Academic journal article Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law

International Law for the Masses

Academic journal article Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law

International Law for the Masses

Article excerpt


The number of international courts, tribunals, and commissions has increased dramatically in the past few decades. This increase can be explained in part by the economic globalization resulting from the end of the Cold War and by the emergence of non-state actors as parties with the requisite standing to appear as claimants in international judicial forums. Claims reparations tribunals, in particular, are evidence of this relatively new position of prominence for individuals and corporations. This phenomenon will be explored in more detail by looking at two claims reparations tribunals to see how they operate, what criticisms are advanced against them, and which characteristics are their strongest attributes. Through an examination of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal (Tribunal or Iran-U.S. Tribunal) and the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC or Commission), this Note concludes that the most successful elements of these international dispute settlement bodies are borrowed from the arbitral model and that future forums would benefit from adopting those proven characteristics.


The origins of modern international dispute settlement began with the Permanent Court of Arbitration which was established by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. (1) Though the Permanent Court of Arbitration is neither permanent nor a court, (2) "its establishment marked an important moment as the first standing international adjudicatory body." (3) This judicial body was the first global mechanism for the settlement of international disputes. (4)

Today, more than twenty international courts, tribunals, and commissions exist as permanent institutions and at least seventy other international institutions exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions. (5) In the past few decades, the international arena has seen the establishment of trade and investment tribunals, mass claims reparations tribunals, regional economic integration tribunals, human rights tribunals, a law of the sea tribunal, two new United Nations criminal tribunals, and an international criminal court. (6) This proliferation of international adjudicatory bodies is the result of two interrelated developments: increased economic globalization since the end of the Cold War and the expansion of international law to address issues concerning non-state actors.

The end of the Cold War was a catalyst which launched the world's transition out of its existing bipolar framework and into the multilateral one that has developed today. (7) International trade increased between nations and subsequently a need arose for international law forums to govern the inevitable disputes arising from the increased number of global transactions. (8) Business and trade barriers were lowered among states in order to foster economic efficiency and growth as free trade doctrines and the market-economy paradigm triumphed. (9) More international judicial bodies were established in the 1990s than in any other decade, due in large part to the systematic transformation of international relations following the demise of the Soviet Union. (10)

In addition to creating the need for judicial bodies to adjudicate international disputes of the new multilateral world, "the post-Cold War acceleration of the globalization of commerce and telecommunications ... [decentralized] international law (i.e. [removed] it from an exclusively state platform) and [widened] the community of those affected by international law, needing international law, and developing international law." (11) This introduction of non-state actors into the international legal system was the second driving force behind the increase of international courts, tribunals, and commissions.

Traditionally, international legal personality was only vested in states. (12) "[I]ndividuals and corporate entities were not 'legal actors' on the international plane," so any "grievances [needed to] . …

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