Jack (jacob) Gaster (1907 -2007)o

Campaigning lawyer for the vulnerable and unrepresented

Jack Gaster, who has died aged 99, was one of the most prominent leftwing British lawyers through several decades from the 1930s: defender of tenants against landlords, trade unionists against big business, legal adviser to almost all the socialist embassies in London, to liberation movements and medical charities in unfashionable places, and a revered role model for many of the next generation of prominent human rights lawyers. His clients as a solicitor ranged from Joe Slovo and Tariq Ali to miners, bus conductors and peace demonstrators


In 1952, Jack had what he described as one of the most horrible experiences of his life. He was part of an international legal team that went to North Korea to examine reports that the US were using bacteriological weapons, against the Geneva conventions. The team - from Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, Brazil and China - travelled seven days on the Trans-Siberian railway to China, and then in Korea only by night to evade the omnipresent US military.

Jack wrote a powerful pamphlet about the "evil things" they saw - millions of insects were dropped carrying plague, cholera and encephalitis, infecting countless peasants. They took many witness statements, and Jack also managed to visit the British prisoner of war camps in the far north and bring messages home. The team's report was not believed. Jack was vilified, and called "a traitor" in the press. It was years before their reports were vindicated.  Read more.o

by Victoria Britain (13 March 207) Gaurdian