2014 of our friend and colleague Vladimír Kopal. An Honorary Director and former Vice President of the IISL, Prof. Dr Kopal was Professor of International Law at Plzeň University at the Czech Republic. In 2010, he received the IISL’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

This page of condolences has been compiled with the help of his many friends and colleagues.

In memoriam Vladimir Kopal:

We would like to thank Professor Vladimir Kopal for his engagement in the ECSL Summer Courses. In particular he was very helpful in organising the ECSL Summer Course 2004 at the University of Graz.

Professor Kopal was a true University teacher since his ambition was always to encourage and promote students and young scholars. He was a warm-hearted and empathic person. For us it was a privilege to know him and to work with him.

Professor Kopal contributed to our book “Outer Space in Society, Politics and Law”. He had submitted a hand written manuscript which will be kept in honour at our University.

Once again we thank Vladimir Kopal and we are sad that he is not among us anymore.

Christian Brünner
Anita Rinner
Hannes Mayer

To all who had known Prof. Dr Vladimir Kopal.

We all will miss Prof. Vladimir Kopal, who resembled an anchor of dependability and trustworthiness in the troubled sea of the activities of the International Astronautical Federation. I had the pleasure and honor to work with Prof. Kopal during my tenure as IAF President, and I always enjoyed his clear mind and deep knowledge. His highly professional approach was admirable, but beyond Vladimir was a wonderful person full of humor and empathy.

His merits for IAF are numerous, and with his legacy reflected in our Constitution he shaped the Federation and ensured its special spirit, which we all want to preserve in memory for this remarkable personality.

Berndt Feuerbacher
Past President
International Astronautical Federation

I had the honour to meet Professor Kopal both at IAF and IISL meetings. His manners, knowledge, in depth insight, and concern about both societies well-being and future was very much notable and admirable.

God bless him.

Prof. Mohsen Bahrami
Amirkabir University of Technology
Tehran, Iran

I am very deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Prof. Kopal. He was a distinguished and learned practitioner of space law. Invariably polite and erudite, he was an authority on the space treaties and principles and their application in real life, as well as on the IISL statutes that govern our institute. We could always count on him for reasoned discourse and expert interpretation. His counsel and good humor will be greatly missed.

Marcia Smith
President, Space and Technology Policy Group
Former IISL Vice President

We were so terribly sad to learn of Vladimir’s passing. We had just received a letter from him last week in which he was looking forward hopefully to coming to Toronto next fall. He and Vlasta were wonderful caring people and dear friends who Marge and I got to know in Prague and New York. We will miss both of them dearly and cherish their memories.

Howard and Marge Cohen

Dear Professor, you will be in my heart forever and I am grateful for life because I had the honour to salute you.

With my deepest respect,

Jordi Sandalinas

During my career at the International Astronautical Federation, I had the honour and pleasure of knowing and collaborating with Professor Kopal for over 18 years. My husband, Hervé, and I, had the pleasure of welcoming him into our home on several occasions and will remember him for both his professional and personal qualities. Our sincere condolances to his family and IISL friends.

Annie Moulin

With my thoughts to his family, Prof Kopal had provided me with support and guidance for many years. He had contributed so much and was always generous with his time; his grace and presence will be truly missed.

Jim Keravala

I sincerely respect your great contribution to space law, especially in the field of space debris. I will never forget your challenges as a professional lawyer, as well as your gentle smiles, since I was moved by your actions to this politically difficult question at the UNCOPUS LSC where I attended for the first time (1996).

Yours sincerely,
Motoko Uchitomi (JAXA)

This is a very sad news: We lost our friend and colleague, the excellent Space Lawyer Professor Dr. Vladimit Kopal! He was Founding Member of the International Institute of Space Law, back in 1960 in Stockholm, Vice President of this our Institute, renowned professor at the University of Plsen, excellent representative of his Czech Country at the UNO , and in many other important institutions, outstanding speaker, author of many papers, especially on Space Law, and one of the most important personalities in IAF, and IAA.

And he was, together wis his dear wife, Vlasta, a very, very good friend.

We all will miss him, but never forget him!

In sincere tristesse,

Ernst Fasan

Vladimir Kopal will be remembered by by all persons interested in space acitivies and in particular in space law. I had the privilige of knowing Vladimir for long years at International Astronautical Congresses and at the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. His deep knowledge and understanding of all aspects of space was admirable.

Lubos Perek, former member of the Board of Directors of the IISL.

Dear colleagues,

With profound sadness I received the information that Professor Vladimir Kopal had passed away.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest names of Space Law, as well as of International Law as a whole, Professor Kopal stood as an example of virtue, as well as diplomatic and academic excellency to all his peers. His tireless work at the UNCOPUOS shaped this international body into the future and produced the most important regulations on Space Law to date.

Personally, I can never forget the words of encouragement he kindly offered me during the LSC Sessions, invaluable to a young professional as myself. I treasure those conversations dearly.

His presence will be sorely missed.

With heartfelt condolences,

Olavo de O. Bittencourt Neto

I have learnt with deep regret about the passing away of Prof. Vladmir Kopal,a pioneer of space law in the world.Prof.Kopal was known to us as a leading thinker of space law and space sciences.I was in touch with him in the formative stage of space law and during my Ph.D.thesis work in JNU during 1964-1968.He was associated with UNCOPUOS that gave form and substance to space law and world peace. I met Prof.Kopal in Vienna during July 1999 UNISPACE III conference when he had submitted a paper on amendments to OST of 1967 for which Prof. Kopal and Prof. Manfred Lachs had done great work. I was asked by UNCOPUOS to send my comments as a Commentator on Prof.Kopal’s working paper. My comments on Prof.Kopal’s paper were published in Report of UNISPACE III conference. I recall that my Ph.D.thesis called Legal Controls of Outer Space: Law,Freedom and Responsibility was a commentry on the OST,completed in 1968 and published in 1973,and released by ISIL in New Delhi. Prof.Kopal’s contributions are mentioned in my thesis, now reprinted.

I send my deep condolences to the family of Prof.Kopal. I have lost a dear,distinguished friend who was older to me two years, as I have crossed age 83 recently. May his soul rest in peace.

Prof. Saligram Bhatt, Prof.of Space Law,Hony.Prof.Int.Law,JNU,New Delhi.

Professor Vladimir Kopal has been a living legend in the area of Space Law. His contributions in the evolution phase of treaties are tremendous. One can get easy understanding on complex issues by reading his papers that were written long back and even later.

I am privileged to have had great opportunity of meeting, talking and getting clarifications on certain points, during Legal Sub Committee meetings at Vienna in 2009 and 2010 and UN Space Law Workshop at Bangkok.

Though his demise is irreparable, his contributions would certainly guide the space Law Fraternity and help develop the space law to meet the current and future challenges of outer space activities.

He will be remembered by One and All for ever.

V. Gopalakrishnan

The passing of Prof Kopal is a sad loss to all of us. I met him as a colleague in judging the Telders moot court. I was impressed by his zeal in this task and by his urbanity towards colleagues and students. He was a close friend of my long-time colleague Prof. Isa Diederiks and like her a specialist of air-law.

We will remember Prof. Kopal with affection and respect.

C.G.Roelofsen (Utrecht University)

My condolences to his family. I have known him for not too many years, but enough to feel that I will miss him at Telders competition. I had nice conversations with him about law … and about life. Forever in our hearts.

Professor Maria del Angel Iglesias.

It was a great shock for us to learn that Prof. Dr Vladimir Kopal had just passed away. As a leading pioneer of space law and a great thinker for the betterment of space activities, Prof. Kopal has created special value for the world space community, and he will be living in our heart forever. The Chinese space law community will carry on his passion in building an even more peaceful and sustainable outer space.

ZHANG Zhenjun
Secretary General
China Institute of Space Law

Professor Kopal was one of the pioneers of space law and opitimised the characteristic modesty and courtesy of that generation. His contributions to discussion were always insightful and original. His warm charm and intellect are a great loss to his friends and to the space law community.

Sa’id Mosteshar

A distinguished legal scholar of great learning and a wide intellectual horizon the professional and academic career of Vladimir Kopal was entiredly dedicated to the teaching and practice of space law of which he became one of the greatest and most respected authorities. Amongst the most brilliant but also most faithful members of a first generation of space lawyers Vladimir Kopal contributed greatly to the universal acceptance and application of this young discipline of public international law which he also helped to develop and complete further.

He thus gave many years of excellent service to the United Nations and its Committtee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space,helping to steer it through some of its most difficult years when time and again his advice and his unwavering commitment to its basic mission was instrumental in preserving its character as a body to create rules for the promotion of international cooperation in space.

Like few others he thus incorporated the spirit and the dedication that kept this unique UN instiution such a productive and globally influerntial source of the written and unwritten codes of conduct in space.

In the same spirit and with the same unfailing commitment he also served many other instiutions of the international space communty whose members remain deeply indebted to him and who will greatly miss the presence of an uncomparable legal mind.

Finally the academic world not only of his native country from whose splendid legal tradition he could always draw will also miss a great and highly experienced teacher who could bring the idea and the essence of space law to future generations of the legal profession.

Ambassador Peter JANKOWITSCH
Past President

Prof. Kopal was and always will be a legend for those who like Space Law. He was a key to the development of the current legal framework of space activities. Despite his authority, he was a kind person who gave attention to anyone who sought his wisdom. I thank God for the blessing of having known this great man.

My deepest condolences.

Álvaro Fabricio dos Santos
Legal Adviser
Advocacy-General of the Union – Brazil

Professor Vladimir Kopal created a spiritual space for the international space law. He did not passed away, he has a rest in that space. Though I have not meet him personally, I watched his speech in the UN virutal library several years ago.

LI, Juqian
Law Professor, China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL)
Beijing, China

Prof. Kopal’s achievements and spirit of dedication will be held in our memories forever and will become a driving force for us to develop IAF and international space law better.

Chinese Society of Astronautics

I am deeply distressed to know about passing away of Prof. Vladimir Kopal on 27th January, 2014. Prof. Kopal was a legal luminary in the Space Law and International treaties, who guided us with his immense knowledge during Legal sub-committee discussions and the main Committee discussions of UN-COPUOS. I saw in him a fatherly attitude towards youngsters and he uses to derive great pleasure when young people come up in the Space Law field. His loss leave a big vacuum in the Space Law fraternity and it can be filled only if all of us strive to reach his professional level.

May his soul rest in peace


It is with great sadness that I have learnt of the passing away of Dr Kopal – foremost he was a fine human being and a very warm and affable person – at each IAF he used to very warmly interact. Of course, his distinction in space law is well known to all and is highly acclaimed for so many years. I interacted with him very closely in IAF Bureau and also in IAA Affairs – he was always available for any advice and help required, especially on legal issues. His acumen at legal interpretation and knowledge of legal aspects was a great asset sought by one and all. His trait at turning a serious legal discussion with a fine humorous remark was a hallmark. His role as a pioneer of space law will always be remembered as a great asset to the newer world of space law. My humble respects to the departed soul, Rest In Peace, Dr Kopal!!!.

Mukund Kadursrinivas Rao

With great sadness I read the news that Professor Vladimir Kopal had passed away.

Professor Kopal participated as a judge at the Telders International Law Moot Court Competition in The Hague for many years, which had been a true honour and privilege for all students, judges and organisers involved. His presence will be greatly missed at the future editions of the Telders Competition.

I had the great honour and pleasure of knowing and collaborating with him for a long time during my years at Leiden University and the Telders Organizing Office. Together with his dear wife, Vlasta, Vladimir has become a dear friend. A warm and modest person with sincere interest in people – you remain in our hearts.

Hanna Thuránszky
Former Director Telders Organising Office

I am very saddened to learn that Prof. Kopal has died. I am so glad I got to meet and talk with him four years ago at COPUOS. He was a brilliant and pleasant man. His work in public international law inspired me to pursue an expertise in international space law. I am glad his work will live on in the annals of space law.

I sincerely offer my condolences to Prof. Kopal’s family. I hope that one small consolation from his passing is that his influence will continue to inspire future jurists to study international space law and the legal concerns related to humans venturing into outer space. The Czech Republic has lost a great son and the legal community an admirable legal mind.

Prof. Kopal, you will be missed, but not forgotten.

Christopher M. Hearsey, M.S., J.D.
Bigelow Aerospace, Corporate Counsel

Please accept a letter of condolences on the passing away of professor Vladimir Kopal.

Elena Leonova

Prof. Dr Kopal was an impressive man who carried himself with quiet dignity and treated others with great respect as he presided over the Legal Subcommittee of the UN COPUOS–the hallmark of a gentleman and a scholar.

Andrew Williams, Colonel, US Air Force

We, my late husband Prof. Dr. Hans J. Rath and myself, have known Vladimir Kopal as a friend, a reliable, trustworthy and warmhearted colleague. All my feelings are with his dear wife.

Britta Rath

Vladimir Kopal was a close family friend of my father and after my father’s death, Vladimir and Vlasta became close friends of mine. I always remember his pragmatism and steadiness – he played an important role in east-west relations. The Malina family send their deep condoleences.

Roger Malina

With deep regret I have learned that Prof. Vladimir Kopal passed away.

Actively dealing over the last 15 years with the space law, in 2000 I got to know Vladimir Kopal. At that time he was the head of the UN COPUOS Legal Subcommittee. Prof. Kopal immediately became a model for me both in professional and personal terms. Intellectual, polyglot, high professional, he was also very approachable, open for communication person. He was always thoughtful and impartial to all points of view, approaches, regardless of whether they coincided with his own opinions or not.

He was willing to convince anyone, not in haughty manner, but by force of argument, power of his intellect and professionalism.

Many years of working in the field of space, associated with high technologies, dealing with the space law, structured at the global level, in personal terms Vladimir Kopal remained a strong anti-globalist: he basically did not use such way of correspondence as email, I carefully kept all his mails written by hand or typed.

Prof. Kopal was at the origin of development of the international space law that is deservedly recognized today as a top of the international lawmaking in the UN system. Such people do not sink into oblivion, they, through their treatises, elaborated by them acts of international law, remain in the memory of grateful descendants, colleagues, followers and friends.

Nataliia Malysheva and the entire staff of the International Space Law Centre (Kyiv, Ukraine)

It was an absolute delight to have met distinguished Prof. Kopal for the first time in 2006 during the UN Workshop on Space Law in Ukraine and subsequently at various space-related occasions.

Pioneer of space law, he was an academician whom a young generation of space lawyers was privileged to follow. I have seen him as a highly knowledgeable person, very unique professional, exceptional expert who made a considerable input into the capacity-building of space law. He was a very charismatic person whose personal and professional qualities always evoked deep respect. He was and forever will remain the reference for me.

It is a huge loss not only for his family members and Czech law community, but for all those who knew him personally or through his treatises. It is hard even to talk about Prof. Kopal in the past … It is hard to believe that such people pass away … I had always the feeling that such great minds are immortal.

Olga S. Stelmakh
Parliament of Ukraine

Prof Kopal was so dear to us all. 15 years since I supported the organization of the IISL workshop at UNISPACE III, he has taught me so much, sent so many letters and cards, and he was one of the few persons who read my PhD thesis thoroughly and gave very detailed comments. He must have had hundreds of students yet he always correctly followed where I was and what I was doing around the world. I never got to thank him enough.

He told me as he was a young lawyer he looked up into the sky, and saw Sputnik. That everyone looked up to the sky to see the first satellite. That that was the moment he decided there should be law of space and that it was what he wanted to do. I still sometimes vividly imagine the young Vladimir looking up at Sputnik. How wonderful and extraordinary is that, to imagine of a whole new discipline of law that did not even exist!

Every time we met at IAC we would chat together with Mrs Kopal, who was so lovely and kind too. The IACs were the place where I met the wisdom of the space community, and greatest and deepest of all was Prof Kopal.

I only wish we could have met just one more time, and it was only another few days till we would meet in Vienna… I hope Prof Kopal – with Mrs Kopal now – can hear us talking to him and asking him more and more questions that we still need to be answered.

Onoda Masami

I just had one chance to meet Prof. Kopal in 63rd IAC in Naples, Italy. I saw a man with a full of knowledge. I can say for most of the articles presented in that IISL congress, he provided very useful relevant comments. It seemed as he had lots of things for us to say about space law. Certainly the space law community has lost a very distinguished man. May his soul rest in peace.

Hadi Mahmoudi

Dear Professor Kopal, you will always be remembered by all of us who knew you.

Your presence during the sessions of the UNCOPUOS Legal Subcommittee was always reassuring and inspiring. The last session of the Subcommittee was not the same without you. I am very sorry to hear that this absence will be permanent now.

Years ago, you were kind enough to provide your signature and sponsorship so that I could become a member of IISL. I will never forget your act of generosity towards a much younger LSC delegate and colleague.

May the spirit that enlightened you and the passion for international space law that animated you live forever.

Rafael Moro Aguilar, LL.M.

It is with great sadness that we learned about passing away of Prof. Vladimir Kopal. Our deep sympathies go, first of all, to his family.

On behalf of all the Ukrainian IAA members, I would also like to present our sincere condolences to the space community which lost one of the most respected and highly valued colleagues.

During all his life, Prof.Kopal served as an example of the utmost dedication to the chosen professional path. His exceptional knowledge of the space law was always in great demand within the IISL-IAA-IAF triad, and till the very last days of his life Prof.Kopal managed to very efficiently contribute to these organisations’ activities.

On top of this, Prof.Kopal was extremely friendly, open man always ready to help with a valuable professional or simply earth-bound advice. We will enormously miss him.

Dr Alexander Degtyarev IAA Board of Trustees Member
IAA Regional Secretary for Ukraine

With great sadness I became aware of the passing of Professor Kopal. I met him several years ago during the Telders Moot Court sessions in The Hague. During the many years when we attended the Moot Court, we became friends. I saw in him, first of all an extremely kind person. Then a very knowledgeable academic. Last summer when I met him in Leiden, he had lost his wife and was noticeably shaken and depressed of that loss. Still his composure as a kind and polite person was intact. Professor Kopal’s passing is a great loss to the international legal community. He will remain in the memory of everybody who knew him.

Hossein Piran Ph.D.,
Senior Legal Advisor,
Iran-United States Claims Tribunal,
The Hague,
The Netherlands.

I am very deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Kopal. He had a distinguished series of years at the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. He was an authority on the space treaties and their application in real life. His reasoned discourse, expert interpretation, and good humor will be greatly missed.

My best regards during this sorrowful time,
Gerald J. Shields, LL.M.

I was surprised and saddened to hear that Prof. Vladimir Kopal passed away and, although I just learned the bad news, I would like to say a few words to express my deepest appreciation and respect of him.

Prof. Kopal was a pioneer in space law who greatly contributed, with his experience and academic knowledge, to all kinds of research. He always took great pride in his work, participating in commissions, workgroups and interdisciplinary meetings and effectively representing the academic world at large, with his remarkable expertise and competence in the field of space law.

I would like to thank him for being my mentor and express my gratitude for his help and encouragement as well as for the appreciating words, that he wrote in the foreword to my book.

Prof. Gabriella Catalano Sgrosso
University of Rome, Italy

Categories: Memoriam