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  • Daniel Müller

The International Court of Justice goes virtual

The International Court of Justice, principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will hold its first video hearing in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela).

In a Press Release issued on 29 May 2020, the Court announced that the hearing concerning the Court’s jurisdiction in the case between Guyana and Venezuela concerning the legal validity and the binding effect of the Award Regarding the Boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela of 3 October 1899 will start on 30 June 2020. This hearing was initially scheduled to take place from 23 to 27 March 2020.

The first time in the Court’s history, the hearing will be organised through videoconference.

The Press Release does not reveal much detail. It only indicates that some Members of the Court will be present in person in the Great Hall of Justice in the Peace Palace in the Hague. Other Member of the Court might join the hearing through videoconference. According to the Statute of the Court, a quorum of nine judges is sufficient to constitute the Court (Article 25(3)). Neither the Statute, nor the Rules address specifically the possibility for judges of the Court to participate in oral proceedings through electronic means. Article 22(1) of the Statute contemplates the possibility for the Court to sit and exercise its functions elsewhere than in the Hague. Article 55 of the Rules of Court reflect this possibility:

The Court may, if it considers it desirable, decide pursuant to Article 22, paragraph 1, of the Statute that all or part of the further proceedings in a case shall be held at a place other than the seat of the Court. Before so deciding, it shall ascertain the views of the parties.

But the Court will sit in the Hague, even if some of the Members of the Court are likely to “call in” through videoconferencing.

It also seems that the agents and counsel of the Parties will not be in the Great Hall of Justice but will present their arguments through technological means.

The exact program of the hearing will be announced later.

As it is now common practice, the hearing will be broadcasted live on a webstream. It will be certainly interesting to observe how this first experience of the Court with virtual hearings will unfold.

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