Explosive rise in ICJ cases
Since its foundation in 1947, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has seen a huge rise in the number of cases brought to it. The tally currently stands at 22 cases. Last week alone, the ICJ issued three rulings in important cases. ‘It’s raining rulings, which is exceptional, ’ Eric De Brabandere, Professor of International Dispute Settlement Law, tells various media outlets.
Confidence in international justice
De Brabandere: ‘There's a snowball effect. The more cases there are, the more confidence there is in international justice.’ On the one hand, states are less willing to settle conflicts through dialogue, which results in cases being brought before the Court. On the other hand, the Court has shown in recent years that bringing cases through them really pays off. ‘There’s a renewed confidence in the international justice system.’
A victory on paper
While court rulings are binding, they often have no direct impact on the conflict. ‘Rulings are generally complied with, but not always, ’ reports De Brabandere. Following last week's interim ruling, Israel had no intention of changing its tactics. The March 2022 order stating that Russia had to cease its military operations in Ukraine was also ignored at the time. However, a court ruling does count as a ‘victory on paper’, which in time will provide legal clarity on which states have violated international law. The Court can also impose interim measures, which may at least lead to temporary escalation and stabilisation in a particular conflict. Moreover, De Brabandere says, a public verdict from the Court can cause a state to become internationally isolated.
The ICJ is only authorised to rule in disputes handed over to the Court by the states in question, says De Brabandere. While it was previously accepted that the Court does have jurisdiction in genocide cases, when it comes to major conflicts such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, explicit consent must be sought from both states before these cases can be brought to the ICJ. The same applies to the Israel-Palestine conflict. ‘Often, this explicit consent is lacking in conflicts.’ A ruling can be passed down through existing treaties, but that ruling is often much more limited in scope than the actual conflict. ‘Currently, states try to bend their situation on the ground to the law, but that doesn’t always work.’ This prevents a further influx of cases being brought to the Court, says De Brabandere.
All items are in Dutch.
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