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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Müller

Election of members to the International Court of Justice

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

On 11 and 12 November 2020, the General Assembly and the Security Council re-elected four members of the International Court of Justice for an additional 9-year term and elected one new member to the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

On 5 February 2021, the terms of office of judge and present vice-president Xue Hanqin (China), judge and former president Peter Tomka (Slovakia), judge Giorgio Gaja (Italy), judge Julia Sebutinde (Uganda), and judge Yuji Iwasawa (Japan).

The regular elections of the members of the Court takes place every three years in accordance with Articles 4 to 13 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. The members of the Court are elected “among persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or are jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law” (Statute of the International Court of Justice, Article 2). Although the members are elected “regardless of their nationality” (ibid.), the Court shall not comprise more than one member by State. Article 9 of the Statutes direct those voting to take into account that the Court as a whole should represent the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world. The “general tolerated custom” or the “established practice” that each permanent Member of the Security Council should have a member of its nationality at the Court, or that a certain number of seats should be accorded to each of the United Nations regional groups has been put into question at least after the last regular elections in 2017. Since February 2018, the United Kingdom has no member of its nationality on the bench. It should be noted, however, that China did also not have a member at the bench from 1967 to 1985. Interestingly, the United Kingdom and its national group has not nominated a candidate for this year’s regular elections.

The national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration nominated eight candidates for the election. Judges Xue, Tomka, Sebutinde, and Iwasawa have been nominated for re-election. The other nominees were Taoheed Olufemi Elias (Nigeria), Georg Nolte (Germany), Maja Seršić (Croatia), and Emmanuel Ugirashebuja (Rwanda). Curricula vitae of these candidates were published by the United Nations Secretary General (A/75/131-S/2020/619)

According to the applicable rules, the General Assembly and the Security Council proceeded simultaneously but independently of one another to the election.

In its 8773rd meeting, the members of the Security Council determined five candidates by absolute majority (announcement of the results on UN Web TV).

During the General Assembly’s 24th plenary meeting, the first round of election remained inconclusive. More than five candidates reached the absolute majority (announcement of the results on UN Web TV). Therefore, a second round of balloting was held on 12 November 2020. The second round was conclusive, five candidates having received an absolute majority (announcement of the results on UN Web TV).

Judges Iwasawa, Sebutinde, Tomka and Xue were re-elected for a new term. Prof. Georg Nolte from Germany was elected as a new member to the Court.

The newly elected or re-elected Members of the Court will start their nine-year term of office on 6 February 2021.

Voting Records
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