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Navigating the Challenges of International Justice: Lessons from the ICJ Lecture at the Supreme Court of India

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by News Desk

In a recent lecture at the Supreme Court of India, International Court of Justice (ICJ) Judge Hilary Charlesworth shed light on the intricate dynamics that shape the realm of international justice. Titled “The International Court of Justice: A legal forum in a political environment,” Justice Charlesworth’s discourse provided valuable insights into the challenges faced by the ICJ and drew parallels with the esteemed Supreme Court of India.

One of the key themes highlighted by Justice Charlesworth was the importance of judicial impartiality amidst a politically charged environment. Drawing from Chief Justice DY Chandrachud’s emphasis on introspection, she commended the Supreme Court’s commitment to making independent and objective decisions, essential for upholding judicial independence. This capacity for introspection, she noted, enables both the ICJ and the Indian Supreme Court to navigate complex legal landscapes with confidence.

Justice Charlesworth also underscored the significance of gender representation in the judiciary, noting the disparity in the ICJ’s composition. With only six women elected to the Court in over eight decades, she called attention to the need for greater diversity in international judicial bodies, echoing the provisions of the Rome Statute on International Criminal Court.

Another focal point of her lecture was the jurisdictional framework of the ICJ. Despite being the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the ICJ operates on a voluntary jurisdiction basis. This, Justice Charlesworth explained, poses challenges in addressing legal disputes of international importance effectively. She outlined the three primary ways in which the ICJ’s jurisdiction can be invoked, emphasizing the role of mutual consent, treaties, and standing declarations by nation-states.

Furthermore, Justice Charlesworth highlighted the issue of enforcement of ICJ judgments, which largely depends on the discretion of member states and the actions of the UN Security Council (UNSC). She expressed concerns over the UNSC’s reluctance to exercise its powers in enforcing ICJ decisions, citing instances where veto powers have hindered the implementation of judgments.

In conclusion, Justice Charlesworth’s lecture served as a poignant reminder of the complexities inherent in international justice systems. By drawing parallels between the ICJ and the Supreme Court of India, she underscored the shared challenges and responsibilities faced by both institutions in upholding the rule of law on a global scale.

Written by — Athi Venkatesh

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