21st Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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30-Oct-2019 03:04:01
Amid global trust deficit, International Court of Justice Crucial to safeguarding rule of law, speakers say as General Assembly considers Its annual report at 20th and 21st plenary meetings.

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Amid waning trust in multilateral institutions, the International Court of Justice remains a vital force for guarding and enhancing the rule of law at the international level, the General Assembly heard today, as speakers called on all States to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction and ensure it is adequately funded.

Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the Court, citing from the report of its work spanning 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019 (document A/74/4), said the institution has maintained a full caseload on a wide range of legal issues submitted by countries on all continents, including questions of consular protection, the formation of customary rules of international law in the area of decolonization and maritime and territorial disputes. The Court has 16 contentious cases currently pending. During the reporting period, it held hearings in five cases and one advisory procedure, and delivered three judgements, one advisory opinion and two orders on provisional measures.

In September, Latvia became the seventy‑fourth State to join the judicial body. “The pace might be slow, but the trend towards a wider acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court in the international community is quite clear,” he said.

When the floor was opened for discussion, delegates called on all States to recognize the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction and abide by its judgments. Several pointed out that Governments are entrusting the Court with increasingly complex and politically sensitive cases — an indication of their confidence in the institution as a vital instrument for preserving peace and resolving disputes between and among countries. “This diversity testifies to the universal character of the Court’s jurisdiction, to the Court’s growing specialization in complex spaces of international law,” said Norway’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and his own).

The representative of New Zealand, also speaking for Canada and Australia, echoed that sentiment. “The higher the number of States that accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, the greater the opportunity for timely and peaceful resolution of disputes relating to questions of international law, an outcome that is in the interests of us all,” he said, also commending the Court for delivering judgements and advisory opinions within six months of the closure of oral proceedings.

Libya’s representative warned that withholding support for the Court weakens its overall impact. For its part, Libya has complied with all the Court’s judgements, even when the rulings were detrimental to the country.

The representative of the Netherlands, which hosts the Court, encouraged all Member States to accept its compulsory jurisdiction with as few reservations as possible, voicing concern about the tendency in recent years to make more rather than fewer reservations.

Some speakers warned that failure to give the Court adequate funding could prevent it from fully attending to its growing caseload. Djibouti’s representative emphasized that in the current era of mistrust in multilateral institutions, the Court is more important than ever and must have the proper resources to carry out its duties.

Several delegations involved in recent Court decisions affirmed their commitment to complying with its rulings and expressed dismay over other States that had not.

Sandra Erica Jovel Polanco, Guatemala’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that earlier in the year, her country and Belize jointly brought a long‑standing boundary dispute before the Court, which marks a “historic milestone”. Relations between the two countries are at a high point and Guatemala is confident that the dispute’s resolution will bring economic, social and political benefits to the region, she said.

Ukraine’s representative said that the Russian Federation has not complied with the Court’s 19 April 2017 decision calling on it to “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to preserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis”. In not suspending its discriminatory ban, the Russian Federation continues to violate a binding decision, revealing an unfortunate attitude toward the Court, the United Nations Charter and international law.

The speaker for Mauritius said he was upset that the United Kingdom had not terminated its unlawful colonial administration of part of Mauritius’ sovereign territory, despite the Court’s 25 February 2019 advisory opinion and the General Assembly’s subsequent endorsement of it. Sadly, the colonial power has chosen to defy both United Nations bodies, stating that it is free to ignore the ruling on the ground that an advisory opinion is nonbinding, he said, stressing that responsible Member States are not free to ignore the Court’s opinions.

Qatar’s representative said the Court issued two judgements in 2019 concerning the United Arab Emirates’ discriminatory and unjust measures against her country, which violate human rights law and freedom of movement and expression. His counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, however, said that measures by her Government are in line with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and are in response to Qatar’s support for terrorism and extremism, and its interference in States’ internal affairs. She regretted that Qatar has tried to cloud the Court’s interpretation of law.

Iran’s speaker said that the United States is penalizing and sanctioning nations across the world and that Iran filed an application to protect its rights under the bilateral Treaty of Amity. On 3 October, the Court unanimously indicated provisional measures obliging the United States to remove any impediments arising from moves announced following its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In response, the United States imposed numerous rounds of new sanctions. “Such irresponsible behaviour is in clear defiance of the Court’s order,” he stressed.

Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore, Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), Cabo Verde (on behalf of the Community of Portuguese‑speaking countries), Czech Republic (on behalf of the Visegrad Group), Brazil, Sudan, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Honduras, Togo, China, India, Cuba, Nicaragua, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Ecuador, Chile, Jamaica, Germany, Argentina, El Salvador, France, Cyprus, Bolivia, Italy, Greece, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Viet Nam and Egypt. An observer for the State of Palestine also spoke.

Representatives of the Russian Federation, Chile, United Kingdom, Qatar, Mauritius and United Arab Emirates spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 31 October to consider the 2019 report of the Economic and Social Council and the report of the Secretary of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award on the 2019 award.



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