The Permanent Court of International Justice, 1920-1942

By Manley O. Hudson; Bureau of International Research of Harvard University and Radcliffe College | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12 THE ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF THE COURT

§232. The System of Elections . The provisions of the Statute which deal with the election of members of the Court represent the greatest triumph achieved in 1920. The problem of election had baffled the 1907 Hague Conference in its effort to create a Court of Arbitral Justice, and a very unsatisfactory solution had been given to the problem in this proposal for an International Prize Court. The difficulty had been in reconciling the demands of the more powerful States for certain representation and the insistence of other States on the principle of equality. By 1920, however, a similar difficulty had been surmounted in the creation of the League of Nations; recognition had been given to the claims of the larger States in the provisions for permanent representation on the Council, while all Members of the League had been given equal representation in the Assembly. The 1920 Committee of Jurists took advantage of this fact to propose that the election of judges of the Court should be entrusted to the Assembly and the Council, and the proposal was greeted with general satisfaction. It is the existence of these two bodies which makes possible the maintenance of the Court under the present Statute.

Article 13 of the Statute provides that "the members of the Court shall be elected for nine years,"1 and under Article 15 a member elected to fill a vacancy serves only "for the remainder of his predecessor's term." This means that the membership is completely reconstituted at the end of each nine-year period. Given the difficulties to be overcome when the method of election had to be agreed upon in 1920, perhaps no other plan could have been adopted at that time; yet this feature of the system has been the subject of some criticism on the ground that the continuity of the Court's work would be better safeguarded if the terms of members of

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1
M. Politis proposed to the 1929 Committee of Jurists that the term "should be increased from nine to twelve years, with the hope that, in future, it would be found possible to go even further and to appoint the international judges for life." Minutes of the 1929 Committee of Jurists, p. 44.

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