The longest-serving Lib Dem peer and veteran human rights campaigner, Lord Avebury, has died at the age of 87.
Born Eric Lubbock, he became Liberal MP for Orpington in 1962 when he won a by-election with a huge 22% swing from the Conservatives.
He held the seat for eight years, moving to the Lords in 1971 when he inherited the title of Baron Avebury.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron paid tribute to a "true Liberal", "great campaigner" and "committed internationalist".
14 February 2016
Dear Lady Avebury,
I have just heard that Eric passed away today and would like to offer you and your family sincere condolences not only on behalf of myself and my wife Zaira but also on behalf of the Abkhazians, whose cause, like that of many other threatened minorities around the world, he took up and tirelessly championed over the course of several years. The loss of his voice, indomitable spirit and simple human kindness will be sorely missed.
I personally shared many a phonecall with him over how best to keep the Abkhazian question alive and properly evaluated in our corridors of power, especially in the face of overwhelming Georgian propaganda, and I recall the last time we spoke, on which occasion he told me how bleak his prospects were. I shall always treasure the kind invitation to attend his 80th birthday celebration, followed by the opportunity to be entertained by you both in Flodden Road.
It was an honour to have known Eric and to collaborate with him on behalf of Abkhazia, where he will always be remembered with affection, gratitude and love.
Emeritus Professor (London University)
Honorary Consul for the Republic of Abkhazia in the UK
Dear Lindsay, Lady Avebury,
Since sending my letter of condolence I have received the following messages from Abkhazia with requests that I forward them to you. In two cases I have added a translation from the Russian.
With best wishes,
From Dr. Vjacheslav Chirikba, Abkhazia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Very sad news indeed! Lord Avebury was a true friend of Abkhazia, as of every freedom-loving nation. I recollect with warmth our meetings and his determination to make our case heard in the UK and beyond. This is a great loss for all of us here! Please give my most sincere condolences to Lord Averbury's family.
From Ms. Arda Inal-Ipa, Director of the Abkhazian NGO Centre for Humanitarian Programmes:
Very sad news. In the most difficult times Lord Avebury gave us an example of independence of judgment and objectivity. We very much appreciate the fact that Lord Avebury honestly dealt with the problems of Abkhazia. Cherished memory!
From Ms. Liana Kvarchelia, of the Abkhazian NGO Centre for Humanitarian Programmes:
Such sad news about Lord Avebury. He impressed me so much during our first meeting back in 1996 and since then we had several meetings at the Houses of Parliament. A person of exceptional integrity and very sensitive to people's problems and needs. He was one of the rare persons who could confront the mainstream position on Abkhazia. This was extremely important for Abkhazia, and we all value Lord Avebury's principled position.
I recall how we had lunch with him at the Houses of Parliament once. He was carrying a tray with food for me. He told me then that I could tell my friends that I had been waited by a lord!
Please send my condolences to his family.
From Dr. Stanislav Lakoba, Historian, One-time Speaker of Abkhazia’s Parliament, and Former Secretary of its Security Council:
Очень печальное известие получил от Вас и очень жаль лорда Эвбери, который посетил Абхазию сразу после войны, в весьма непростое время. С огромным вниманием Эрик Эвбери отнесся к нашей судьбе, посетил и Сухум, и Ткварчал, и Гал... Помню мы побывали тогда вместе с Джонатаном Коэном в горном селе на свадьбе Эрика Берзения, и лорд был там самым почетным гостем. Есть даже фотография того времени. Помню, как загорались его глаза, когда при свете факелов внесли целиком зажаренных козлов, и он очень ловко отрезал абхазским ножом хрустящую корочку прозрачного мяса. Джонатан тогда сказал, что будучи вегетарианцем, не может себе этого позволить, а кто-то из абхазов, услышав эти слова, сказал, что козел тоже был вегетарианцем. Когда лорду Эвбери перевели слова, он рассмеялся.
Если есть такая возможность, передайте близким, жене Эрика Эвбери, самые искренние соболезнования из Абхазии.
‘I have received from you the very sad news, and what a great pity it is about Lord Avebury, who visited Abkhazia directly after the war at a most complex time. Addressing our life-and-death issues with great attentiveness, he travelled to Sukhum, Tqvarchal and Gal…I recall at that time we were together with Jonathan Cohen in a mountain-village at the wedding of Erik Berzenia, and Lord Avebury was the most honoured guest there. We even have photos from that time. I remember how his eyes lit up when they brought in whole spit-roasted goats and he most deftly carved off with an Abkhazian knife the hard crust of the succulent meat. Jonathan then said that, being a vegetarian, this was something he simply couldn’t allow himself, but one of the Abkhazians, hearing these words, remarked that the goat had also been a vegetarian. When these words were translated for Lord Avebury, he burst out laughing.
‘If such a possibility exists, please pass on to Eric Avebury’s nearest and widow the most sincere condolences from Abkhazia.’
From Mr. Sokrat Dzhindzholia, One-time Speaker of Abkhazia’s Parliament:
Только что открыл почту и узнал из твоего письма печальную новость о смерти лорда Эрика Эвбери. Очень больно. Ушел из жизни человек, сделавший так много для Абхазии, да и не только для Абхазии, - ведь он был защитником всех угнетенных. Мне показалось, что вместе с ним ушла часть нашей истории. Все, кто имел счастье быть знакомым с ним,- а я отношу себя к ним, - будут всегда с благодарностью помнить его. Дорогой Джордж, спасибо тебе за твое сердечное соболезнование вдове Эрика от имени Абхазии, здесь его помнят и глубоко уважают. Он был одним из тех совсем немногих, кто в очень сложное и критическое время поднял голос в защиту Абхазии. Конечно, в этом есть и твоя заслуга.
Мы со Славой переговорили и хотели бы просить тебя, если представится возможность, передать вдове Эвбери наши глубокие соболезнования.
‘I have just opened my mail and learnt from your letter the sad news of the death of Lord Eric Avebury. Very painful blow. A person has departed this life who did so much for Abkhazia and not only for Abkhazia – truly he a defender of all the oppressed. It seems to me that part of our history has gone with him. Everyone who had the privilege of being acquainted with him (and I include myself) will always be grateful to have known him. Dear George, thank you for your heartfelt expression of condolence to Eric’s widow in the name of Abkhazia, where he is remembered and deeply respected. He was one of the very few who, at an extremely difficult and critical moment, raised his voice in defence of Abkhazia…I have spoken with Slava [Chirikba], and we would like to ask you, if you can, to convey to Eric’s widow our sincere condolence.’