The International Court of Justice's Treatment of Circumstantial Evidence and Adverse Inferences

By Scharf, Michael P.; Day, Margaux | Chicago Journal of International Law, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The International Court of Justice's Treatment of Circumstantial Evidence and Adverse Inferences


Scharf, Michael P., Day, Margaux, Chicago Journal of International Law


Abstract

This Article examines a vexing evidentiary question with which the International Court of Justice has struggled in several cases, namely: What should the Court do when one of the parties has exclusive access to critical evidence and refuses to produce it for security or other reasons? In its first case, Corfu Channel, the Court decided to apply liberal inferences of fact against the non-producing party, but in the more recent Crime of Genocide case, the Court declined to do so under seemingly similar circumstances. By carefully examining the treatment of evidence exclusively accessible by one party in these and other international cases, this Article seeks, first, to illuminate the nuances in the Court's approach to circumstantial evidence and adverse inferences and, second, to recommend a more coherent approach for the future. Because International Court of Justice cases have significant impact on the practice of states and international organisations and are frequently cited as authority by national courts, a better understanding of the Court's application of evidentiary standards has broad scholarly and practical utility.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction ....................................................................124

IL The Court's Power to Consider Circumstantial Evidence and Rely on Adverse Inferences.................................................................... 127

III. Key Early ICJ Cases Concerning Nonproduction of Evidence .....................128

A. The Corfu Channel Case ....................................................................129

1. Legal responsibility of Albania ....................................................................129

2. Legal responsibility of the UK. ....................................................................130

3. Analysis of evidentiary principles ....................................................................131

B. The South West Africa Cases ....................................................................131

C. The Military ana Paramilitary Activities Case ....................................................................132

D. The Pulau Ligitan andPulau Sipadan Islands Case ....................................................................133

E. The Oil Platforms Case ....................................................................134

F.DRC v Uganda ....................................................................135

G. Observations about the ICJ's Treatment of Circumstantial Evidence and Adverse Inferences Prior to 2005.................................................................... 136

IV. The Crime of Genocide Case ....................................................................136

A. The Separate Opinion of Judge Lauterpacht ....................................................................137

B. The Opinion of the Court ....................................................................138

1. Submission and use of secret evidence ....................................................................138

2. Recourse to liberal findings of fact ....................................................................139

3. Specific intent to commit genocide ....................................................................139

4. Duty to prevent and punish ....................................................................140

5. The Court's limited reliance on circumstantial evidence ....................................................................141

C. Reconciling Corfu Channel 'with Crime ofGenodde ....................................................................142

V. Circumstantial Evidence and Other International Tribunals ....................................................................143

A. Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague . …

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