The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

Elgar Companions to International Courts and Tribunals series

Robert Kolb

The first in a series of Companions that offer broad coverage of a range of international courts and tribunals, The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice is a one-stop reference for those wishing to understand this highly significant and successful court.

Chapter 6: The composition of the Court

Robert Kolb

Subjects: law - academic, public international law, politics and public policy, international politics


How is the Court composed? How are judges selected and then elected? What is their sociological background? How are they protected against political influence? What happens when there are vacancies on the bench (arising, for example, from the death of a judge)? When must a judge be disqualified in a particular case? These questions will be considered in this chapter, although not necessarily in the order set out above.It is hardly necessary to emphasize the importance of the composition of the ICJ. Under domestic law, the composition of the judicial bench, especially of the administrative and constitutional courts, is quite sensitive from the point of view of power and the separation of powers. The rulers will be at pains to find persons who are sufficiently loyal to the government and yet, if the state upholds the rule of law, are also independent. For the ICJ, the main problem is of an entirely different nature. There is no centralized political power in international affairs. The quest for an international court rather involves difficult issues with regard to the proper representation of the various states (great powers, smaller states) and of the different cultures and regions of the world (equitable geographical distribution). This problem is close to that of a federal state in composing its supreme judicature, although it is more complex and greater in scale and magnitude.

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