34th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 72nd Session

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26-Oct-2017 01:33:21
Speakers say International Court of Justice still vital for maintaining international peace, security as General Assembly considers Its annual report at 34th and 35th Plenary meetings.

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An increase in the number of cases deferred to the International Court of Justice only reaffirmed Member States’ faith in the judicial body, the General Assembly heard today, as several speakers called on those who had not yet done so to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction without reservations.

General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) said that the judicial body had a significant role in maintaining international peace and security, adding that while its decisions were binding only to the parties to a case, its jurisprudence had far-reaching impact. “[The Court] sends a powerful message across the world,” he said. It also worked to strengthen the rule of law, not only in the sphere of inter-State relations but also within the United Nations system. He emphasized: “The vision outlined in the United Nations Charter cannot be achieved without the rule of law.” While much had changed since the Court’s establishment in 1968, it remained as relevant as ever, with a high level of activity and interest in the entity’s work, as well as the encouraging trend of States accepting its compulsory jurisdiction.

Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, presented its report covering the period between 1 August 2016 to 31 July 2017 (document A/72/4). Noting that the Court had 19 contentious cases and one advisory proceeding pending before it, he said that cases focused on myriad themes including land and maritime disputes and application of international treaties. The Court — whose cost represented less than 1 per cent of the United Nations regular budget — was “without a doubt an extremely cost-effective means of settling disputes peacefully”. While budgetary requests for 2018 2020 had increased slightly, they were vital to ensuring the sound administration of international justice and enabling the Court to fulfil its mandate.

In the ensuing discussion, Brazil’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, said it was important to recognize the Court’s need for adequate resources. The high level of activity, diverse geographical spread of cases and variety of subject matters addressed by the Court had demonstrated its vitality, he said, adding: “It also reminds us of the heavy demands placed on the Court and the efforts it has been making to keep up with its increasing workload.”

The representative of France said that since the presentation of last year’s report, six new cases had been brought before the Court, which showed the confidence of States in its work and their conviction that its decisions would contribute to the calming of relations between them.

The speaker for Cyprus, recalling that her country was among the 72 States, which had made a declaration recognizing as compulsory the Court’s jurisdiction, called on all States to recognize its jurisdiction in line with Article 36 of the Statute, thus promoting and facilitating its ability to maintain and promote the rule of law worldwide.

The representative of Peru, noting that many of the Court’s cases had involved Latin American and Caribbean cases, underscored the importance of ensuring the presence of Latin American judges on the Court. Bolivia’s representative, agreed, adding that Spanish should be adopted as one of the Court’s official languages. All the world’s judicial system should be represented, he said, stressing that the Court must cast aside the old “Eurocentric” vision of justice.

Several speakers called for the withdrawal of reservations, with the representative of the Netherlands voicing concern about the recent direction of more, rather than less, reservations. As host country of the Court, the Netherlands recently renewed its own declaration accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction and was focused on eliminating limitations to the Court’s jurisdiction in contentious cases involving the country.

Member States said it was important to defer issues to the Court as much as possible, with the representative of the Philippines urging the Security Council to make greater use of the Court as a source of advisory opinions and the interpretation of relevant norms of international law.

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of the Court’s 1996 advisory opinion on the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”, which had concluded that there existed an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control.

Speakers also stressed States’ obligation to respect the decisions of the Court, with the representative of Ukraine saying that the Russian Federation continued to neglect its duty to implement a Court order issued in April regarding application of the international conventions on suppressing terrorism financing and on eliminating racial discrimination. The Russian Federation’s speaker replied that the Court had not supported any of the provisional measures requested by Ukraine on the matter; the Russian Federation, he stressed, respected all of the Court’s rulings.

The representative of Romania said that as a State which had seized the Court in the past with a maritime boundary case and which had subsequently accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, her country was well positioned to attest to the Court’s fairness.

Several speakers commended the Court for making its reports available on its website, with the representative of Singapore welcoming the decision to redesign the site to improve its usability and expand a broader understanding of the Court’s jurisprudence.

The Assembly also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Secretary-General’s trust fund to assist States in the settlement of disputes through the International Court of Justice (document A/72/345).

In other matters, the Assembly decided to include an additional sub-item entitled “Confirmation of the appointment of members of the Investments Committee” under heading I, Organizational, administrative and other matters and to allocate the sub-item to the Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative). Further, it decided to make sub-item “Confirmation of the appointment of members of Investments Committee” sub-item (j) of agenda item 115 on the agenda of the current session. It decided to include the item “Observer status for the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the General Assembly” under heading I and allocate that item to the Sixth Committee (Legal).

Further, the General Assembly decided to include two additional items — namely, “Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations: cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation” and “Impact of exponential technological change on sustainable development and peace” — under heading I and to consider them in a plenary meeting.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), Canada (also speaking for Australia and New Zealand), Hungary (also speaking on behalf of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland), Japan, Costa Rica, Germany, Chile, Thailand, Guatemala, Mexico, Sudan, Paraguay, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, United States, Senegal, Greece, Uruguay, Cuba and the Observer State of Palestine.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 30 October, to consider the annual report of the International Criminal Court.
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