Thursday, 09 November 2023 23:16

Five judges elected to United Nations’ top court

The General Assembly and the Security Council on Thursday elected five judges to serve on the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

In parallel and independent voting conducted by secret ballot, the Assembly and the Council re-elected one judge who is currently serving, Hilary Charlesworth of Australia.

Another justice currently on the bench, Kirill Gevorgian of Russia, was not successful in securing another term.

Four new justices were elected: Bogdan-Lucian Aurescu (Romania); Sarah Hull Cleveland (United States); Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo Verduzco (Mexico); and Dire Tladi (South Africa).

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In the complex balloting procedure, the General Assembly achieved a conclusive result – with five candidates securing absolute majority support – in the first round of voting.

By contrast, the Security Council went through five rounds of balloting.

Each justice will serve a nine-year term, starting on 6 February next year.

The candidates

The candidates who were not selected were Chaloka Beyani (Zambia); Ahmed Amin Fathalla (Egypt); Kirill Gevorgian (Russia); and Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

The elections

The election of the judges or members of the ICJ are held in accordance with the Statute of the Court, the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, and the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council.

To be elected, members must secure an absolute majority in both the General Assembly (97 votes) and Security Council (8 votes).

If in the first ballot in either the Assembly or the Council, the number of candidates obtaining an absolute majority is fewer than five, a second ballot is held and balloting continues at the same meeting until five candidates have obtained the required majority.

There have been instances in which more than the required number of candidates have obtained an absolute majority on the same ballot. In these cases, the Assembly or the Council continue balloting until only five of the candidates have obtained the required majority.

UN Photo/Frank van Beek
The International Court of Justice, hearing a case.

The ‘World Court’

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who serve nine-year terms. Five seats come up for election every three years. There is no bar on consecutive terms.

Judges are chosen on the basis of their qualifications, not their nationality, but no two judges can be from the same country. Effort is also taken to ensure a balance in the composition of the Court.

Established in 1945, and based in The Hague in the Netherlands, the ICJ – informally known as the ‘World Court’ – settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions on legal questions that have been referred to it by other authorized UN organs.

One relatively recent case that gained international attention involved a ruling against Myanmar in January 2020, ordering the country to protect its minority Rohingya population and the destruction of evidence related to genocide allegations. The case was brought by The Gambia against Myanmar.

The election of the first members of the World Court took place on 6 February 1946, at the first session of the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

For a look back at the birth of the ICJ and the crucial role it plays in the work of the United Nations, check out our newly published UN Video piece today, part of our weekly Stories from the UN Archive series.

Stories from the UN Archive: The first-ever case at the World Court