The Contribution of International and Supranational Courts to the Rule of Law

The Contribution of International and Supranational Courts to the Rule of Law

Leuven Global Governance series

Edited by Geert De Baere and Jan Wouters

International and supranational courts are increasingly central to the development of a transnational rule of law. Except for insiders, the functioning and impact of these courts remain largely unknown. Addressing this gap, this innovative book examines the manner in which and the extent to which international courts and tribunals contribute to the rule of law at the national, regional, and international levels.

Chapter 2: The contribution of international and supranational courts to the rule of law: A framework for analysis

Geert De Baere, Anna-Luise Chané and Jan Wouters

Subjects: law - academic, constitutional and administrative law, public international law, regulation and governance


Since the beginning of the 1990s, international adjudication has undergone dramatic changes. Not only has the quantity of international judicial bodies significantly increased, but today’s international courts and tribunals also wield considerably more power than their predecessors and adjudicate an ever-growing number of cases. Over the past two decades there has been a multiplication of bodies that match the criteria of an international court or tribunal, in the sense that they are: (1) permanent institutions; (2) composed of independent judges; (3) adjudicate disputes between two or more entities, at least one of which must be a State or an international organization; and (4) render binding decisions; (5) on the basis of predetermined procedural and substantive rules of international law. While up until the end of the Cold War only a handful of courts and tribunals existed, they have since been joined by a large number of general, specialized and regional courts and tribunals. Based on the above-mentioned criteria, more than 20 international courts currently active can be identified, as well as a considerable number of bodies that are inactive or have a minimal caseload. Extending the definition to include non-permanent adjudicative bodies, one can add a large number of ad hoc or hybrid criminal tribunals, arbitral tribunals and international claims tribunals. Not only has the number of available tribunals increased, but also the number of cases on their dockets and consequently their judicial output.

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