When I supplied an answer to my earlier trivia question on the ICJ case in which every judge appended an individual opinion, I asked a further question
In which other judgment (or opinion) has the ICJ or PCIJ been evenly split?
Remy was really quick off the mark in supplying the correct answers and identified that there had been two ICJ cases and one PCIJ case where the Court had been evenly split and the case was decided by the President’s casting vote. In the ICJ era, the Nuclear Weapons Advisory Opinion (which was the answer to my first question) was the second case. The first was the very controversial decision of the ICJ in the South West Africa Cases (Ethiopia & Liberia v. South Africa), which was decided by the casting vote of Sir Percy Spender. In those cases, the ICJ held that Ethiopia and Liberia “cannot be considered to have established any legal right or interest appertaining to them in the subject-matter of the present claims” – which concerned the observance by South Africa of its obligations under the Mandate for South West Africa (now Namibia).
This ripple effects of this decision were felt was for many years and in many ways – both institutionally and even in term of normative development of the law. African States turned away from the Court, in the 1970s and 80s, largely as a result of this decision. Perhaps the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea might not have been created had developing countries not been so dissatisfied with the ICJ. Sir Percy Spender was not re-elected to the Court and no Australian has been elected since (expect that to change soon!). Perhaps more importantly, the Court, in the Barcelona Traction case included the famous obiter dictum on the notion of erga omnes obligations. That dictum that was somewhat out of place in that decision. Perhaps, the Court included it as a way of overruling the decision in the South West Africa cases, implicitly. Just this year we have seen the first actual application of the erga omnes doctrine by the court in the Habre case (on which this earlier post by Joanna Harrington). A decision which shows how far we have come from the South West Africa cases
As Remy, Tamas and Thomas point out, the PCIJ was also evenly split in the Lotus Case [UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Daniel Wisehart also got it right. Apologies to him]. In that case, we had the “dissenting” judgment of 6 judges in which they rejected the passive personality principle (or “principle of protection” as they called it). The Corfu Channel Case (the ICJ’s first contentious case) was also mentioned but I don’t think the Court was evenly split at any stage of that case.