Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Sarah Joseph and Adam McBeth
Chapter 12: The International Court of Justice and Human Rights
Sandesh Sivakumaran 1 Introduction The International Court of Justice (‘ICJ’ or ‘the Court’) is a court of plenary jurisdiction with responsibility for general international law, yet its influence on human rights has been vast. The Court has contributed to the development of substantive human rights law, its structural framework as well as mechanisms for its enforcement. To those who do not follow the work of the Court this may come as something of a surprise. After all, the ICJ is not a human rights court; it is, rather, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its judges need not have recognised competence in the field of human rights and the parties that appear before it are not individuals but states. It has limited fact-finding capabilities and its evidentiary rules are not altogether developed. There also exist multiple international and regional bodies tasked specifically with the protection of human rights and it is to these bodies that it may have been expected that disputes would be referred. Despite these attributes or lack thereof, the Court has had occasion to engage in the consideration of human rights law. Although individuals have no standing before the Court, states may, and do, bring claims on their behalf. Human rights matters have also been the subject of many an advisory opinion. Accordingly, the subject is not infrequently before the Court, particularly in recent years. When such issues do arise, they may benefit from some judges’ prior expertise as members of regional human rights courts,...
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