What's In Blue

Posted Mon 21 Nov 2011

Election of Fifth ICJ Judge

On Tuesday afternoon (22 November), the Security Council and the General Assembly are scheduled to reconvene independently, but concurrently, to elect the fifth and final remaining judge for the International Court of Justice (ICJ). On 10 November, four of the five vacant seats were filled with candidates obtaining an absolute majority of votes in both the Assembly and the Council (97 and 8 votes respectively constitute an absolute majority). Giorgio Gaja (Italy) and sitting judges Hisashi Owada (Japan), Peter Tomka (Slovakia) and Xue Hanqin (China) were thereby elected.

During the first round of voting on 10 November, Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone), who has served two nine-year terms on the Court, received the required majority in the Council whereas Julia Sebutinde (Uganda), currently a presiding judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, received the required majority in the General Assembly. (After an exchange of letters between the presidents of the Council and the Assembly regarding the results, both bodies continued the voting process to fill the fifth vacant seat on the Court.)

In each of the four following ballots taken in the Council, Koroma obtained the required majority, receiving nine votes to six in the final round. However, six additional voting rounds were held in the Assembly, in which Sebutinde received the required majority on each occasion. (During the seventh and final round of votes held that day, Sebutinde received 97 votes while Koroma received 96 votes.)

According to the ICJ’s Statute, in the event that the five candidates elected by the Council and the Assembly are not the same, both bodies will proceed (independently) to new balloting to fill the unresolved seats. This process continues for at least three meetings (which have now been held in the present case), at which point if the vacant positions are still not filled, the Council and the Assembly may decide to convene a conference of six members (three from each organ) to recommend a candidate for the respective acceptance by both bodies.

Since the establishment of the UN, no such conference has been convened to fill a vacancy on the Court. (On one occasion in June 1956, two candidates for a vacancy on the Court respectively received an absolute majority in the Council and Assembly, in three meetings. The election was postponed until January 1957, when one candidate received the required majority in both organs to fill the vacancy.)

However, it seems that Council members have not conveyed an interest in convening a joint conference.

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