Politics and the Emergence of An Activist International Court of Justice

By Thomas J. Bodie | Go to book overview

Foreword

According to conventional wisdom, the International Court of Justice, sitting in The Hague and consisting of 15 judges from different countries and legal systems and elected by a cumbersome process that involves both the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council, is by the nature of things forced to play a very limited role in the settlement of international disputes. The tribunal, like any international tribunal, is not to be compared to a domestic tribunal, especially one like the U. S. Supreme Court. Rather, the Court is expected to play a limited and focused role that is restricted to the careful interpretation of clearly defined and agreed upon rules of international law. Such a limited role is necessary because of the limitations and imperfections in the international legal system itself, the absence of any effective enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance with the Court's rulings, and the lack of consensus among the states of the international community regarding what issues are to be considered "legal" and therefore potentially resolvable by third-party measures and what issues must be considered "political" and therefore not susceptible to judicial settlement.

Those who study international law and the activities of the International Court of Justice continually confront the frequent and persistent fallacies of conventional wisdom regarding the strengths and weaknesses of international law. In this instant work, Thomas J. Bodie dispels some of the fallacies of conventional wisdom about the inadequacies and limitations of the International Court of Justice. Bodie demonstrates that, since its inception in 1920 as the Permanent Court of International Justice under the League of Nations, the World Court has progressively moved away from a narrow, legalist interpretation of its role to become an activist tribunal. Over time the Court has moved beyond a narrow focus on exclusively "legal" issues and has adopted a more encompassing view of itself as one of the organs of the United Nations system

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