Professor Vladimir Kopal (1928-2014) devoted his academic and professional career to the promotion of international law, namely law of the sea and space law. He was deeply valued as the General Counsel of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and Vice-President of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), and member and Legal Counsel of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). Professor Vladimir Kopal was Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, West Bohemian University in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
As a delegate of his country, and later as an UN officer, he participated in many sessions of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and its subcommittees, starting in 1962.
He was Chairman of the COPUOS Legal Subcommittee between 1999 and 2003. In 2008, he was re-elected Chairman of the subcommittee for another biennium 2008-2009.
During the 1980s, he served as Principal Officer of the United Nations in New York and Secretary to the COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and from 1983 through 1988 as Chief of the UN Outer Space Affairs Divisions. He participated in all the UN Conferences on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (1968, 1982, and 1999) and also in the UN General Assembly five-year review of the implementation of the Third UN Conference (2004) recommendations. He lectured and chaired UN workshops on space law and other UN meetings. As a delegate of his country, Professor Kopal also participated in the Seabed Committee and between 1974 and 1980 – in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.
Prior to his admission to the United Nations, he was chief of the Department of International Law and Organizations in the Institute of Law of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and Professor of International Law at Charles University, Prague. He was a founding member and scientific secretary of the
Commission on Astronautics of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (1959-1980).
Professor Kopal was conciliator and arbitrator under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and also held different positions in non-governmental organisations. He was member of several foreign and international societies dealing with space matters and international law, including the IAF, IISL and IAA as described above; Foreign Associated Member of the Air and Space Academy of France; Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); honorary member of the German Society for Air and Space Flights Liliental-Oberth; member of the French Society for International Law; headquarters member of the International Law Association, and member of its Space Law Committee; Individual Associated Member, COSPAR; member of the European Centre for Space Law; and member of the International Council of Environmental Law.
Professor Kopal lectured on general international law, law of international organisations, space law and the law of the sea at several universities in his home country and abroad, at many international conferences and other institutions. He is author of more than 250 monographs, articles and other papers. Recently, he has become co-author, together with Professor I.H.Ph. Diederiks-Verschoor, of a manual entitled “An Introduction to Space Law” (Third Revised Edition, Kluwer Law International, 2008).
Professor Kopal received an IAF award for his dedication to the development of international cooperation in space activities for peaceful purposes; a certificate of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) as distinguished author and participant in the development of international space law; a golden medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences for his contributions to the progressive development of international law; and a golden medal of the Hermann Oberth Society for the development of international cooperation in space activities.