November 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2014
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International Court of Justice

Expected Council Action

The Security Council and General Assembly will hold elections for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 6 November. Five judges will need to be elected to the ICJ, each for a term of nine years commencing on 6 February 2015.


The ICJ consists of 15 judges elected for nine year terms by the General Assembly and the Council. Five seats come up for election every three years.

Candidates are nominated by national groups represented on the Permanent Court of Arbitration. When making nominations, members of each national group are recommended to consult their highest national court, national legal faculties and national schools of law. No group may nominate more than four persons. The names of candidates are then communicated to the Secretary-General to prepare a list of nominations.

Although there is no formal requirement for geographical distribution, article 9 of the ICJ Statute requires representation of the “main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world”. In practice, the Court’s composition reflects that of the Security Council with the P5 always having a judge on the bench. Currently, the distribution is as follows: Africa, 3; Latin America and the Caribbean, 2; Asia, 3; Western Europe and other states, 5; and Eastern Europe, 2. The five judges whose terms are to expire are nationals of Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Russia and the US.


In this election, nine candidates are contesting five positions. The candidates are: Susana Ruiz Cerutti (Argentina), James Richard Crawford (Australia), Sayeman Bula-Bula (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Patrick Lipton Robinson (Jamaica), Eugénie Liliane Arivony (Madagascar), Jemal Ould Agatt (Mauritania), Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco), Kirill Gevorgian (Russia) and Joan E. Donoghue (US). Two candidates— Donoghue (US) and Bennouna (Morocco)—are current members of the ICJ. (ICJ judges may be re-elected.)

Election Process

Article 8 of the ICJ Statute states the General Assembly and Security Council shall proceed independently of one another to elect the members of the Court in a secret ballot. Candidates who obtain an absolute majority of votes (i.e. a majority of all electors, whether or not they vote or are allowed to vote) in both the General Assembly and the Council are elected. A candidate therefore must obtain 97 votes in the former and eight votes in the latter. In the Council vote, there is no distinction between permanent and non-permanent members.

Each elector may vote for five candidates on the first ballot. If the number of candidates obtaining an absolute majority is less than five on the first ballot, a second ballot for the remaining positions will be held and balloting will continue until five candidates have obtained the required majority. If more than the required number of candidates obtain an absolute majority on the same ballot in either organ, a new vote on all the candidates will be held. In the event that the five candidates elected by one organ are not the same as those elected by the other, both will proceed (independently) to new balloting to fill the unresolved seats. This process will continue for three meetings when, if any positions are still not filled, the Council and the General Assembly may decide to convene a conference of six members (three from each) to recommend a candidate for acceptance by the General Assembly and Council.

Results are usually achieved quickly in the Council, but balloting in the General Assembly can take much longer. In the last regular elections held on 10 November 2011, four of the five vacant seats were filled with candidates obtaining an absolute majority in both the General Assembly and the Council in the first round of voting (S/PV.6651). After holding four additional ballots, the fifth vacant seat remained unfilled. Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone) received the required majority in the Council while Julia Sebutinde (Uganda) received the required majority in the General Assembly. This voting pattern continued on 22 November, when balloting was suspended. It resumed on 13 December, when Sebutinde was declared elected after receiving an absolute majority in both (S/PV.6682).

According to article 2 of the ICJ Statute, members of the Court are to be elected, “regardless of their nationality, from among persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or are juris-consults of recognized competence in international law.” No two nationals from the same state can hold office at the same time, and once elected, a judge is a delegate neither of the government of his or her own country nor of any other state.

Council Dynamics

Permanent members of the Council have no legal entitlement to representation on the ICJ. However, judges from the P5 are usually present on the Court. This practice favours the election of Gevorgian (Russia) and Donoghue (US). Regional considerations are also likely to play a role, posing a challenge for candidates from the same geographical region. Based on this, it is likely that Crawford (Australia) will be elected in the uncontested Western Europe and other vacancy, with Cerutti (Argentina) and Robinson (Jamaica) running against each other for the Latin America and Caribbean seat and Bula-Bula (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Arivony (Madagascar), Agatt (Mauritania) and Bennouna (Morocco) running against each other for the Africa vacancy.

UN Documents on the ICJ

Security Council Letters
4 August 2014 S/2014/520 This was a memorandum from the Secretary-General setting out the procedure for the ICJ elections.
4 August 2014 S/2014/521 This was a list of the ICJ vacancies and the candidates nominated in 2014.
4 August 2014 S/2014/522 This was the curricula vitae of candidates nominated for the ICJ in 2014.


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