Jean-Marie Dufour 1937-2007

Picture taken by Rudiger Voss in the Legal Service Library

Jean-Marie Dufour, CERN Legal Advisor from 1974 until his retirement in 2001, passed away on 8 July.

For us, his colleagues in the Legal Service, Jean-Marie was a tutor and a reference, who passed on to us his passion for the practice of law in an intergovernmental organisation. As a boss, his abiding managerial quality was his unstinting loyalty to his collaborators.

Jean-Marie joined CERN in 1966 and for the next 35 years was to be the guardian of the Laboratory’s rules. This was his view of the Organization: "...I have discovered [at CERN] a fascinating universe driven by two forces: science and Europe; a world of physicists and engineers who, encouraged by the States of Europe, run a remarkable Laboratory, where Europeans have achieved reconciliation and restored the grand tradition of European physics, attracting physicists from around the world; a Laboratory that transcends not only the frontiers of knowledge but also those of political entities, reputed to be closed and difficult to access."

This translation of the extract from the speech delivered by Jean-Marie in 2001, at the ceremony to mark his decoration with the Légion d’honneur, fully encapsulates the philosophy of the man. CERN devotee and ardent defender of the European cause, Jean-Marie would always favour a global approach to the problems facing the Organization comprising not only the legal, but also the scientific and political aspects of the question.

Jean-Marie joined the Legal Service at a crucial phase of the Organization’s expansion, at a time when its scientific activities, such as the construction of the intersecting storage rings, made it necessary to extend the site into France. CERN was thus to become the world’s only international organisation to have a site jointly established on two Host States, a situation that would give rise to many questions with respect to the law applicable on the new site, relating inter alia to CERN contractors, tax and health and safety. A short time later, in 1971, the start of construction of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) would necessitate a complete overhaul of CERN’s founding Convention. Similarly, the construction of LEP in the 1980s brought with it a host of challenges from the legal standpoint, which were naturally met by Jean-Marie with his customary wisdom, creativity and tenacity.

Throughout this period, Jean-Marie also played a key role in the incorporation of new Member States and the instigation of a policy that would lead to non-Member States taking part in the activities of the Organization. This was a field where he once more demonstrated – if more proof was needed – his impeccable internationalist credentials.

Jean-Marie had a phenomenal memory, which he put to use whenever Council delegates needed to be reminded of the decisions taken by their predecessors or some forgotten rule needed to be brought back to life. He loved to juggle with the CERN Convention in search of the optimum solution, and made us youngsters discover the rich possibilities hidden in that important document.

But Jean-Marie did not only know the provisions of the CERN Convention by heart, he also had that rare talent, which we tend to attribute to the previous generation, of citing endless lines of prose and poetry, in French, German and English. And then there was his love for the piano, which he played at our office parties, his staff gathered around the instrument, singing with him. These were moments of happiness for Jean-Marie and his team.

His door was always open and he encouraged debate. Age played no role in his appreciation of opinions expressed in front of him. Yet twice per day, he did close his door : in the morning to change from his bikers’ outfit into an impeccable suit, and in the evening, usually the last one to leave, back into his shorts to commence the ride home to his beloved watermill in Prévessin. Entering the main building in his sports clothes in the morning, he was frequently asked whether he knew "where the office of the Legal Counsel could be found" ... only to welcome his confused visitor five minutes later dressed in his suit ...

Upon his retirement from CERN, Jean-Marie took up a variety of positions in Geneva’s public life. He attached particular importance to his work as President of RUIG, an organization promoting links between Geneva’s academic world and its International Organizations. He would come and see us regularly, not to offer advice yet ready to dispense it if we asked him to, or to receive it when he asked us; as a father, yet never paternalistic.

It was during a trip last autumn to Brussels, where he was to present his ideas for a legal framework governing Europe’s research infrastructure to the European Commission, that Jean-Marie felt the first signs of the illness which only half a year later would lead to his demise. He fought that illness with dignity and confident about his place in the hands of God.

Engraved in our memories is our final image of Jean-Marie, seated at his piano a few days before his death. There he sat, impeccably dressed, his tired hands resting on the keyboard, his eyes closed. It was as if he was drawing up the balance of his life in a single moment, and, characteristically, it was a moment of particular beauty.

We, his staff, and through us the Organization as a whole, owe a great debt of gratitude to Jean-Marie. May he rest in peace.

Jean-Marie’s friends of the Legal Service