President, Delegates Say Increasing Caseload, Number of States Accepting Compulsory Jurisdiction Demonstrate Confidence in Judicial Body
An increase in the number of cases deferred to the International Court of Justice only reaffirmed Member States’ faith in the judicial body, the General Assembly heard today, as several speakers called on those who had not yet done so to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction without reservations.
General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) said that the judicial body had a significant role in maintaining international peace and security, adding that while its decisions were binding only to the parties to a case, its jurisprudence had far-reaching impact. “[The Court] sends a powerful message across the world,” he said. It also worked to strengthen the rule of law, not only in the sphere of inter-State relations but also within the United Nations system. He emphasized: “The vision outlined in the United Nations Charter cannot be achieved without the rule of law.” While much had changed since the Court’s establishment in 1968, it remained as relevant as ever, with a high level of activity and interest in the entity’s work, as well as the encouraging trend of States accepting its compulsory jurisdiction.
Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, presented its report covering the period between 1 August 2016 to 31 July 2017 (document A/72/4). Noting that the Court had 19 contentious cases and one advisory proceeding pending before it, he said that cases focused on myriad themes including land and maritime disputes and application of international treaties. The Court — whose cost represented less than 1 per cent of the United Nations regular budget — was “without a doubt an extremely cost-effective means of settling disputes peacefully”. While budgetary requests for 2018‑2020 had increased slightly, they were vital to ensuring the sound administration of international justice and enabling the Court to fulfil its mandate.
In the ensuing discussion, Brazil’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, said it was important to recognize the Court’s need for adequate resources. The high level of activity, diverse geographical spread of cases and variety of subject matters addressed by the Court had demonstrated its vitality, he said, adding: “It also reminds us of the heavy demands placed on the Court and the efforts it has been making to keep up with its increasing workload.”
The representative of France said that since the presentation of last year’s report, six new cases had been brought before the Court, which showed the confidence of States in its work and their conviction that its decisions would contribute to the calming of relations between them.
The speaker for Cyprus, recalling that her country was among the 72 States, which had made a declaration recognizing as compulsory the Court’s jurisdiction, called on all States to recognize its jurisdiction in line with Article 36 of the Statute, thus promoting and facilitating its ability to maintain and promote the rule of law worldwide.
The representative of Peru, noting that many of the Court’s cases had involved Latin American and Caribbean cases, underscored the importance of ensuring the presence of Latin American judges on the Court. Bolivia’s representative, agreed, adding that Spanish should be adopted as one of the Court’s official languages. All the world’s judicial system should be represented, he said, stressing that the Court must cast aside the old “Eurocentric” vision of justice.
Several speakers called for the withdrawal of reservations, with the representative of the Netherlands voicing concern about the recent direction of more, rather than less, reservations. As host country of the Court, the Netherlands recently renewed its own declaration accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction and was focused on eliminating limitations to the Court’s jurisdiction in contentious cases involving the country.
Member States said it was important to defer issues to the Court as much as possible, with the representative of the Philippines urging the Security Council to make greater use of the Court as a source of advisory opinions and the interpretation of relevant norms of international law.
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of the Court’s 1996 advisory opinion on the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”, which had concluded that there existed an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control.
Speakers also stressed States’ obligation to respect the decisions of the Court, with the representative of Ukraine saying that the Russian Federation continued to neglect its duty to implement a Court order issued in April regarding application of the international conventions on suppressing terrorism financing and on eliminating racial discrimination. The Russian Federation’s speaker replied that the Court had not supported any of the provisional measures requested by Ukraine on the matter; the Russian Federation, he stressed, respected all of the Court’s rulings.
The representative of Romania said that as a State which had seized the Court in the past with a maritime boundary case and which had subsequently accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, her country was well positioned to attest to the Court’s fairness.
Several speakers commended the Court for making its reports available on its website, with the representative of Singapore welcoming the decision to redesign the site to improve its usability and expand a broader understanding of the Court’s jurisprudence.
The Assembly also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Secretary-General’s trust fund to assist States in the settlement of disputes through the International Court of Justice (document A/72/345).
In other matters, the Assembly decided to include an additional sub-item entitled “Confirmation of the appointment of members of the Investments Committee” under heading I, Organizational, administrative and other matters and to allocate the sub-item to the Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative). Further, it decided to make sub-item “Confirmation of the appointment of members of Investments Committee” sub-item (j) of agenda item 115 on the agenda of the current session. It decided to include the item “Observer status for the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the General Assembly” under heading I and allocate that item to the Sixth Committee (Legal).
Further, the General Assembly decided to include two additional items — namely, “Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations: cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation” and “Impact of exponential technological change on sustainable development and peace” — under heading I and to consider them in a plenary meeting.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), Canada (also speaking for Australia and New Zealand), Hungary (also speaking on behalf of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland), Japan, Costa Rica, Germany, Chile, Thailand, Guatemala, Mexico, Sudan, Paraguay, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, United States, Senegal, Greece, Uruguay, Cuba and the Observer State of Palestine.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 30 October, to consider the annual report of the International Criminal Court.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, underscored the International Court of Justice’s contribution to the cause of peace, noting that one of the United Nations founding objectives had been to establish conditions under which justice and respect for international law could be maintained. The Court had a major role to play in that regard, he said, stressing that while its decisions were binding only to the parties to a case, its jurisprudence had far-reaching impact. “[The Court] sends a powerful message across the world,” he said, adding that it also played an important role in the prevention of conflict through exercising its functions in the peaceful settlement of disputes. It also worked to strengthen the rule of law, not only in the sphere of inter-State relations but also within the United Nations system. “The vision outlined in the United Nations Charter cannot be achieved without the rule of law,” he said, adding that it underpinned all the Organization’s efforts, from peace and security to sustainable development and human rights. While much had changed since the Court’s establishment in 1968, it remained as relevant as ever, as demonstrated by the report being presented today. Indeed, the report once again outlined a high level of activity and interest in the Court’s work, as well as the encouraging trend of accepting its compulsory jurisdiction.
RONNY ABRAHAM, President of the International Court of Justice, said that since 1 August 2016 the Court had up to 19 contentious cases and one advisory proceeding pending before it. In the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya), he recalled that on 28 August 2014 Somalia instated proceedings against Kenya before the Court, requesting the latter to determine, based on international law, the complete course of the single maritime boundary dividing all the maritime areas pertaining to Somalia and to Kenya in the Indian Ocean. In its judgment dated 2 February 2017, the Court first examined Kenya’s objection concerning the jurisdiction of the Court. In its objection, Kenya also asserted that the Memorandum of Understanding constituted an agreement to have recourse to another method of settlement, and added that the relevant provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on dispute settlement had also amounted to an agreement on the method of settlement.
The Court concluded that the Memorandum of Understanding was a valid treaty which entered into force upon signature and was binding on the Parties under international law, he said. The Court also concluded that Kenya’s preliminary objection to the Court’s jurisdiction had to be rejected. The Court then turned to the second preliminary objection raised by Kenya, which concerned the admissibility of the application, he said, noting that the Court observed that the violation of Somalia by a treaty at issue in the case did not per se affect the admissibility of its application. The Court also found that the preliminary objection to the admissibility of Somalia’s application had to be rejected. By an order dated 2 February 2017, the Court fixed 18 December 2017 as the time-limit for the filing of the counter-memorial of Kenya in the case. The proceedings were therefore currently pending.
During the reporting period, the Court also handed down three orders for the indication of the provisional measures, he continued. In the case concerning Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France), Equatorial Guinea sought the Court’s jurisdiction on two instruments, namely the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. In its order, the Court first examined whether the jurisdiction clauses contained in those instruments conferred upon it prima facie jurisdiction to rule on the merits. Having found that it did not have prima facie jurisdiction to entertain the alleged violations of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Court addressed only Equatorial Guinea’s alleged right to “the inviolability of the premises of its diplomatic mission”. The Court indicated that France should — pending a final decision in the case — take all measures at its disposal to ensure that the premises presented as housing for the diplomatic mission of Equatorial Guinea in Paris enjoy treatment equivalent to that required by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
He then turned to several new cases before the Court, including the case concerning Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation). In that case, Ukraine contended that the Russian Federation had failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the financing of terrorism in Ukraine by public and private actors in the Russian Federation and that it had repeatedly refused to investigate, prosecute, or extradite offenders within its territory that had been brought to its attention by Ukraine. In its order, the Court stated that it was fully aware of the context in which the case had been brought before it and it also recalled that the case was limited in scope. The Court then turned to the rights whose protection was sought. It therefore found that, in order to protect the rights claimed by Ukraine, the Russian Federation should, in accordance with its obligations under the anti-racial discrimination Convention, refrain from any action that would impose limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions.
Turning to the Jadhav Case (India v. Pakistan), the Court found that it had prima facie jurisdiction under article I of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The Court decided that Pakistan should take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Indian national Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav was not executed pending the final decision in the proceedings. Pakistan must inform the Court of all the measures taken to implement that order. The Court also decided that until it had given its final decision, it should remain seized of the subject matter of the order.
On the dispute regarding Maritime Delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), the Court decided to join the proceedings in the two cases on 2 February 2017. The case was currently under deliberation. He then turned to the case concerning Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore), recalling Malaysia’s stance on the proceedings. The Court decided in its order dated 14 July 2017 that the United Nations and its Member States were likely to be able to furnish information on the question submitted to the Court for an advisory opinion. It fixed 30 January 2018 as the time-limit within which written statements on the question may be presented to the Court. Additionally, 16 April 2018 was set as the time-limit within which States and organizations may submit written comments on the other written statements, in accordance with Article 66, of the Statute.
Turning to the budgetary requests for the biennium 2018‑2020 which the Court submitted to the Assembly, he said that the resources as requested by the Court had increased slightly. Those resources were vital to ensure the sound administration of international justice and to enable the Court to fulfil its mandate. The Court’s costs represented less than 1 per cent of the United Nations regular budget, he added, emphasizing that the Court was “without a doubt an extremely cost-effective means of settling disputes peacefully”. The Assembly’s support was particularly crucial in ensuring that the Court was provided with the means to implement an enterprise resource planning system during the next biennium. That would help facilitate and streamline the flow of information between all areas of activity within the United Nations Secretariat. The revised budget estimates required for its implementation had been communicated to the Secretariat by the Court. The increase in the number of requests for the indication of provisional measures showed that States did not hesitate to turn to the Court in times of crisis, when their rights were at risk of irreparable harm.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the Non-Aligned Movement, said the International Court of Justice — the principal judicial organ of the United Nations — was the preeminent mechanism for the peaceful settlement of disputes at the international level. That “World Court” was also an integral part of the United Nations Charter, he said, welcoming that States continued to refer matters to it, including those relating to “weighty political issues”. Noting that the Court had drawn significantly on the principle of prevention — enunciating the Court’s earlier decisions in The Corfu Channel case and the advisory opinion on “The Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons” — he reaffirmed the importance of the latter, which had concluded there existed an obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects.
Two decades later, he said, the Court had once again taken up issues related to nuclear weapons, dismissing three cases submitted by the Marshall Islands on Obligations Concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament. Urging the General Assembly to keep in mind the closeness of the votes on those cases, he recalled that, among other things, the Court had also taken up the Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. Assembly resolution 71/292 calling for that opinion had been adopted by an overwhelming majority, testifying to the membership’s great interest in the Court’s work, he said, adding that that opinion would assist the United Nations in its functions relating to decolonization.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed and underscored the group’s principled position concerning the peaceful settlement of disputes and the non-use or threat of use of force. The Court had a significant role to play in promoting and encouraging the peaceful settlement of international disputes in accordance with the relevant statutes of the Charter — especially Articles 33 and 94 — and the Statute of the Court. Noting that the Security Council had not sought an advisory opinion from the Court since 1970, he urged the Council to make greater use of it as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, including as a source of interpretation of relevant international law.
Also inviting the Assembly, along with the other organs and specialized agencies of the United Nations that were duly authorized, to request advisory opinions on legal questions arising within the scope of their work, he went on to reaffirm the importance of the Court’s 1996 advisory opinion on the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”, which had concluded there existed an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control. Additionally, he called on Israel, the occupying Power, to fully respect the Court’s 2004 advisory opinion entitled, “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, and called on all States to respect and ensure respect for the provisions therein.
Mr. KESSEL (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, noted that disputes had been submitted to the Court by a variety of States from several regions. That diversity, along with the wide-ranging, significant, complex subject matter under deliberation and pending before the Court bore testament to the importance Member States attributed to its role in resolving international disputes. The willingness of States to turn to the Court to resolve differences in views must be welcomed as an important means of ensuring peaceful settlement of disputes. His group’s confidence in the Court was reflected in its acceptance of the entity’s compulsory jurisdiction. Wider acceptance of such jurisdiction would allow the Court to fulfil its role more effectively by reducing jurisdictional disputes. The Court could then move more quickly to focus its attention on the substance of disputes. He urged Member States that had not done so to deposit a declaration of acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction with the Secretary-General.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, said that the Court’s heavy workload and the wide range of subjects it had ruled on confirmed its success. The Court was putting forth an impressive effort to cope with its demanding workload. It was also important for Member States to recognize the Court’s need for adequate resources. Although the Court was a key player in the international jurisdictional field, there were other international courts and tribunals whose significance should be emphasized. The obligation of States to settle their disputes in a peaceful manner and the need of sovereign consent to resort to such mechanisms were sometimes hard to balance, although it was clear that the Court was an institutional pillar of international society.
Speaking in his national capacity, he noted that the Court was at the core of prevention efforts, which were inextricably linked to the peaceful settlement of disputes. For more than 70 years, the Court had helped crystallize and clarify international law in areas as diverse as the law of the sea, human rights, treaty interpretation and the use of force, among others. Through its judgements and advisory opinions, it upheld the principles of the Charter and contributed to ensuring the primacy of law in international affairs. The high level of activity, diverse geographical spread of cases and variety of subject matters addressed by the Court in its latest report demonstrated its renewed vitality, he said, adding: “It also reminds us of the heavy demands placed on the Court and the efforts it has been making to keep up with its increasing workload.”
RÉKA VARGA (Hungary), also speaking on behalf of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, said that from 2016 to 2017 the Court had 16 pending contentious cases regarding the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The recent cases provided a unique opportunity to elaborate on international law regarding territorial and maritime disputes, application of treaty obligations, and use of force and protection of the environment. The Court’s global role as an efficient forum of peaceful dispute settlement was successful, as evidenced by the pending cases between States from almost all continents. She noted that a regular debate at the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law of the Council of Europe remained part of that process.
The international community should fully establish the jurisdiction of the Court, as it would increase the likelihood that States would submit their legal disputes, she said. She therefore encouraged States and international organizations to include provisions in future multilateral treaties that could serve as a basis for the Court’s jurisdiction in disputes concerning the application or interpretation of the treaty in question. She also encouraged States to refrain from making reservations to clauses of multilateral treaties. In closing, she recalled that compliance with the Court’s decisions, judgements and orders were fundamental prerequisites for an effective international justice system.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), underscoring the Court’s fundamental role as the United Nations principal judicial organ as well as its important contributions to the international rule of law, said its delivery of advisory opinions was another critical function. Recalling that the Assembly had once again urged States that had not yet done so to recognize the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction — as Peru and many others had already done — he appealed to the Assembly to continue to monitor and respond to the Court’s needs. Spotlighting the wide geographical distribution of the cases before it, he said many of the Court’s cases had involved Latin American and Caribbean cases, including a recent one between Peru and Chile. He also underlined the importance of ensuring the presence of Latin American judges on the Court, ensuring that all the world’s judicial systems were represented. The Court must also be supported in its efforts to adjust its procedures to the increasing workload and complexity of the cases before it, he said, adding that Peru — which would soon take its seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council — fully recognized the importance of the Court.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said the Court continued to discharge its duties to the “highest standard”, including through its demanding and diverse workload. Two cases involving Singapore had been referred to the Court by Malaysia, pertaining to the Court’s 2008 judgement in the case concerning sovereignty over the Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge islets. Underlining the indispensable nature of the international rule of law, including the maintenance of international peace and security and the preservation of friendly relations, he said the Court provided guidance on important international issues and fulfilled a key function in facilitating the Charter obligation to settle disputes peacefully. Welcoming its continuing drive to innovate and ensure that its procedures were responsive to the needs of the parties coming before it, he noted with interest the appointment of two experts in the exercise of its power under Article 50 of the Statute, whose reports had been made available on the Court’s website. That site had been redesigned to improve its usability and expand a broader understanding of the Court’s jurisprudence, he added.
MASAHIRO MIKAMI (Japan) commended the Court for the role it had played over the past 71 years in the peaceful settlement of international disputes and the promotion of the rule of law. As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the Court had delivered many important judgements and advisory opinions. Nevertheless, there was an increasing demand for legal solutions on complex legal and factual questions. Over the past decade, approximately three to four cases per year had been instituted before the Court, and 17 were currently pending. That was in sharp contrast to the cold war period and demonstrated that countries were increasingly turning to the Court for the peaceful settlement of disputes. At the same time, there were a number of other peaceful ways to settle disputes, he noted, including arbitration tribunals, international investment tribunals, and the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In that context, he encouraged international courts and tribunals to help ensure the consistency of jurisprudence so as to avoid the fragmentation of international law.
ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica) said that the Court’s workload remained heavy with 19 contentious cases and an advisory opinion before it. The peaceful settlement of disputes was crucial, and the responsibility of the United Nations and its Member States. The United Nations must ensure that the Court objectively addressed cases submitted to it. Costa Rica commended the Assembly for allocating resources to the Court. He said his country respected the rule of law and underscored that it was fundamental that all States abided by their international obligations. He commended the Court for showing special interest in young people and for promoting their acquaintance with and knowledge of international law. Costa Rica had accepted the Court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that the Court must work hard to resolve disputes entrusted to it.
ALINA OROSAN (Romania) said her country looked up to the Court as one of the pillars of the supremacy of the rule of law in international relations. By settling disputes between States and by clarifying and refining the norms of international law, the Court greatly contributed to world peace and stability. Many situations of dispute had been halted in their tracks by the Court through a judicious application of the norms of international law. In that context, the Court needed to remain an attractive tool for international dispute resolution. The Court played a major role in the peaceful resolution of international disagreements, as it was called upon to settle disputes of the utmost complexity and importance. As a State which had seized the Court in the past with a maritime boundary case and which had subsequently accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, Romania was well positioned to attest to the Court’s fairness.
CHRISTINA HIOUREAS (Cyprus) said the Court’s consistently high workload demonstrated the confidence and respect that States had in it. Cyprus had expressed its own profound respect on 18 November 2016 when it officially presented the Court’s President with a replica of a limestone head found at the sanctuary of Aphrodite in Arsos, Cyprus. Recalling that her country was among the 72 States which had made a declaration recognizing as compulsory the Court’s jurisdiction, she called on all States to recognize its jurisdiction in line with Article 36 of the Statute, thus promoting and facilitating its ability to maintain and promote the rule of law worldwide.
FRANÇOIS ALABRUNE (France) said the report on the Court’s recent work bore witness to its continued importance in the peaceful settlement of disputes between States. France was committed to supporting the Court as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, he said, noting an increase in its workload in recent decades. Since the presentation of last year’s report, six new cases had been brought before the Court, which showed the confidence of States in its work and their conviction that its decisions would contribute to the calming of relations between them. That influence was also demonstrated by references to the Court’s case law by other international courts, he said, also spotlighting the important fact that all the world’s main legal systems were reflected in the membership of its judges.
MICHAEL KOCH (Germany), reiterating his country’s commitment to the Court and to ensuring that all the world’s legal systems — as well as their languages and peoples — were reflected in its work, said State consent remained the foundation on which the Court’s work was based. Noting that Germany had made a declaration recognizing the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction in 2008, he urged others to do the same, adding that when they did so they must fully respect the Court’s decisions. Conversely, without such consent, States could not be compelled to respect the Court’s jurisdiction, and any deviation from that norm would compromise the overall effectiveness of its work. Recalling the Court’s dual role — delivering decisions in contentious cases between States as well as advisory opinion — he warned that the Court “must not blur the line between these two functions”. Indeed, the Court should not attempt to make decisions related to concrete cases into broader principles. He also welcomed the diversification of the international legal system and the more specialized work of such courts as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, stressing the importance of such efforts to ensure an appropriate division of labour.
TEODORO LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Security Council should give more serious consideration to Article 96 of the Charter and make greater use of the Court as a source of advisory opinions and the interpretation of relevant norms of international law. Reaffirming the importance of the Court’s advisory opinion in 1996 on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, he said his country supported the Court’s efforts to adapt its working methods in response to its increased workload and to use multimedia platforms and the Internet to publicize its decisions.
CLAUDIO TRONCOSO REPETTO (Chile), noting the myriad topics under the Court’s consideration, commended the updating of the Court’s website which allowed for broader acquaintance with its activities. The Court continued to perform a vital role in ensuring the effectiveness of international law. It was the central organ in the international legal order that aimed to prevent conflict and bolster cooperation among people. That was a lofty responsibility, he said, adding that the confidence of its work was essential for Member States to accept its jurisdiction. Chile, currently a party to two cases among the proceedings before the Court, continued to reaffirm its commitment to international law. Chile had the “fullest faith” in the application of international law in relations among countries. The Court must be given the respect and resources as required by its judicial mandate and its lofty functions.
VILAWAN MANGKLATANAKUL (Thailand) associated himself with the Non-Aligned Movement. He expressed full confidence in the Court and highlighted the clarification of the contents of customary international law as codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and in the judgement rendered on maritime delimitation in the Indian Ocean. Regarding the Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament case, he said the Court had missed the opportunity to provide predictability to the interpretation of Article 6 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in a binding manner. Furthermore, the question as to whether votes cast by Member States on resolutions before political organs could indicate the existence of a legal dispute between Parties needed further attention and deliberation. He encouraged the greater use of the Court, despite that the advisory opinions and other obiter dictum were not legally binding in nature, as those opinions contained high moral and persuasive authority. The integrity and independence of the judges must be maintained, he said, thus the members of the Court should have a pension scheme and he welcomed the discussion on their retirement benefits.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), noting that the Court’s caseload had considerably increased over the last 20 years, recognized its role for promoting rule of law around the world. The Court remained the principle judicial organ of the international community and played a fundamental role in the pacific resolution of disputes between States. Moreover, the Court and its staff periodically made presentations regarding its proceedings, informing the public of its work. In that context, he stressed the need to issue documents in all official United Nations languages. Noting the Court’s work in the reporting period, he said contentious cases that had yet to be resolved affected States on four continents. The geographical nature of those cases reflected the universal reach of the Court’s jurisdiction.
ALEJANDRO ALDAY (Mexico) said the increase in the Court’s caseload was a welcome sign that States were using rule of law to resolve their disputes. The Charter indicated that the Security Council could be seized of matters when the Court’s decisions were not upheld. But the political circumstances hovering over the Council had prevented it from doing so, spreading frustration among countries that submitted cases to the Court. The Court’s decisions and its definitive nature must be upheld, he stressed, underscoring that all of the Court’s judgments served to further the cause of rule of law. Noting the rise in isolationist tendencies, he said “now, more than ever before, we require an international court”. The Court’s cases must reach as wide an audience as possible. Member States must recognise the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, make better use of its advisory mechanism, and provide it with necessary resources.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), noting that the Court was the principle judicial body of the United Nations, said States concerned must accept its jurisdiction. The Court’s activities had increased substantially in recent years as a growing number of States turned to it for the pacific resolution of disputes. “All of this is part and parcel of making the Court the organ of choice,” he added, calling Member States to adhere to the Court’s jurisdiction and withdraw reservations. The Court’s scope was not confined to any area of international law. It delivered judgments which were authoritative and helped develop international law further. The consent of a State regarding the Court’s jurisdiction was a clear indication that that State recognized and respected the rule of law. He called on all Member States, the Security Council and General Assembly to request advisory opinions on various legal matters.
ANA EDELMIRA ROLÓN CANDIA (Paraguay), recalling her country’s longstanding tradition in the multilateral arena, reiterated its commitment to the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, especially the peaceful settlement of disputes and refraining from the threat or use of force. Paraguay was marking the twentieth anniversary of its acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, the only limitation to which was ratione temporis. Recalling that Paraguay was a party to the 1948 American Treaty on Pacific Settlement — or the “Pact of Bogotá”, which maintained that States must refrain from the threat or use of force and mandated the peaceful settlement of disputes — she encouraged States that had not yet done so to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, adding that alongside its judgements the Court’s advisory opinions had helped to further the development of international law. She also encouraged the Court to continue to disseminate information on its work, including in all six official languages of the United Nations, urging States to pool their resources to make such efforts possible. Concluding, she quoted a famous Paraguayan legal scholar, noting that “as the just cannot always be strong, the strong must always be just”.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, echoed support for the Court’s crucial role in upholding the rule of law and maintaining international peace and security. Underscoring the possibility for the Assembly, the Security Council and other authorized organs and specialized agencies of the United Nations to request advisory opinions, he said it was advisable to submit cases to the Court on matters that bore “sufficient weight” in order to free its growing workload from addressing issues that could be resolved through other legal and peaceful means. As a nation with an unequivocal commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes, Bangladesh duly acknowledged the Court’s judgements, advisory opinions and ongoing work concerning territorial integrity and sovereignty, unlawful use of force and interference in the domestic affairs of States, maritime disputes and the conservation of natural and living resources, among other issues. Bangladesh had demonstrated its commitment to the international rule of law by resolving outstanding boundary delimitation issues with its neighbours through legal and peaceful means, he said, also welcoming the Court’s expanded outreach efforts and recommending that it consider ways to allow eligible students from developing and least developed countries to benefit from hands-on experience working with the Court.
RENÉ LEFEBER (The Netherlands), noting that his country was proud to be the host country of the Court, said that his Government had recently renewed its own declaration accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, with a view to eliminating, as far as possible, limitations to the Court’s jurisdiction in contentious cases involving the Netherlands. “Our only reservation to the jurisdiction is one ratione temporis,” he said, adding that the country would accept all disputes arising out of situations or facts that took place no earlier than 100 years before the dispute was brought before the Court. Encouraging all Member States to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction with as few reservations as possible, he voiced concern about recent developments in the direction of more, rather than less, reservations.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), noting that States’ high demand for the work of the Court was due to its impartiality and independence, said issues previously untouched by the Court had recently been brought to its attention. “This trend is very inspiring,” he said, especially in the context of the Security Council’s inability to act at times due to the abuse of the veto power. Describing Ukraine’s efforts to pursue international justice and fight impunity, he said it had submitted a case against the Russian Federation to the Court this year on the Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. On 19 April 2017, the Court issued an order in response to Ukraine’s request for the indication of provisional measures. The Court ordered the Russian Federation to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the Crimean Tatar community’s ability to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis, and to ensure the right for Ukrainian citizens to study the Ukrainian language as well as to refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve. “There’s no doubt that the aforementioned order plays an important role in preventing irreparable harm by the Russian Federation to human rights of Ukrainian citizens while this case is pending,” he said.
Pointing out that noncompliance with the Court’s decisions was regarded as a breach of States’ obligations imposed under customary international law, and calling on the United Nations system to thoroughly investigate any such case, he said the Russian Federation continued to neglect its duty to implement the Court’s order. Citing a recent report indicating that the human rights situation in Crimea had deteriorated since the beginning of the Russian occupation, he said Ukraine had submitted a related draft resolution to the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) and urged Member States to support and co-sponsor it.
HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador) noted that over the past year the Court had once again worked intensively, which demonstrated the crucial and pivotal role that it played in the resolution of disputes. The fact that such a wide range of cases had been brought before the Court reaffirmed its role as the principle organ of the United Nations for the settlement of disputes and that it played a crucial role in the preservation of the rule of law on the international level. States had placed a great deal of trust in the Court and in that context, the number of cases brought before it continued to increase. All States had an equal opportunity to bring disputes before the Court, although the reality was that the ability to do so for all countries was not equal, in part, due to the increasing costs involved. Given the increase in the Court’s workload, it must be given the necessary budgetary resources required for it to continue issuing judgements in a timely fashion.
MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said that the Court had striven to uphold the primacy of international law and consolidate the idea of the rule of law for seven decades, having issued more than 300 judgements, orders and advisory opinions. The increase in the number of disputes that were referred to the Court was a sign of its vitality, and reflected the confidence that States vested in the organ as well as their resolve to peacefully settle their disputes. One could only welcome the productivity of the Court, which continued to demonstrate its ability to respond to new challenges. Lebanon commended the use of French and English in the Court’s deliberations, which reflected a legal tradition and culture and also fostered greater coherence in the Court’s case law. She went on to emphasize that the Court would gain legitimacy and effectiveness through a more balanced composition.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said that the Court had made tremendous contributions to the promotion of the rule of law while also advancing the corpus of international jurisprudence. Commending the Court for measures taken in recent years to enhance its efficiency, he added that the diversity of the cases undertaken during the reporting period illustrated the universal character of the Court’s jurisdiction. They involved a wide variety of subject matters, including territorial and maritime disputes, consular rights, environmental damage, and the immunity of States, among others. Also noting with appreciation the launch of the Court’s new website, he said that would benefit legal, diplomatic and academic communities as well as the media.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), noting that his country adhered to the purposes and principles of the Charter as well as the pillars upon which the Court discharged its work, said both its jurisdictional and advisory capacities were crucial to preserving international peace. Among the new matters before it, he spotlighted the Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. This year, the Court would also renew a third of its judges according to its Statute as well as United Nations rules of procedures, he said, noting that their independence and equal geographic representation was crucial. The Court must cast aside the old “Eurocentric” vision of justice, he stressed, adding that — as many cases came from Latin America and the Caribbean — more judges should hail from that region. Similarly, Spanish should be adopted as one of the Court’s official languages. Noting that Bolivia, which had accepted the Court’s jurisdiction, currently had two cases before it, he underscored his conviction that justice would be done.
V.D. SHARMA (India) said the Court’s report illustrated the importance that States attached to the Court, as demonstrated by the number, nature and variety of cases that it dealt with. The diverse geographical dispersion of cases was representative of the universal natural of the Court’s work. He underscored that the Court played an important role in maintaining the rule of law and its judgements were crucial for the interpretation and clarification of the rule of international law. The Court remained highly sensitive to political realities and the sentiments of States, while working within the provisions of the Charter and other expressions of international law. In the past judicial year, the Court had handed down several orders and held public hearings, including one which had been brought forward by India. His Government appreciated the efforts of the Court in ensuring the greatest awareness of its decisions through the use of multimedia resources, including its website.
CARLOS TRUJILLO (United States), noting that the Court played an important role in global efforts “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”, welcomed the Court’s steps to increase its efficiency and refine its procedures and working methods to keep pace with “rapidly changing times”. By providing a trusted channel for States to resolve some disputes up front, and helping defuse others before they escalated, the Court continued to fulfil its mandate under Chapter XIV of the Charter. Among other things, he also welcomed the Court’s continued public outreach efforts, which demonstrated its enduring commitment to advancing the rule of law.
MAMADOU RACINE LY (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, echoed support for the Court and the activities presented in its report today. Describing the present moment as an opportunity to reflect on international law, exchange views and find harmony between the respective functions of the Court and the General Assembly, he said the resolution of legal questions was often decisive in the political settlement of disputes between States. Noting that the Court’s work enlightened and fuelled the development of legal doctrine, he stressed that the implementation of its decisions must be ensured. The credibility of its work would depend largely on its ability to take into account diverse legal systems as well as languages, he said, also urging the Court and the Security Council to work more closely together.
MARIA TELALIAN (Greece), noting that the Court was the only international court with both general and universal jurisdiction in inter-State disputes, said that the Court’s increasing case-load, the complexity and diversity of its cases, and the fact that those cases involved State representatives from all continents, provided clear evidence of the trust and high expectations placed on the Court. Her country had recently submitted a new declaration of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, she recalled, adding that while the advisory opinions rendered by the Court had been recognized as carrying legal weight and moral authority, recourse to the Court’s advisory function should not circumvent the fundamental principle that a State shall not have its disputes submitted to judicial settlement without its consent.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said the Court was dealing with an increasingly wide range of subject matters and its jurisprudence was crucial in many areas. Its decisions were shaped by those taken by other tribunals, he said, which made clear the way in which international law was developing and growing. Uruguay had always been an advocate for the peaceful settlement of disputes and incorporated the jurisdiction of the Court into all treaties ratified by his country. Uruguay had always complied with the judgments of the Court and was faithful in upholding its rulings and opinions.
ANET PINO RIVERO (Cuba), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Court’s judgments and advisory opinions had been of special importance for the development of international law. Cuba regretted that some of the Court’s judgments had not been executed, in violation of the Charter, which underscored the need to reform the United Nations system to give greater guarantees to developing countries. Cuba believed it would be useful for the Court to critically evaluate its relationship with the other organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council. Cuba attached great importance to providing the budgetary resources required for the Court to appropriately carry out its work, and in that context, she appealed for efforts to ensure that those resources arrived in a timely and appropriate manner. Cuba appreciated the dissemination of materials from the Court, which were particularly helpful for developing countries.
MAJED BAMYA, observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called on all States to recognize the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction as an important contribution towards upholding international rule of law. All nations and bodies of the United Nations must also respect its decisions and opinions, he added, condemning Israel’s disregard and continuous breach of international law, including following the Court’s 2004 advisory opinion which had declared its wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory illegal. The opinion had found that Israel’s building of the wall might amount to “unlawful de facto annexation” in violation of the cardinal principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force. In that regard, he called on all States to uphold their obligations under international law, in particular as they pertained to the non-recognition of the situation created by those illegal actions, distinction between the occupied territory and the territory of the occupying Power, not rendering aid or assistance to unlawful acts, and holding accountable those responsible for crimes and violations.
The Assembly then took note of the report of the International Court of Justice.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to the statement delivered by Ukraine’s representative, said the Assembly’s debate on the Court’s annual report was not an appropriate format to discuss the substance of cases currently being considered by that organ. Ukraine had once again embarked upon propagandistic rhetoric, he said, adding that the picture its delegate had painted was “far removed from reality”. In fact, the Court in its order for provisional measures had not supported Ukraine’s statements about alleged occupation or on the status of Crimea, and it had rejected all of Ukraine’s requests related to allegations of violations of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. The Court had further appealed to the parties to work towards the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
Regarding the allegations relating to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, he recalled that the Court had not supported any of the provisional measures requested by Ukraine, instead deciding to apply three of its own provisional measures, two of which were addressed to the Russian Federation and one to both parties, a fact that Ukraine had failed to mention. The Russian Federation respected all the Court’s rulings and was taking all necessary measures for their implementation. On human rights, Ukraine had recently adopted discriminatory laws including several that restricted the rights of national minorities. In pursuing recriminations against the Russian Federation, Ukraine was in fact putting in place repressive policies against its own people, he stressed, adding that the fault lay not only with Kiev but also with States that supported it.
The representative of Ukraine, responding to that statement, pointed out that the Russian Federation’s delegate had come to the Assembly hall only to make a statement in exercise of the right of reply, but not on the substance of the meeting. That demonstrated a “total disrespect” for the Court, he said, adding that he had not said a single one of the words referred to in the Russian Federation’s right of reply. Indeed, he had not referred to the case relating to the financing of terrorism, but only the one relevant to Crimea. Noting that Court President Ronny Abraham had outlined two cases submitted by Ukraine against the Russian Federation, he said it was a fact that the temporary occupation and subsequent attempt to annex Crimea — as well as the Russian Federation’s illegal actions in Donbass — constituted acts of aggression. That conclusion was supported by Assembly resolution 68/262 on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and resolution 71/205 on the human rights situation in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Such actions violated the Russian Federation’s international obligations as well as the international criminal responsibility of its leadership, he stressed, calling on it to cease such activities, ensure full reparations were made and fully implement all reports of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Ukraine. In addition, he drew attention to the Court’s third provisional measure, which called for refraining from any action that could aggravate or extend the dispute, or make it more difficult to resolve.
The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor a second time, said the fact that he had not spoken during the debate did not mean anything, as implied by the delegation of Ukraine. The Russian Federation’s position on the Court’s report were well known, having been made clear on several occasions including a briefing before the Security Council. Its position on the issue of “occupation” was also well known, he said, adding that the Court’s provisional measures applied equally to the delegation of Ukraine.