Speakers Say International Court of Justice Needed More than Ever, as General Assembly Considers Its Annual Report

President, Delegates Hail ‘Tireless Custodian of International Legal Order’ amid Growing Workload, Shrinking Budget

Seventy years after its inception, the International Court of Justice — the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and “tireless custodian of the international legal order” — was more needed now than ever before, the General Assembly heard today, as it considered the Court’s latest annual report.

Several speakers pointed out that after seven decades, the Court remained the only judicial body with its basis in the United Nations Charter — and whose jurisdiction was, therefore, truly universal.  Many delegates reaffirmed their support for the Court and commended its work, including its hearing of more than 160 cases, its 121 judgments and 27 advisory opinions.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the Court’s success as an impartial arbiter had been proven time and again, adding that as the international community’s confidence in its capacity had grown, a growing number of States had sought resolution to their disputes through its decisions.  “It is clear that the existence of the Court and its ability to deliver justice for all have shaped the course of history,” he said, pointing out that many conflicts and fatalities, as well as much human suffering, had been avoided due to the Court’s ability to settle international disputes peacefully.

Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, presented its report covering the period 1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016 (document A/71/4).  Describing the 15 contentious cases currently before the Court, he said it had held several hearings on questions of jurisdiction and admissibility and had delivered seven judgments.  In addition, it had, for the first time in many years, arranged for an expert opinion in one of the cases before it.  Outlining the content of those cases, he said they ranged from territorial disputes to maritime delimitation issues to allegations that States had failed to comply with their international nuclear‑disarmament obligations.  He drew particular attention to the Court’s shrinking budget and its increasing workload.

The representative of the United States said the Court’s efforts served to remind the world that international justice was alive and well.  States were increasingly resorting to it, and to other similar bodies, to resolve disputes, and there was now a kaleidoscope of complementary judicial venues available to them, depending on which best suited their needs.

Sudan’s representative urged continued efforts to strengthen the Court in light of its increasing workload.  Noting that his country recognized the Court’s obligatory jurisdiction, he called on States that had not yet done so to ratify its statutes with a view to strengthening the rule of law at the international level.  He also joined a number of other speakers in calling upon the Security Council to make greater use of the Court’s advisory opinions in the course of its work.

In that regard, Iran’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled that the Council had not requested an advisory opinion from the Court since 1970.  Pointing out that the organ was an important source for the interpretation of relevant international law, he said the Council should consider having the Court review its decisions, while bearing in mind the need to ensure their adherence to the United Nations Charter and international law.

Mexico’s representative, meanwhile, spotlighted the increasing number of disputes before the Court that dealt with such emerging issues as climate change, emphasizing that the organ was needed now more than ever.  Of the 11 pending cases before it, six related to Latin America and the Caribbean, which demonstrated the region’s trust in the Court.  Welcoming efforts to strengthen and publicize its work, he reiterated the importance of issuing the Court’s judgments in all official United Nations languages.

India’s representative agreed with other speakers that the Court had admirably fulfilled the task of peacefully settling disputes under the highest legal standards.  Its advisory opinions had added to its important role of clarifying international legal issues, he said, expressing hope that the Court’s budgetary concerns would be properly addressed.

Italy’s representative declared: “We cannot fail to recognize the increasing call for the primacy of a number of principles that should constitute the pillars of peace in this new pragmatic world order.”  Judicial scrutiny over State activities was indispensable, he said, describing the Court as a key component of the availability of judicial settlement.  Because the recourse to judicial mechanisms was a solid and serious option for States, Italy had accepted the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction and encouraged others to do the same, he said.

Turning to other business, the Assembly decided to include a new item, “Observer Status for the Central American Bank for Economic Integration in the General Assembly” in the agenda of its current session, allocating the item to its Sixth Committee (Legal).  The Assembly was acting on the recommendations of its General Committee, as contained in the report “Organization of the seventy‑first regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items” (document A/71/250/Add.1).

The Assembly also adopted two draft resolutions contained in reports of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  By the terms of the first, contained in the report “Programme Planning” (document A/71/545), the Assembly decided that United Nations priorities for the period 2018-2019 would include the promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development; development in Africa; the maintenance of international peace and security; and the promotion of human rights, among other key activities.

Adopting a draft resolution contained in the report “Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations:  Report on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services” (document A/71/548), the Assembly stressed the need for the internal oversight body of the United Nations to focus more on investigating fraud.  It also requested that the Secretary‑General continue to make every effort to fill the remaining vacant posts in the Office of Internal Oversight Services, particularly those in its Investigations Division and in the field.

Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the African Group), Poland, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, Romania, Chile, Austria, Portugal, Germany, Peru, Cuba, Nicaragua, Philippines, Croatia, Cyprus, China, Egypt, Nigeria, Bolivia, Singapore, Thailand, Algeria, Costa Rica, Morocco, Venezuela, France, Bangladesh and Cameroon.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 28 October, to elect 14 members of the Human Rights Council.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, recalled that in April 2016, the international community had celebrated the seventieth anniversary of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and the “tireless custodian of the international legal order”.  Over the last seven decades, the Court’s success as an impartial arbiter had been proven time and again.  As the international community’s confidence in the Court’s capacity had grown, more and more States had sought the resolution of their disputes through its decisions.  “It is clear that the existence of the Court and its ability to deliver justice for all have shaped the course of history,” he said.  Many conflicts, fatalities and much human suffering had been avoided due to the Court’s ability to peacefully settle States’ international disputes.  Indeed, the Court was an indispensable part of the United Nations system and of its ability to maintain international peace and security.

RONNY ABRAHAM, President of the International Court of Justice, provided an overview of activities between 1 August 2015 and today.  The Court had 15 contentious cases before it, with hearings held in 7 of them.  The Court had first heard arguments of the parties on the preliminary objections raised by the respondent in two cases introduced by Nicaragua against Colombia concerning alleged violations of sovereign rights and maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea and the question of the delimitation of the continental shelf between Nicaragua and Colombia beyond 200 nautical miles from the Nicaraguan coast.  It had also held hearings on questions of jurisdiction and admissibility in several other cases.  Over the reporting period, the Court had delivered seven judgments and it had decided, for the first time in many years, to arrange for an expert opinion in one of the cases before it, between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, concerning maritime delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

Rendering judgments on the case on Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), he said, the Court had decided that Nicaragua had breached Costa Rica’s territorial sovereignty, obliging it to make reparations for damages.  The Court also found that Nicaragua’s activities had not been such as to give rise to a significant risk of transboundary harm and that it had not violated procedural obligations by failing to carry out an environmental impact study.  In the case on the Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica), the Court’s findings included that Nicaragua had breached Costa Rica’s navigational rights on the river pursuant to the 1858 Treaty of Limits, entitling Costa Rica to compensation for material damages.  The Court had concluded that Costa Rica had not complied with its obligation under general international law to carry out an environmental impact assessment concerning the road’s construction.  It had, however, rejected Nicaragua’s claim, finding that Nicaragua had not proven that the construction of the road had caused significant transboundary harm.

In addition, he said, the Court had rendered six judgments on preliminary questions relating either to jurisdiction or admissibility, including rejecting the preliminary objection to jurisdiction raised by Chile in the case concerning Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile).  The Court had also considered two further objections to jurisdiction, both of which had been rejected.

The Court had rendered three judgments in the cases of Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v. India) and (Marshall Islands v. Pakistan) and (Marshall Islands v. United Kingdom).  The Marshall Islands had initiated proceedings against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom alleging the failure of those States to fulfil their international nuclear obligations.  The respondents had raised preliminary objections about the admissibility of the applications, arguing that the Court had lacked jurisdiction on the grounds that there had been no dispute between the parties at the time the applications had been filed.  Noting that the existence of a dispute between the parties was, in fact, a condition of its jurisdiction, he said the Court had found that no such dispute had existed.

Drawing attention to one aspect of those decisions, he said the Court had found that considerable care was required before inferring that votes cast on resolutions before organs such as the General Assembly constituted evidence of the existence of a legal dispute.  Relevant evidence of the existence of a dispute in some circumstances might be derived from the wording of a resolution and votes or patterns of voting, particularly where statements were made by way of explanation of vote.  However, a State’s vote on such resolutions could not by itself be taken as indicative of its position on each and every proposition within that resolution, let alone of the existence of a legal dispute between that State and another country.  The Court had concluded in all three judgments that the objection to jurisdiction raised by the respondents and based on the absence of a dispute between the Parties had to be upheld.

Describing the Court’s decision to arrange for an expert opinion in the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), he said two experts would conduct site visits and draw up a report for the Court before holding hearings on the case.  As such, he asked the Assembly for an additional $120,000 in funding, a cost which could not be absorbed by the Court’s current budget.

Turning to new cases, he outlined proceedings that had been instituted in cases on Dispute over the Status and Use of Waters of the Silala (Chile v. Bolivia), Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France) and Certain Iranian Assets (Iran v. United States).  In the latter case, Iran had alleged that the United States had adopted a number of legislative and executive acts that had the practical effect of subjecting the assets and interests of Iran and Iranian entities to enforcement proceedings in breach of jurisdictional immunities that were recognized by international law and by the provisions of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights between the two countries.

Mr. KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Court had a significant role in promoting and encouraging the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.  And yet, the Security Council had not sought an advisory opinion from the Court since 1970.  He urged the Council to make greater use of the Court, which remained the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.  The Court served as a source of interpreting relevant international law, he added, urging the Council to consider its decisions being reviewed by the Court, while bearing in mind the need to ensure their adherence to the United Nations Charter and international law.  The General Assembly, other organs of the United Nations and specialized agencies were also invited to request advisory opinions of the Court on legal questions arising within the scope of their activities.

He reaffirmed the importance of the unanimous Court advisory opinion issued on 8 July 1996 on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.  The Court 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.  He also called on Israel, the occupying Power, to fully respect the 9 July 2004 Court advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  All States must ensure respect of the provisions therein for the realization of the end of the Israeli occupation, which began in 1967, and the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

THEMBILE JOYINI (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Court aimed at promoting the rule of law and had rendered judgments and provided advisory opinions in accordance with its Statute, which was an integral part of the United Nations Charter.  Commending Governments for referring disputes, he said the number of pending cases reflected the esteem with which States held the Court.  He reaffirmed the importance of the 1996 advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons and attached great importance to that matter because Africa was a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone.

Turning to the Marshall Islands cases, he said the conduct of the United Kingdom did not provide a basis for finding a dispute between the two States before the Court.  The Court therefore had concluded that the first preliminary objection made by the United Kingdom must be upheld.  It was not necessary for the Court to deal with other objections raised by the United Kingdom.  For those reasons, the Court, by eight votes to eight, had upheld the first preliminary objection to jurisdiction raised by the United Kingdom, based on the absence of a dispute between the parties.  More recently, by nine votes to seven, the Court had found that it could not proceed on the merits of the case.

ANDRZEJ MISZTAL (Poland), speaking on behalf of the Visegrád Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), said every new judgment of the Court marked another step towards strengthening of the international legal order and promoting the rule of law.  The Court’s mission could not be fulfilled without the full commitment of all Member States to comply with their obligations concerning the peaceful settlement of disputes.  The obligation of the parties to implement in good faith the Court’s decisions was crucial to the concept of the peaceful settlement of international disputes.  Jurisdiction could be conferred on the Court not only by way of a unilateral declaration of States, but also through special agreements and treaties.  Since the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction was based on the States’ consent, it was important that States accepted its jurisdiction.

DAVID DOLPHIN (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, said confidence in the Court reflected the broad acceptance of its jurisdiction.  Its role in conflict prevention must be further recognized and explored, particularly with situations involving a legal element at the heart of escalating tensions between States.  In those cases, the Court’s guidance could potentially prevent tensions from evolving into conflict.  The Court’s caseload continued to be demanding and while it had disposed with a number of complex cases in the past year, it had also maintained one of its largest workloads for the year ahead.

The willingness of States to turn to the Court must be welcomed, he said, as that further highlighted the important role the Court played in the promotion of the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes.  Even though 2016 marked the seventieth anniversary of the Court’s inaugural sitting, the body had remained as relevant today as it had ever been.  As the number of international rules governing Member States’ interactions with one another increased, it was ever more important that the Court was an effective body to uphold the rule of law.  Its role in providing transparent and impartial clarifications on questions of international law for all Member States continued to be essential.

ALI HAMSA, Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia, said that since the creation of the Court, the international community had witnessed a steady increase in the number of cases referred to it, coming from diverse geographical regions and covering a wide range of topics.  Malaysia’s foreign policy was premised on the principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes and the concepts of mediation, dialogue and negotiations.  As the Court provided the avenue for Member States to resolve their differences, Malaysia and its immediate neighbours had agreed to submit themselves to its jurisdiction in two cases regarding disputes on the sovereignty of certain maritime features.  Echoing the Court’s position, he reaffirmed that the existence or possession of nuclear weapons was generally contrary to international law.  In a related matter, Malaysia would continue to follow the Court’s case relating to Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament, filed by the Marshall Islands.  On the question of Palestine, he said that 12 years since the Court had issued an advisory opinion, he deeply regretted to note the continued refusal of Israel to accept that decision.  Israel must carry out its obligations under international law and make reparations for all damages caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

ANDREA TIRITICCO (Italy) said judicial scrutiny over State activities was indispensable.  At the international level, the peaceful settlement of disputes was an obligation for States.  The international community had banned the use of force and, in that connection, the Court was a key component in the availability of a judicial settlement.  Because resorting to judicial mechanisms was a solid and serious option for States, Italy had accepted the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction under Article 36 of the Statute and encouraged others to do the same.  As the international community framework expanded to include new actors, “we cannot fail to recognize the increasing call for the primacy of a number of principles that should constitute the pillars of peace in this new pragmatic world order,” he said.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the Court had delivered many important judgments and advisory opinions over the last 70 years, taking on a diverse range of cases requiring complex legal examination.  It was clear that the Court had strengthened the rule of law.  It was now faced with an increasing demand for solutions and opinions on complex legal and factual questions.  At the same time, the international community today benefited from various means of dispute settlements through other organs, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  The trend of States choosing an organ based on the specific legal issue was a welcome development towards an appropriate division of labour.

ALINA OROSAN (Romania), commending the Court on its historic anniversary, said it had affirmed that its rationale —— to provide a place for the rule of law when diplomatic or political measures failed to resolve disputes —— remained as valid as at the time of its creation.  The diversity of its current cases bore witness to that fact.  She therefore regretted its budget reduction, expressing hope that the financial situation would improve in the next period.  Romania’s acceptance in 2015 of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction had confirmed its trust in the body and its resolve to solve all disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law.  She expressed hope that new Member States would accept such compulsory jurisdiction and that the Court would continue to maintain high standards of professionalism and impartiality.

CLAUDIO TRONCOSO (Chile) affirmed the importance of the peaceful settlement of international disputes and respect for international treaties for his country, as shown by its being a party in two cases that had been brought before the Court.  The Court was the only body competent to consider a matter once it had been referred to it.  It was therefore unacceptable that a matter that was already before the Court should simultaneously be taken up in other fora of a political nature.  He expressed support for full funding of the Court’s needs, particularly at times when it was engaged in extensive judicial activity and needed to invest in technology.  He also supported dialogue between the Court and the Assembly so the best budgetary decisions could be made.

VISHNU DUTT SHARMA (India) said that the Court had admirably fulfilled the task of peacefully settling disputes under the highest legal standards and had helped to increase respect for the rule of law around the world in a wide diversity of subject matters.  Its provision of advisory opinions added to its important role of clarifying international legal issues.  Expressing appreciation for the Court’s findings on the three cases in October, he stressed that the cases had been dismissed on substance and not merely on procedural lacunae.  He also praised its efforts to create awareness of its activities.  Reaffirming strong support for the Court, he expressed hope that the budgetary concerns of the body would be properly addressed.

OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the number of cases that had been brought before the Court demonstrated that Member States acknowledged its capacity to resolve disputes in an impartial manner.  Urging continued efforts to help to strengthen the Court in light of its increasing workload, he called for Member States to make the necessary resources available for the body to fulfil its mandate.  Noting that Sudan had recognized the Court’s jurisdiction, he called on States that had not yet done so to ratify the Court’s statutes with a view to strengthening the rule of law at the international level.  Recalling that the Security Council had not requested an advisory opinion from the Court since 1970, he stressed that it should make greater use of the Court and invited the Assembly to request advisory opinions regarding the interpretation of international law when necessary.

Ms. BIDEN OWENS (United States) said the report on the Court’s recent work served to remind the international community that international justice was “alive and well”.  States were increasingly resorting to the Court and other similar bodies to resolve disputes, she said, pointing to a kaleidoscope of complementary judicial venues available to States depending on which best suited their needs.  Under the United Nations Charter, parties to conflicts that risked threatening international peace and security must first seek a solution through negotiation, arbitration, judicial settlement or other peaceful means of their own choice, she said.  In April 2016, the Court had celebrated its seventieth anniversary, providing a unique opportunity to review its important role.  Commending the Court for its readiness to take on the many new and difficult challenges it faced, she expressed gratitude for the body’s hard work in pursuit of international justice.

AUGUST REINISCH (Austria) said the variety of disputes the Court was currently considering showed its increasing acceptance as the central forum for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.  Unfortunately, only 72 of the 193 Member States had accepted the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction under Article 36 of its Statute, he said, calling on those countries to seriously reconsider their position.  The Court greatly contributed to the strengthening and clarification of international law and was at the centre of a system of international courts, tribunals and other dispute settlement bodies.  To avoid fragmentation and discrepancies in the interpretation of international law, it was essential that the courts and tribunals take each other’s decisions into account and that judges establish direct contacts.

PATRICIA GALVÃO TELES (Portugal) welcomed the growing activity of the Court as a sign that many trusted it with the settlement of their complex and sensitive disputes.  Cases before the Court originated from all over the world and related to diverse areas of international law.  Expanding the scope of the work dramatically strengthened its contribution in progressing international law.  In that vein, the Court should count on the full support of all members of the international community, being a leading player in the global judicial sector.  Portugal would continue to welcome contacts and cooperation between various international courts and tribunals as a positive development.  As of July 2016, 193 States had become parties to the Statute of the Court and 72 of them had deposited with the Secretary‑General a declaration of acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction in accordance with article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute.  While recognizing that in contemporary international law there was an intrinsic but unavoidable paradox between the obligation of States to settle their disputes in a peaceful manner and the paramount need for sovereign consent, he said the role of the Court was becoming more and more accepted by the international community.

MICHAEL KOCH (Germany) said the Court could use its enormous weight and prestige to play an important role in the peaceful settlement of conflicts.  Stressing that the Court could only be effective if its judgments were implemented, he said compliance with the Court’s judgment —— as required by the Charter —— was of paramount importance.  “Refusal or failure to comply with a judgement not only frustrates the Court’s efforts, but also undermines respect for the Court,” he said.  The Court’s jurisdiction, like that of other international and arbitrary tribunals, was based on the consent of the States concerned.  Consent could be granted ad hoc or in advance, he said, recalling that Germany had made a declaration under Article 36(2) to that effect and calling upon other States to do the same.  The reverse side of that principle meant that there could be no dispute settlement by the Court among parties without their consent.  That should not be circumvented by turning what was essentially a dispute between States into an abstract legal question on which the Court was asked to give an advisory opinion.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELASQUEZ (Peru) said the Court’s most fundamental function was its contribution in promoting rule of law.  It also issued advisory opinions to the Security Council, General Assembly and any other authorized United Nations organs.  Through doing so, it had helped to promote international law as a real genuine option of peace.  Urging States who had not done so to recognize the Court’s jurisdiction, he appealed to the General Assembly to continue to meet the needs of the Court.  The Court was truly universal in its jurisdiction.  Recently, steps had been taken to enhance the Court’s efficiency so that it could better deal with its increasing workload.  There should be greater cooperation between the Court and principal organs of the United Nations, such as the Security Council.  Peru greatly appreciated the Court’s contribution to international peace and justice and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

ANET PINO RIVERO (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed her commitment to international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes.  The Court’s advisory opinions had been paramount to the development of international public law.  Many cases involved Latin America and the Caribbean, she said, regretting the existence of judgments that had not been implemented.  Every Member State had a responsibility to abide by the Court’s decisions.  A critical balance must be struck between the Court and United Nations bodies, particularly the Security Council.  She welcomed the Court’s conclusions regarding nuclear disarmament and the building of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, urging respect for those provisions.

CARLOS ARGUELLO (Nicaragua) said that using the judicial approach to resolve disputes must not be regarded as an unfriendly action.  Since the establishment of the League of Nations, there had been a deep understanding for the need of a court that would help to develop international law.  The Court had been able to resolve a large number of disputes that could have threatened international peace.  There was a deepening trust between Member States, as demonstrated by the increasing number of cases presented to it.  Disturbed that the Court, with its enormous workload, was scheduled for a 10 per cent cut to its budget, he said it would seem that the principal organ of international justice “had been treated like Cinderella”.  Nicaragua was a small developing country and its access to the Court had been crucial in it being able to defend justice.  Having been involved in four hearings, he said that in two of those, judgments had already been handed down.  In the other two, Colombia’s objections had been shut down.  While countries were aware of the enormous cost of international litigation, international law must be defended at all costs, he said, calling on Member States to contribute to the trust fund set up to help States that wanted to bring a case to the Court.

IGOR GARLIT BAILEN (Philippines), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Court’s critical role had been recognized by the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, which the Assembly had adopted in 1982.  It was no coincidence that the Court’s caseload had doubled in the era ushered in by the Manila Declaration.  The increasing confidence by Member States —— especially among developing countries —— in the Court’s capabilities, credibility and impartiality to settle disputes by peaceful means, was related to the norms, values and aspirations articulated by the Manila Declaration.  The most fundamental of those was the non‑use or threat of use of force.  He reiterated the call on the Security Council to more seriously consider Article 96 of the United Nations Charter and make greater use of the Court as a source of advisory opinions and interpretation of relevant norms of international law.

ALEJANDRO ALDAY (Mexico), spotlighting the increasing number of disputes before the Court that dealt with such emerging issues as climate change, said it was needed now more than ever before.  Appealing to countries that had not yet done so to accept the Court’s jurisdiction, he expressed concern at actions a number of States had taken, including those that had renounced treaties containing jurisdictional clauses related to the Court.  The Court’s judgments were essential, he said, as they could reduce political tensions among States.  If problems were not dealt with, they could escalate and threaten international peace and security.  Of its 11 pending cases, 6 related to Latin America and the Caribbean, which demonstrated the region’s trust in the Court.  Welcoming efforts to strengthen and publicize the body’s work, he reiterated the importance of issuing judgments in all official languages of the United Nations.

ANDREJA METELKO-ZGOMBIĆ (Croatia) said her delegation remained an unequivocal advocate for the peaceful settlement of disputes between States and the avoidance of conflict, based on the premise of adherence to the rule of international law.  The Court’s role was pivotal in that respect, she said, stressing that international adjudication in general should be developed in accordance with the highest legal and moral standards.  Indeed, the willingness of States to turn to judicial settlement for the resolution of disputes depended on their confidence that disputes would be settled competently, independently and impartially within the realm of international law.  The lack of independence and impartiality in international adjudication undermined the very pillars of the international judicial architecture, stripping its hard‑fought authority and threatening efforts to develop and secure it while propelling States towards unceasing disputes and diminishing the trust of States in third‑party settlement mechanisms.

CRISTINA HIOUREAS (Cyprus) said the Court had, since its inception, heard more than 160 cases, delivering 121 judgments and 27 advisory opinions, contributing significantly to the maintenance of peace and security and to the development of international law.  The wide variety of cases that had been submitted to it over the reporting period, ranging from genocide to environmental damage to immunity of States and their officials, had illustrated the general character of its jurisdiction.  Meanwhile, its consistently high workload demonstrated the confidence placed in it by States, she said, adding that the body must continue to modernize its work.  As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the Court played a central role in the promotion of international law, friendly relations between States and international peace and security.  Recalling that Cyprus had recognized the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction in 2002, she called upon States that had not yet done so to do the same.

XU HONG (China) said that while the Court’s performance might not be perfect, it undoubtedly had an authority and influence that could not be matched or replaced by any other international judicial body.  In exercising its jurisdiction, the Court had always acted prudently and had strictly abided by the principle of consent of States.  Its judges had maintained high levels of professionalism, a responsible attitude and a balanced judicial approach, he said, adding that they had always kept their work free from external interference and influence.  By reporting to the General Assembly and the Security Council on a periodic basis and listening to the views and comments of Member States, the Court had, to a certain extent, made it possible for the international community to exercise oversight of the Court’s work.  “The International Court of Justice now stands at a new starting point,” he said, noting that its workload was increasing.  For its part, China would continue to safeguard the international order based on the principles of the United Nations Charter and to maintain and promote the rule of law at the international level.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM ELSHENAWY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the legal and political landscape had changed significantly since the Court’s inception in 1946.  Noting its ever‑expanding role in the peaceful settlement of conflicts among countries, he said there had also been an increase in the number of cases before it.  Diverse themes had been presented by countries from all continents, highlighting the Court’s universal aspect.  During the review period, however, the Court had not received any request to submit an advisory opinion, he noted, while emphasizing the need to use all the benefits offered by the Court in settling legal disputes.  Countries should accept its mandate and provide the necessary financial resources to enable the Court to deliver its message in the best possible way, he said, stressing that it must be administratively independent.  That required all Member States, especially those in a position to do so, to provide resources to the trust fund.

TIWATOPE ADELEYE ELIAS-FATILE (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, commended the Court for the measures it had taken in recent years to enhance efficiency amid a steadily increasing workload.  During the period under review, it had experienced a high level of judicial activity, including a ruling on two cases between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, as well as public hearings and pending contentious cases involving States from all continents.  Welcoming the Court’s continuous engagement with the public through modern communications, he said its efforts served to promote greater transparency in its activities.  The importance of advisory opinions on legal questions referred to the Court in the pursuit of the peaceful settlement of disputes could not be overemphasized, he said, encouraging more countries to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, which would further strengthen its role in promoting international justice.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said that, as a peaceful nation, his country adhered to the principles of the International Court of Justice, its jurisdiction and its ongoing call for dialogue between States.  The organ was one of the best means for bringing about the peaceful resolution of disputes, and all nations should adhere to its decisions in good faith.  Noting that the growing number of cases before the Court reflected increasing trust on the part of States, he said humankind had taken an “extraordinary leap” by creating and supporting it as a space for both hope and justice.

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said that, for small countries like his own, the principle of rule of law was not an academic notion, but a critical precondition for survival and continued existence as independent, sovereign States.  “The Court’s role in resolving disputes and maintaining international peace and stability cannot be overstated,” he said, noting that its workload had grown considerably over the past 20 years.  While it had done its best to meet that challenge through the use of new technologies and by setting a highly demanding schedule of hearings and deliberations, the Court had nevertheless raised concerns about its final budget approved by the Assembly for the biennium 2016‑2017, he noted.  It was vital that Member States demonstrate their support by ensuring that the Court was provided with adequate resources to discharge its role efficiently and effectively, he emphasized.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), expressing support for the Court’s unique role as in safeguarding the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, emphasized that “international law is powerless if States refuse to uphold it”.  Over the years, the Court’s intellectual authority had contributed greatly to ensuring compliance with its judgements.  He commended the Court for taking into account the jurisprudence of other international courts and tribunals, and for making efforts to align its rulings with their decisions, thereby ensuring coherence in international law.  It was essential to preserve the Court’s integrity by appointing qualified and competent judges and ensuring their absolute independence, he said, emphasizing the need to avoid adopting a pension scheme for judges that might discourage the most highly qualified individuals from seeking election.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria), noting that the Court remained the only jurisdiction that enjoyed universality, said its work had grown significantly over the past 70 years in terms of factual and legal complexity.  Despite handling increasingly complex cases and the considerable growth of its workload, the Court had been able to respond effectively to new challenges, he said, reiterating his delegation’s full support for its key role in ensuring the implementation of international law, adjudicating disputes between States and providing advisory opinions to United Nations organs and specialized agencies.  It was important that the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, request advisory opinions from the Court on legal issues, he emphasized.  Noting that Algeria was the current Chair of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), he called upon Member States to uphold the Court’s position on nuclear disarmament.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), noting that the Court’s work had been intense during the review period, said the United Nations and Member States had a responsibility to provide the support necessary to enable it to continue efficiently and effectively to address its workload.  Costa Rica had been a disarmed democracy since 1949 and fully recognized the rule of law as a necessary tool for subsistence.  All States must fulfil their international obligations in good faith, he said, adding that the Court played a fundamental role in promoting the rule of law, especially in its rulings and advisory opinions.  As outlined in the report, the Court provided the landscape in which countries could strive for sustainable development since it was the organ that worked to prevent the use of force, he said, inviting States that had not yet done so to accept the Court’s jurisdiction and reiterating that Costa Rica would implement all its decisions.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the Court’s role and relevance continued to be reaffirmed as States increasingly sought its opinions, whether in bilateral or trilateral disputes.  It had examined a wide variety of subjects and could potentially play an important role in offering incentives to States in order to settle disputes.  As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the Court had never refused to examine cases as long as they were under its jurisdiction, he said, noting that, as of July 2016, it had 11 cases on its docket from all continents, which illustrated its general and universal character.  It would serve the Court well to adapt to emerging challenges in international law and to disseminate its work through the publication of its decisions, advisory opinions and judgements, he said.

ISAÍAS ARTURO MEDINA MEJÍAS (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Court’s report should be published far enough ahead of time to give States a chance to review it in a timely manner.  Outlining a number of critical issues —— including respect for sovereignty, the right to self‑determination and preventing the use of force, or the threat to do so —— he said Member States had the right to choose the most appropriate means for resolving disputes peacefully.  Expressing regret that little had been done over the 20 years since the Court’s decision on the threat or use of nuclear weapons, he encouraged the international community —— especially nuclear‑weapon States – not to give up on efforts to negotiate a legally binding agreement in that arena.  He called for strengthening interactions among the Court, the General Assembly and the Security Council, emphasizing that the peaceful resolution of disputes in support of the maintenance of international peace and security was a common objective of all three organs.

Mr. ALABRUNE (France) said the growing list of cases on the Court’s docket demonstrated increasing confidence in its work, which was reinforced by the fact that States respected and executed its decisions.  France was committed to supporting the Court, as reflected in its contributions to the organ’s resources as well as the contributions of French legal experts.  Noting that one third of the Court’s judges would be up for renewal in 2017, he emphasized the need to ensure strong geographic and linguistic diversity when electing candidates for those important posts.  “What is at stake here is the balance between various legal systems and how they contribute to international law,” he said.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said the 121 judgements and 27 advisory opinions that the Court had delivered to date constituted a seminal contribution to the development of international law.  In light of its setting of precedents in resolving outstanding maritime and land‑boundary delimitation issues with neighbouring countries through legal and peaceful means, he said, his country would continue to follow with interest the Court’s work on such disputes and on the conservation of natural and living resources.  Bangladesh attached great importance to the Court’s advisory opinion concerning the illegality of Israeli settlements that continued to pose a formidable obstacle to a meaningful resumption of the Middle East peace process, he said.  He also emphasized the importance of commencing negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament and of addressing all aspects of the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.  The Court’s opinions on issues of climate justice could also be useful for climate‑vulnerable countries, he added.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), commending the Court’s vitality, said his country would follow the model provided, knowing that the ruling handed down regarding the maritime and territorial dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria had strengthened solidarity between the two nations.  He expressed gratitude to bilateral and multilateral partners who had worked tirelessly to implement the Court’s ruling, saying that was evidence of the fact that availing oneself of international law and justice was the best way to ensure harmony.  Urging Member States to seek judicial resolutions to conflicts and disputes, he declared:  “Peace through law is possible.” Praising the Court’s adaptation to recent evolutions in the international realm, he recalled that it had initially dealt only with territorial disputes, but had since graduated to handling issues of climate change and intellectual property.  Cameroon invited the Court to take African values into account as it continued to enrich and broaden its work.

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