GENERAL ASSEMBLY, IN FOUR ROUNDS OF VOTING, ELECTS FIVE MEMBERS TO INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

6 November 2008
GA/10777

GENERAL ASSEMBLY, IN FOUR ROUNDS OF VOTING, ELECTS FIVE MEMBERS TO INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

6 November 2008
General Assembly
GA/10777
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Plenary

39th & 40th Meetings (AM & PM)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY, IN FOUR ROUNDS OF VOTING, ELECTS

 

FIVE MEMBERS TO INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

 

In four rounds of balloting, the General Assembly today elected five judges from an initial pool of eight candidates to the International Court of Justice for nine-year terms that commence on 6 February of 2009.  The election ran independently but concurrently with the Security Council.

The Assembly sent two current judges, Ronny Abraham (France) and Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan), back to theirposts in The Hague by re-electing them, while choosing three new justices, Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade ( Brazil), Christopher Greenwood ( United Kingdom) and Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ( Somalia), who will sit on the 15-member Court for the first time.

The Court’s justices are elected by obtaining an absolute majority of votes in both the Assembly and the Council, without regard to their nationality from among persons of high moral character around the world.  (For Security Council results, see Press Release SC/9494)  Each has the qualifications required in his or her respective country for appointment to the highest judicial office or are juriconsults of recognized competencies in international law.  No two judges can be from the same country and they cannot engage in any other occupation during their term of office.

As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the Court settles legal disputes between States parties and gives advisory opinions to the Organization and its specialized agencies.  The Court is open to all parties to its Statute, which automatically includes all Members of the United Nations.

Mr. Abraham ( France), Mr. Al-Khasawneh ( Jordan), Mr. Cançado Trindade ( Brazil) and Mr. Greenwood ( United Kingdom) were elected by both organs in the first round of balloting.  The pool of candidates dropped to seven when the Republic of the Congo withdrew the candidacy of Sayeman Bula-Bula after the third ballot.  The remaining candidates facing off in the fourth round of balloting against Mr. Yusuf ( Somalia) were Miriam Defensor-Santiago ( Philippines) and Maurice Kamto ( Cameroon).

Serving as Vice-President of the Court since 2006, Mr. Al-Khasawneh of Jordan has sat on the Court for eight years since his election in 6 February 2000.  According to his curriculum vitae, he is also a member of the Council of the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Mr. Abraham of France was elected to his position on 15 February 2005 to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge and former President Gilbert Guillaume.  Before that, he headed the Office of Legal Affairs of the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, acting as legal adviser to the Government in the areas of international public law, European Union law and international human rights law, among other areas.

Among the three newly elected judges, Mr. Cançado Trindade of Brazil has been a professor of Public international law at the University of Brasilia since 1978 and the Diplomatic Academy Rio Branco of Brazil since 1979.  He also lectured at The Hague Academy of International Law.

The United Kingdom judge, Mr. Greenwood, is currently a professor of international law at the London School of Economics.  He was Counsel before the International Court of Justice in Libya v. United Kingdom (Aerial Incident at Lockerbie).

Mr. Yusuf of Somalia is General Counsel of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Judge ad hoc at the International Court of Justice.

In addition to Mr. Abraham and Mr. Al-Khasawneh, the other three justices whose terms would expire in 5 February 2009 are Rosalyn Higgins ( United Kingdom), Gonzalo Parra-Aranguren ( Venezuela) and Raymond Ranjeva ( Madagascar).

The remaining 10 judges sitting on the court include five whose terms will end in 2012: Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone); Hisashi Owada (Japan); Shi Jiuyong (China); Bruno Simma (Germany); and Peter Tomka (Slovakia), and five whose terms expire in 2015: Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco); Thomas Buergenthal (United States); Kenneth Keith (New Zealand); Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor (Mexico); and Leonid Skotnikov (Russian Federation).

Background

The General Assembly met concurrently today with the Security Council to elect five judges to the International Court of Justice for nine-year terms, beginning on 5 February 2009.

The 15-member Court’s jurisdiction covers all questions referred to it by States, and all matters provided for in the United Nations Charter or in treaties or conventions in force.  It consists of 15 judges elected by the Council and the Assembly, voting independently.  They are chosen on the basis of their qualifications, not on the basis of nationality, and care is taken to ensure that the principal legal systems of the world are represented.  No two judges can be from the same country.  Judges serve for a nine-year term and may be re-elected.  They cannot engage in any other occupation during their term of office.

The terms of office of the following five members of the Court will expire on 5 February 2009:  Ronny Abraham (France); Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh ( Jordan); Rosalyn Higgins ( United Kingdom); Gonzalo Parra-Aranguren ( Venezuela); and Raymond Ranjeva ( Madagascar).

According to a note by the Secretary-General containing a list of candidates nominated by national groups (document A/63/187–S/2008/503) the candidates are:  Ronny Abraham (France); Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh (Jordan); Sayeman Bula-Bula ( Democratic Republic of the Congo); Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade ( Brazil); Miriam Defensor-Santiago ( Philippines); Christopher Greenwood ( United Kingdom); Maurice Kamto ( Cameroon); and Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ( Somalia).  The curricula vitae of the nine candidates are contained in document A/63/188-S/2008/504.

According to a memorandum by the Secretary-General (document A/63/186–S/2008/501), those candidates who obtain an absolute majority of votes both in the Council and in the Assembly will be considered elected.  In the General Assembly, 97 votes constitute an absolute majority.  In the Council, eight votes constitutes an absolute majority, and no distinction is made between permanent and non-permanent members.

Electors in the Assembly and the Council will indicate candidates for whom they wish to vote by placing crosses against their names on the ballot papers.  Each elector may vote for not more than five candidates on the first ballot and, on subsequent ballots, if any, for five less the number of candidates who have already obtained absolute majorities.

Only when five candidates have obtained the required majority in one of the organs does the President of that body notify the President of the other as to the names of the five candidates.

Election of Judges

Before the election began, the Assembly was informed that the national group of Colombia had withdrawn its nomination of Rafael Nieto Navia ( Colombia).

First Round

The results of the first round of voting were as follows:

Number of ballot papers:

191

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid ballots:

191

Abstentions:

0

Number of Members voting:

191

Required majority:

97

Number of votes obtained:

Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade ( Brazil)

163

Christopher Greenwood ( United Kingdom)

157

Ronny Abraham ( France)

152

Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh ( Jordan)

151

Miriam Defensor-Santiago ( Philippines)

106

Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ( Somalia)

92

Maurice Kamto ( Cameroon)

81

Sayeman Bula-Bula ( Democratic Republic of the Congo)

23

Having received the required majority of votes in the Assembly, Mr. Abraham ( France), Mr. Al-Khasawneh ( Jordan), Mr. Cançado Trindade ( Brazil) and Mr. Greenwood ( United Kingdom) were elected to serve nine-year terms on the International Court of Justice.

Second Round

The results of the second round of voting were as follows:

Number of ballot papers:

192

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid ballots:

192

Abstentions:

0

Number of Members voting:

192

Required majority:

97

Number of votes obtained:

Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ( Somalia)

74

Miriam Defensor-Santiago ( Philippines)

71

Maurice Kamto ( Cameroon)

44

Sayeman Bula-Bula ( Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

As none of the remaining candidates received the required majority of votes, the Assembly moved to a third ballot.

Third Round

The results of the third round of voting were as follows:

Number of ballot papers:

188

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid ballots:

188

Abstentions:

0

Number of Members voting

188

Required majority:

97

Number of votes obtained:

Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ( Somalia)

90

Miriam Defensor-Santiago ( Philippines)

67

Maurice Kamto ( Cameroon)

29

Sayeman Bula-Bula ( Democratic Republic of the Congo)

2

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said his delegation had decided to withdraw Mr. Bula-Bula’s candidature, thanking all delegations for their support.

On a point of order, the representative of Guinea-Bissau asked under which article of the Rules of Procedure or regulation the Assembly was proceeding. In that context, he referred to rule 150 in the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, which stated that election of Court judges should take place in line with the Court’s Statute.

The Assembly Secretary responded that articles 11 and 12 governing the procedure did not refer to the withdrawal process.  In keeping with the Assembly’s long-standing practice, the withdrawal was in accordance with article 5 of the Court Statute.  Since Mr. Bula-Bula had been nominated by one national group, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the withdrawal was in accordance with General Assembly practice.

The representative of Guinea-Bissau responded that he had not wanted to challenge the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s decision.  He asked the Secretary to read article 12.

The Secretary asked the representative of Guinea-Bissau to clarify which article he had been asked to read.

The representative of Guinea-Bissau read article 12 himself, explaining that the Court Statute stated that, if, after the third meeting, there were still unfilled seats, a joint conference could be created, which consisted of 6 members, three appointed by the General Assembly and three appointed by Security Council.  Article 12 did not refer to the sovereign decision by a State to withdraw its candidate.

The Assembly Secretary, referring to article 11 of the Court Statute, responded that, after the first meeting, a second, and if necessary a third meeting, could take place.  The General Assembly was now in its second meeting, not its third.  During the first meeting, there had been more than the necessary number of candidates that had fulfilled the absolute majority.  The second meeting had then been started, and all other meetings were “resumed meetings”.  The Assembly was in the second meeting.

Taking the floor in a point of order, the representative of Cameroon said he had not heard the reply to the question asked.  He said that, this afternoon, the Assembly was in the third session.  It had been completed, and it was in a situation described by Guinea-Bissau.

Responding, the Secretary clarified that, in accordance with article 10, paragraph 1, of Court Statute, those obtaining an absolute majority in both the Assembly and the Council should be considered elected.  Pursuant to rule 151 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, if the number was less than five, the Assembly would proceed to a second ballot to fulfil the remaining vacancies, until a majority was reached.  At a meeting in 1960, it had been decided that ballots should be unrestricted.

He also pointed out that cases in Security Council had come up in which more than five candidates had received an absolute majority.  The same had happened in the Assembly.  In such cases, both organs had decided to hold a new ballot until only the required number of candidates had received absolute majority.

The General Assembly’s choice of four candidates had occurred in one meeting, he explained.  Then, an exchange between Presidents had been made, and those four candidates that had achieved absolute majority in the Security Council and General Assembly had been elected.  The meeting had then been closed.  The next meeting –- the 40th meeting -- had been convened, in parallel between the Assembly and the Council.  The Council had concluded its meeting; the Assembly had not, as none of the candidates had received the absolute majority.  As such, the Assembly was now proceeding with that same meeting.  A third meeting would be held if no absolute majority was received.

The representative of Guinea-Bissau said he was asking a simple question: was the Assembly in its second or the third meeting?  He said that rule 151 of the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure outlined what to do.

The Assembly Vice-President said that he thought, on the basis of the Secretary’s explanations, that the representative of Guinea-Bissau was satisfied. The representative of Cameroon had asked a question, to which the Secretary had responded, and he had considered the matter answered.

The representative of the Philippines said that a distinction must be made between meetings and ballots.  He asked whether the Assembly meeting was governed by articles 11 and 12 of the Court’s Statute.  Results showing four candidates with absolute majority could not be considered binding, as balloting must continue until absolute majority was reached for all five candidates

The meeting was then suspended.

Resuming, the Secretary made a final clarification, saying that the Assembly had started the day with the 39th plenary meeting.  Voting results had showed that five candidates had received absolute majority.  The Security Council had also held its meeting.  After achieving results in both organs, letters from both Presidents had been exchanged, after which it was learned that only four of the candidates had been selected by both the Assembly and the Council.

He said the General Assembly President had then announced that the Assembly would proceed with a second meeting.  The 39th meeting had then been adjourned, and the 40th meeting immediately opened.  The same had been done by the Council.

Another ballot had ensued, with none of the candidates receiving the required absolute majority -- 97 votes -- though in the Council, the result had been conclusive.  To match results, he said, the General Assembly must continue with its same meeting, and continue the balloting.  The meeting would continue until one candidate received absolute majority, after which point, the Presidents would exchange letters.  If the names matched, the elections would be over.  If not, the Assembly would begin a third meeting, in line with article 11.  If, after the third meeting, results were inconclusive, then article 12 would be implemented.

The Vice-President then announced the start of the voting process.

The representative of Cameroon said he had two issues, explaining first that the current meeting could not be the same session.  Further, he had asked for the Legal Adviser to weigh in so that the discussion would be recorded verbatim.

The Secretary responded that a State’s withdrawal of a candidate did not mean that one meeting was closed and another was opened.  If a State withdrew its candidature, all the national groups that had recommended the candidate should support that withdrawal.  In the case of the entrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since the national group was the only one supporting the candidature, it could withdraw Mr. Bula-Bula from the elections.

The representative of Cameroon again asked that the Legal Adviser explain the procedure so that it would be recorded.

The Secretary clarified that, to do so, the Assembly would need to again suspend the meeting.

The representative of Guinea-Bissau asked whether the Secretariat could satisfy the request at hand.  He then read rule 151, which states: “Any meeting of the General Assembly held in pursuance of the Statute of the International Court of Justice for the purpose of electing members of the Court, shall continue until as many candidates as are required for all the seats to be filled have obtained in one or more ballots an absolute majority.”

The Secretary responded that the view of the Secretary-General’s Legal Counsel was reflected in document A/63/186, which had been cited by Member States.  The Assembly was following previous practice, and the Secretary-General’s memorandum outlined that.

The representative of Cameroon said he was not satisfied, but would allow the Assembly to proceed.  He had simply asked for the Legal Adviser to provide information.

The representative of Benin wondered whether the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s candidate had actually been authorized to withdraw.

The Secretary responded that any State had a right to withdraw its candidature.  In this case, the candidate had received support from its national group, meaning that the Assembly could proceed with elections.  The name of the withdrawn candidate had been eliminated from the ballot.

The Assembly then proceeded to a fourth ballot.

Fourth Round

The results of the fourth round of voting were as follows:

Number of ballot papers:

189

Number of invalid ballots:

0

Number of valid ballots:

189

Abstentions:

0

Number of Members voting

189

Required majority:

97

Number of votes obtained:

Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf ( Somalia)

116

Miriam Defensor-Santiago ( Philippines)

52

Maurice Kamto ( Cameroon)

21

Having received the required majority of votes, Mr. Yusuf was elected to the Court.

After congratulating the elected judges, the representative of Cameroon said he wanted to ensure the record reflected his repeated requests for the Legal Adviser to come to the Assembly and interpret the rules that had governed the meeting, yet that official had not appeared.  He also noted that the Security Council had not had the same list of candidates as the Assembly after one national group had withdrawn its entrant during the Assembly’s procedures.  The Council should have had the same list.  He wanted these remarks recorded in the minutes so the same difficulties would not be encountered in future meetings.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.