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 3: The International Court of Justice

Philippe Couvreur

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


‘The term “rule of law” is more easily invoked than understood’! It raises a number of questions of principle to which we should briefly give our attention. It might indeed be said that assessing the contribution of the International Court of Justice (the Court or the ICJ) to the rule of law requires us to understand what is covered by that expression, to try to propose a definition for it, and to be able to establish its practical and legal scope. However, the extent of such questions would lead me beyond the bounds of the present contribution. I shall therefore confine myself, by way of introduction, to making three short series of remarks on the general subject of the rule of law and the issues that it raises, before turning to the question of the contribution of the International Court of Justice in that respect. (1) In the first place, the rule of law is a concept specific to the constitutional organization of the State, the expression having been developed in England. It was an English writer, AV Dicey, at the end of the nineteenth century, who drew on his observation of the legal and political system in the United Kingdom to set forth the characteristics and a first theory of the rule of law.

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