Arthur Helton – An Appreciation

Our friend and role model, Arthur Helton, died tragically and prematurely on Tuesday, August 19, in the bombing of the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad.  Arthur was 54. He was in Baghdad to assess humanitarian conditions, consistent with his life-long commitment to assuring human rights.  

Arthur was accomplished at many levels. He directed the Refugee Project at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. He founded and directed the Forced Migration Project at the Open Society Institute. When he died, he was the director of peace and conflict studies and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.  He taught immigration and refugee law classes at New York University School of Law and at Central European University in Budapest.  His 2002 book, The Price of Indifference: Refugees and Humanitarian Action in the New Century, synthesized decades of his accumulated wisdom. He also wrote more than 80 scholarly articles. 

Arthur was an unusual combination of macro and micro-focus.  He was a leader in international migration circles, but at precisely the same time would send a colleague a draft of an article to review, ever careful about every detail.

But perhaps the most compelling thing about Arthur Helton was his humility.  He was a gentle and generous soul, the rare person who is renowned but who makes others around him feel important.  He touched the lives of scores of young lawyers, inspiring them to take up the cause of refugees and immigrants.

We draw comfort in the knowledge that Arthur died furthering his life’s work.  His death saddens us but, just as Arthur would have wanted, impels us to honor his legacy with our own unflagging efforts on behalf of human rights and justice.

AILA will post information about a memorial service as soon as it becomes available.

Nadine Wettstein

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03082140.