Primer on International Courts and Tribunals.

Primer on International Courts and Tribunals.

Author: Ms. Anmol Tanwar, NLU Jodhpur.


International Court of Justice
• One of the six core organs, and the primary judicial organ, of the United Nations.
• Established in the UN Charter of 1945 and commenced operations in 1946. Its Constitution and Procedure is laid down in the Statute of the International Court of Justice
• Successor to the Permanent Court of Justice
• All 193 UN Member states are party to the ICJ but the UN observer states – the Vatican and Palestine are not.
• Situated in the Peace Palace at the Hague Netherlands
• There are fifteen judges in the ICJ elected for nine-year terms.
• Five judges are elected every three years on rotation (similar to the system in the Rajya Sabha) so that the Court always functions. If a judge dies while in office, special election is held for a judge to serve the remainder of the term
• President of the Court is Ronny Abraham (France) and the Vice President is Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia)
• Indian representative to the Court is J. Dalveer Bhandari whose tenure will end in 2018.
• The plea against Pakistan by India in the Khulbhushan Jadhav incident is being heard by the ICJ. Pakistan’s adhoc judge on the Bench is Tassaduc Gillani.


Permanent Court of International Justice
• International Court attached to the League of Nations
• Existed from 1922 to 1946 and functioned out of the Hague, Netherlands.
• Predecessor to the International Court of Justice.


International Criminal Court
• The Court was established under the Rome Statute of 1998 to prosecute individuals who are accused of the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes.
• Currently the Court has jurisdiction over the 123 member states which are party to the Rome Statute.
• It is headquartered in the Hague, Netherlands and is currently presided by Silvia Fernandez de Gurmenti (who is the first female president).
• The ICC has so far indicted 39 individuals but its international authority has been called into question many times as countries like India and China have never consented to the Rome Statute while the United States, Russia and a few African states have withdrawn from the Rome Statute.


International Tribunal For The Law of The Sea
• Established in the year 1996 to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982.
• The seat of the tribunal is in Hamburg, Germany and its current president is Jin Hyun Paik (South Korea) and its Vice President is David Joseph Attard (Malta).
• The Convention at present has 167 signatories (consisting of 166 nation states plus the European Union).
• J. Neeru Chadha from India is one of the judges of the tribunal.


Court of Justice of the European Union
• Supranational institution situated in Luxembourg charged with the interpretation and uniform application of the EU Law.
• Established in 1952 as the Court of Justice of the European Commission but later renamed to Court of Justice of the European Union under the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.
• It is the court which governs the conduct of the EU institutions and can hear cases against the institutions of the EU from both member states and private parties and resolve disputes between member states.


European Court Of Human Rights
• International Court established to protect the civil and political rights granted to individuals in the contracting states under the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols.
• The Court is based in Strasbourg, France and was initially established in 1959 but given its present form in 1998.
• The court enjoys jurisdiction over all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.


African Court of Justice and Human Rights
• Primary judicial organ of the African Union, and is based in Arusha, Tanzania.
• Founded in 2004 by the merger of African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Court of Justice of the African Union
• It examines both human rights treaties and general legal matters, capable of performing both advisory and judicial functions.
• As the successor to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights it has the duty to protect and promote the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and ensure compliance with the African Charter on Human Rights.
P.S: The African Court of Justice was originally intended to be the judicial organ of the African Union however it has never been constituted.


Inter American Court Of Human Rights
• Judicial institution operating within the Organisation of American States.
• Established in 1979 to adjudicate and interpret on issues coming under the purview of the American Convention on Human Rights.
• The Court is situated in San Jose, Costa Rica and enjoys jurisdiction over the 35 member states of OAS.
• Works in tandem with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights which has power to examine human rights violations in the member countries of OAS.


Caribbean Court of Justice
• Judicial Institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
• Established in the year 2001.


Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
• Superior Court of Record for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
• Established in 1967
• Enjoys jurisdiction over six countries in the Caribbean.


East African Court Of Justice
• Treaty body constituted on November 30th 2001 to ensure compliance of the East African Community Treaty of 1999 by its member states.
• It is situated in Arusha, Tanzania


Benelux Court of Justice
• Court for the countries in the Benelux Union – Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg
• Established on 31st March 1965
• Primary serves as a court of reference for issuing preliminary rulings, at the request of respective superior courts, in regulations impacting all three states.


Court Of Justice For The European Free Trade Association States
• Established to interpret European Union Law and settle disputes between the three European Free Trade Association Members: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
• These states had access to the European Economic Area and thus had to comply with EU laws governing trade but were themselves not part of the EU. This made the extension of jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice difficult and this Court was formed to perform those functions.
• The Court was established in 1994 and is situated in Luxembourg.


Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States
• Established in the year 1992 to resolve international disputes within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States
• It is situated in the city of Minsk, Belarus.
• All of the member states of CIS except for Armenia (which left in 2006), Moldova (which left in 2010) and Azerbaijan (which has not joined this agreement till date).
Other bodies

War Crimes Tribunals

  • Nuremberg Trials: Series of tribunals convened to try the leadership of Nazi Germany from between 20th November 1945 and 1st October 1946. Known as Nuremberg trials as it was the first of the trials and when most of the top leadership was tried.
  • International Military Tribunal for the Far East (also known as the Tokyo Trials or the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal): Convened on April 29th 1946 to try the leadership of the Empire of Japan in the aftermath of World War II. Justice Radhabinod Pai from India was one of the judges of the tribunal.
  • Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (also known as the Cambodia tribunal or the Khmer Rouge Tribunal): Constituted through an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the UN to try genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law and criminal law committed in Cambodia during the period between 17th April 1975 and 6th January 1979. The court is situated in Cambodia.
  • International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 (also known as the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia or ICTY): The Tribunal was established by the UN Security Council on 25th May 1993 to try grave violations of international law including genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. It is situated in The Hague, Netherlands
  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Created by the UN Security Council to prosecute those individuals responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Rwanda between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994. The Court is situated in Arusha, Tanzania.
  • Extraordinary African Chambers: to try international crimes committed by Chad from 7 June 1982 to 1 December 1990, established by agreement between the African Union and Senegal. The Court is situated in Senegal.
  • Special Court for Sierra Leone: Created jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to conduct trials for those individuals who have the greatest responsibility for serious violations of both international humanitarian law and the law of Sierra Leone, which have occurred in Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.
  • Special Tribunal for Lebanon: Tribunal constituted on 1st March 2009 to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and 22 others in a terrorist attack. This is the first international tribunal to deal with terrorism as a specific crime and is empowered to hold its trials in absentia. The Court is situated in Leidschendam, Netherlands.


Arbitral bodies

  • Permanent Court of Arbitration, intergovernmental organisation formed under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 – operates out of the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. It operates outside of the UN regime but enjoys observer status in the UN General Assembly.
  • Iran-United States Claims Tribunal: international arbitral tribunal established pursuant to the Algiers Accords of January 19th, 1981 to resolve the dispute brought about by the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis of 1979, between the USA and Iran. The tribunal allows individuals who have suffered loss of assets due to the revolution to be compensated by the Iranian Government.
  • International Court of Arbitration: under the International Chamber of Commerce, situated in Paris, France
  • The commercial and legal fraternity in different countries have also established arbitral centres with most well-known being based in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Geneva and Dubai which engage in international arbitration. Some of them have permanent offices globally as well. Indian Council of Arbitration under the IFCCI and the Council of Arbitration under the ICC are the leading bodies in India.
  • Court of Arbitration for Sports: authorised by the Olympic Charter – headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland but has permanent courts in Sydney and New York as well.
  • UN Agencies like the WTO, WIPO also has arbitral bodies to settle disputes in relation to their specific jurisdictions
  • International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes: Set up by the World Bank Group in 1965 to resolve dispute between international investors and member states.