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Neil B. Nucup


With the anarchic multiplication of international courts and tribunals, and the concomitant possibility for jurisdictional and decisional conflicts among them to occur, treating the International Court of Justice as the “invisible” international supreme court seems an attractive solution. After all, it is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and the only court with universal general jurisdiction. Revisiting this proposal, the article argues that the World Court suffers not only from political (extrinsic) constraints, but also from institutional (intrinsic) limitations, thereby endangering its sociological and normative legitimacy. Nonetheless, this does not mean rectifying them for the purpose of enabling it to discharge its envisioned role as the international supreme court. Rather the problem is not so much improving the World Court, but understanding the merits of maintaining the status quo, that is, a decentralised judiciary.

Ksenia Polonskaya


This article examines the notion of consent as an element of judicial propriety as defined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the context of its advisory function. The article situates the issue of judicial propriety within a broader conversation on the Court’s normative outlooks in international law, and examines the most recent advisory opinion on the Chagos Archipelago to understand how the Court itself views its role in international law. The article concludes that the Court’s advisory opinions do not provide much clarity as to the circumstances in which a lack of consent will become a compelling enough reason to justify a refusal to give an advisory opinion. The Court appears to ritually recite consent as a relevant element in its assessment of judicial propriety, however, it continues to limit such relevance.

Paula Wojcikiewicz Almeida


By adjudicating inter-State claims, international courts can also contribute to the protection and promotion of community interests. However, the main obstacle faced by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) relates to the existing tension between the bilateral nature of its own proceedings and the multilateral nature of the conflicting substantive law. As procedure may guide and shape the application of substantive law, it should itself be interpreted and developed in a manner to ensure community interests. By using its power to “frame rules for carrying out its functions”, the Court should assume expanded procedural powers in order to ensure the effective application of substantive law whenever community interests are at issue. Most procedural rules can be adjusted for multiparty aspects, notably the rules on third-party intervention, with the aim of protecting community interests and enhancing the Court’s legitimacy. It is up to the Court to find the balance between States’ rights and commonly aspired goals.

Gaiane Nuridzhanian


Article 20(3) of the Rome Statute bars the International Criminal Court from trying a person for conduct proscribed by the Statute if the person has already been tried in relation to the same conduct before “another court,” provided that the proceedings in the other court were genuine. The article discusses application of Article 20(3) of the Rome Statute and, by implication, of the Court’s admissibility framework to non-State courts. It argues that Article 20(3) applies where there has a been a trial before a court of a State, whether that State is a party or not to the Rome Statute. Article 20(3) can in principle apply to a trial before a non-State court were the trial to satisfy the customary international law rules on attribution of conduct to a State.

Ciarán Burke and Alexandra Molitorisová


The article offers a critical look at the complex relationship between the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and policy-supportive (scientific) evidence. In particular, due to now commonplace, evidence-based policy-making of national governments, the Court is effectively supplemented with various statistics and studies and tasked with reviewing policy measures aiming to improve the public good. This article investigates the ECtHR’s use and interpretation of policy-supportive evidence in the proportionality analysis, and how this affects the margin of appreciation. The recent case of Dubská and Krejzová concerning the ban on home births, which the article explores in detail, is illustrative in this regard. Although the Court appears to review scientific evidence substantively, an increased proliferation of statistics and studies may bring about controversy in relation to legal cases, without having a conclusive impact upon the outcome of a dispute.

The Role of Practice in International Organizations

The Case of Government Recognition by the International Monetary Fund

Lorenzo Arditi

This article explores the ‘practice’ of the International Monetary Fund (‘imf’) by focusing on the organization’s approach to recognition of governments. After analysing this approach in some detail, it surveys the organization’s practice from three perspectives. First, it identifies the different functions of practice within the imf’s legal system, including the imf’s treaty. Second, the article reviews how the practice of the imf relates to key conceptions of practice under international law: (i) as part of international custom; (ii) under articles 31(3)(b) and 32 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties; and (iii) as a ‘rule of the organization’. Finally, the article compares ‘practice’ under the imf treaty and a national legal system by considering how the United States’ Supreme Court has interpreted the power to recognise governments under the USConstitution.

Alexander Orakhelashvili

This contribution examines the legal merit of the Decision Addressing the Treat from Chemical Weapons, adopted by the 89th Session of the General Conference of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘opcw’) on 27 July 2018. While relating to matters of high political importance, this Decision still raises important issues of the constitutionality of international organizations’ use of their delegated powers. This contribution pursues the detail of this matter, by focusing, among others, on the scope of the opcw’s authority under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the relationship between the opcw and the United Nations.

A Guardian of Universal Interest or Increasingly Out of its Depth?

The International Seabed Authority Turns 25

Richard Collins and Duncan French

In contemporary debates on the authority of global institutions, there is an important yet often overlooked organisational curiosity: namely, the International Seabed Authority (‘ISA’). The ISA reflects a highpoint in international communitarian governance. Premised around traditional notions of access, control and allocation of deep seabed resources, its mandate is both invariably spatial-temporal, and yet also limited and functional. Its purpose is to govern the extraction of seabed mineral resources for the collective benefit of the international community. To achieve that ambition, however, a highly complex and bureaucratic regulatory structure has been established. In this paper we aim to consider this tension in the mandate of the ISA, particularly insofar as it manifests in aspects of its institutional design and functioning in practice. Recognising these dynamics not only helps one better understand governance of the deep seabed, but also broadly demonstrates the innate tensions in granting institutional control over common spaces.

An Interim Post-Mortem

Specialised Courts in the EU Judicial Architecture after the Civil Service Tribunal

Graham Butler

The EU treaties allow the Union legislature to establish specialised courts within the institution of the Court of Justice. This possibility was inserted by the Treaty of Nice, and by 2005, the Union’s first and only specialised court to date was established—the Civil Service Tribunal (‘CST’). The judicial architecture of the Union has undergone transformative changes in recent years, and as part of the reforms, the CST was abolished in 2016, marking an abrupt end to the Union’s brief use of specialised courts. This article offers an interim post-mortem of specialised courts, examining the Union’s experimentalism with a three-tier judicial institution by focusing on two unique features. Firstly, the role of judges at specialised courts; and secondly, the review procedure that may be undertaken by the Court of Justice. The article contemplates the future of specialised courts, drawing some constitutional lessons that can be learnt from this brief experiment.