ICC President stresses importance of the Court in bilateral relations between disputing parties

President of the International Court of Justice, H.E. Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, has said that a ruling of the Court can signal the starting-point for a new era
in bilateral relations between disputing parties.

Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf,

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the occasion of the presentation of the Court’s Annual Report 2018-2019, which covers the period from 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019, President Yusuf opened his speech by stating that, since 1 August 2018, “the Court’s docket has remained full, with 16 contentious cases currently pending before the Court despite the fact that a number of other cases have been disposed of during the past year”.

He pointed out that “the cases before the Court involve States from all regions of the world and touch on a wide range of issues, including questions of consular protection, the formation of customary rules of international law in the area of decolonization, and maritime and territorial disputes”.

In a brief overview of the judicial activities of the Court, the President informed the
General Assembly that, during the period in question, the Court had held public hearings in five contentious cases and one advisory proceeding, and had delivered three judgments, one advisory opinion and two orders indicating provisional measures, in addition to a number of
procedural orders.

He specified that, on 1 October 2018, the Court had rendered its Judgment on the merits in the case concerning Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile); on 13 February 2019, it had delivered its Judgment on the preliminary objections in the case concerning Certain Iranian Assets (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America); on 25 February 2019, it had given its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Separation
of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965; and on 15 July 2019, it had delivered its Judgment on the merits in the Jadhav case (India v. Pakistan).

Speaking about new cases brought to the Court during the period under review,
President Yusuf stated that, in addition to the case concerning the Relocation of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem (Palestine v. United States of America), which he had mentioned in his address to the General Assembly last year, on 7 June 2019, Guatemala and Belize had submitted to the Court, by means of a Special Agreement, a dispute concerning Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim. He pointed out that “one innovative aspect about this case is the democratic and participative approach adopted by Guatemala and Belize in deciding to bring their dispute for

resolution to the Court”: in accordance with the Special Agreement, before seising the Court, both countries first held national referendums to ascertain whether their respective populations supported the idea of submitting the dispute to the Court for final settlement.

After giving an overview of the Court’s judicial activities, President Yusuf briefed the representatives of the United Nations Member States on “important non-judicial matters”.

In particular, he referred to the recent promulgation of amendments to the Rules of Court as part of “the ongoing initiative of the Court to ensure that its Rules and methods of work correspond to its changing requirements”.

He explained that these amendments concerned the procedure relating to the election of the Registrar and Deputy-Registrar, provisional measures and preliminary objections tothe jurisdiction of the Court.

With regard to the budgetary needs of the Court, President Yusuf noted that “the Court’s budget . . . compared to the institution’s considerable responsibilities under its mandate and its growing case load, remains extremely modest, representing less than 1 per cent of the regular budget of the United Nations”. Having expressed his understanding of the efforts made by the Organization’s other organs in seeking to reduce budgetary expenses, he nevertheless stressed the
importance of “strik[ing] the right balance between budgetary austerity and the . . . statutory mission” of the Court.

The President also referred to the Court’s Judicial Fellowship Programme, which allows recent law graduates to pursue their training in a professional context at the Court for a nine-month period each year. In this regard, he indicated that the Court had approved the idea of establishing a
Trust Fund for the programme to ensure greater diversity among participants and that the Court would seek the approval of the General Assembly for that initiative in 2020.

Closing his address, President Yusuf emphasized that “States regard the Court as a guardian of the rule of law at the international level” and “have, on many occasions . . . expressed their great
appreciation for the work of the Court”, adding that “[i]t is most encouraging to see that an ever-increasing number of States are placing their trust in the Court to find a lasting judicial settlement to their disputes, on occasion amidst geopolitical realities characterized by tension”.

In this regard, the President observed that “[e]ven with the most seemingly intractable disputes, a ruling of the Court can signal the starting-point for a new era in bilateral relations between disputing parties, and mark an end to long-standing differences”.

“It is equally encouraging to see the continued relevance of the Court’s advisory procedure, which enables the Court to provide authoritative pronouncements on complex legal issues arising in the context of the work of the main organs and institutions of the United Nations”, he concluded.

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