Research Handbook on International Courts and Tribunals
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Research Handbook on International Courts and Tribunals

Edited by William A. Schabas and Shannonbrooke Murphy

This collection takes a thematic and interpretive, system-wide and inter-jurisdictional comparative approach to the debates and controversies related to the growth of international courts and tribunals. By providing a synthetic overview and critical analysis of these developments from a variety of perspectives, it both contextualizes and stimulates future research and practice in this rapidly developing field.
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Chapter 12: Distribution

Michelle Farrell


This chapter asks whether international courts and tribunals challenge or reinforce the distribution of international justice and, second, whether they achieve a transition from power-based to law-based international relations. It argues that actually international courts and tribunals are somewhat fetishized in the literature. They are burdened with high – often impossible – expectations. Their role, competences and capacity are often over inflated. International courts and tribunals do not simply challenge or reinforce the distribution of international justice – even the contention that they have a significant part to play in reviewing or determining this distribution exaggerates their role and their competences. This contention applies both to the procedural side of international justice – in terms of access to justice – and to the substantive side of international justice – the realization of substantive justice. The existing international legal order is characterized by radical and structural inequality in the distribution of international justice. International courts and tribunals are part of this international legal order and, therefore, from both institutional and political representation perspectives, are not in a position, and, at any rate, arguably, could not be in a position to challenge the existing order and bring about social or political change. KEYWORDS: international justice, global public goods, Rawls, cosmopolitanism, TWAIL.

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