What's In Blue

Posted Fri 25 Oct 2013

Annual Briefing by ICJ President

On Monday (28 October), the Security Council will convene for a private meeting to receive a briefing from the President of the ICJ, Peter Tomka (Slovakia). The briefing, which has been held annually since the practice was first established in 2000, normally coincides with the presentation of the annual report of the ICJ to the General Assembly, which this year is scheduled to take place on 31 October. (The last briefing took place on 25 October 2011, as the 2012 briefing was cancelled due to the closure of the UN as a result of Hurricane Sandy.) The annual report for the period running 1 August 2012-31 July 2013 was released on 1 August (A/68/4).

It will be Tomka’s first appearance before the Council since succeeding Judge Hisashi Owada (Japan) on 6 February 2012. Tomka is expected to give a presentation on the overall activities of the Court, including an overview of pending contentious proceedings, its role in the peaceful settlement of disputes and maintenance of international peace and security, and its relationship with the Council.

Cases that Tomka might cover during his briefing include the following: Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Croatia v. Serbia), Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) and the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand). It is possible that mention may also be made of the conference held by the Court on 23 September to mark the centenary of the Peace Palace (the seat of the ICJ), where the rule of law and the relationship of the Court with other UN organs were main themes.

As was done during ICJ briefings to the Council in the past, Tomka may also focus on the complementary role the Court and Council play in the promotion of the rule of law as well as emphasising substantive links between issues considered by the two organs. In addition, he may encourage greater use by the Council of its ability to request advisory opinions, as well as its powers under Article 36 of the Charter whereby the Council may recommend legal disputes to the Court and Article 94 whereby the Council can, upon the request of one party, make recommendations or decide on measures to give effect to an ICJ judgment in case of non-compliance.

While Council members appear open to having these annual briefings, there is unlikely to be much appetite to deepen the relationship further or for the Council to make greater use of its ability to request advisory opinions. The Council has requested an advisory opinion on one occasion only, on 29 July 1970, regarding the legal consequences of South Africa’s continued presence in Namibia.

The next election for five of the 15 ICJ judges is due to take place in November 2014. Regular cycle elections are held every three years with an absolute majority required by a successful candidate in both the General Assembly and Security Council. The last election was held in November/December 2011. There was also an election held on 29 April 2012, to replace Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan) who resigned on 31 December 2011. There were two nominees for the position and Dalveer Bhandari (India) was elected to serve the remainder of Al-Khasawneh’s term until February 2018.

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