Erica Lane-Tamuza had rich career in international law

Erica Lane-Tamuza had rich career in international law

Erica Lane-Tamuza led an adventurous life, said her father, Nicholas Lane.

It’s no wonder why. She traveled the world, studied several languages, played a mean game of field hockey, and once decided to dye her hair purple.

A believer in justice and human rights, she also became an international attorney, an expert on administrative law pertaining to tribunals, and a legal officer with the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, Netherlands.

“It fits into a pattern of life where she was very concerned for other people,” Lane said. “Some of that may date to a trip we took to the Soviet Union in the ’80s, visiting leading refuseniks and kids her age. She was 12 or 13 at the time. I think that made a very profound impact on her in two ways; primarily, their lack of the freedom that she enjoyed, but also languages; she made the effort to learn the Cyrillic alphabet before she left home.”

Lane-Tamuza died suddenly Friday, June 1, in The Hague. She was 37.

Born in London, Lane-Tamuza was a graduate of The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, Georgetown University, the University of Pittsburgh Law School and Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. While studying in Budapest for a master’s degree in human rights law, she met her future husband Kristaps Tamuzs, also an attorney. They had one son together, Oskars.

The tribunal on Lebanon was established by the U.N. Security Council to investigate and assess responsibility for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Formally set up in 2009, the tribunal has already issued indictments in the case, although the defendants will probably have to be tried in absentia.

“She was involved in all the legal issues involving the administration of the tribunal,” Lane said. “Among other things, she was apparently setting up witness and victim protection programs, and developing the administrative law of the tribunal, which is a new and still evolving field.

“She was with the Special Tribunal before there was a Special Tribunal,” he noted. “When she worked for a time with the U.N. in New York, she was part of the advance team that essentially wrote the ground rules for the institution.

“She was very highly regarded by her colleagues,” Lane added. “Sir David Baragwanath, the president of the tribunal, called her ‘a brilliant lawyer.’ ”

In some ways, she was the institutional memory of the body because she was one of only two members of the advance team who was still there.

Lane-Tamuza studied Russian, French, Czech and Hebrew. Also, following a summer school program in Switzerland to improve her French, she returned home fairly well versed in Arabic. Her language skills served her well, as she came into contact with colleagues from around the globe in her work with the tribunal, and in a previous position she had held at the International Criminal Court.

Early in her career, she had a taste of corporate law, but that type of work didn’t interest her. Instead, she joined an offshoot of the Open Society Foundation, supporting independent media in Eastern Europe. And following 9/11, she did legal work on behalf of firefighters and first responders. It set the tone for her life’s work.

“Her’s was a rich life in many ways,” Lane said, “but the thing she was most proud of was her son.”

In addition to her father, her mother Eileen, husband and son, Lane-Tamuza is survived by her brother, Adam (Rebecca) Lane, and by in-laws, uncles, aunts, niece, nephews and cousins.

Services and interment were private.

Contributions may be made to The Ellis School, 6245 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15206. 

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at

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