Editors Note: The European Society of International Law held the 2015 ESIL Annual Conference from 10–12 September 2015 on “The Judicialization of International Law – A Mixed Blessing?” The event, hosted by the PluriCourts Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order, took place at the University of Oslo. For the Final Lecture, Professor Philippe Sands QC (University College London) discussed “Developments in Geopolitics – The End(s) of Judicialization?”. This post is a précis (summary) of the lecture as prepared by the Editors of EJIL: Talk! and reviewed by Professor Sands; the lecture may be viewed in full here. The full lecture, with all references and citations added, and a short Afterword, will be published in the European Journal of International Law. Full details of the conference are available on the conference website, including recordings of selected sessions.
In the summer of 2014 I spent three weeks in The Hague, in the company of a man who was 100 years old. Professor Vladimir Ibler, who was born in 1913 in Zagreb, was one of my co-counsel during the hearings in the arbitration proceedings between Croatia and Slovenia, heard in the Peace Palace. Each morning he and I walked slowly up the central staircase of the Peace Palace, and then down it later in the afternoon: past the statue of lady justice, to and from the Japanese room, where the hearing took place. Professor Ibler, who was diminutive in height but certainly not in presence or character, would muse about the state of the world, of international law, and of international courts. “When I was born there were none”, he said to me, “and now there are so many that I cannot keep up with them all. What are they all for? What do they all mean?” The questions were never answered of course, but from his cheery disposition I always felt he retained a sense of hope. A centenarian who lived a life that was touched by Emperor Franz Josef, Hitler, Stalin and Tito was easily able to seize on the possibility of courts as an alternative to war, which is of course the principal end of judicialization. He was hopeful too that Croatia and Slovenia would finally be able to resolve their dispute, by arbitration proceedings under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
Yet he also sounded a note of caution. I interviewed him in June 2014 more formally for a profile I was asked to write for the Financial Times magazine. “I learnt in my life not to come to fast conclusions”, he told me.
“I was very happy in a lawyers office in Zagreb from 1937 to 1939, working with Mr Korsky, and then the Nazis just shot him. I think that being in a lawyer’s office you can make certain conclusions about people and about human relationships, and you can learn certain things. And what I learnt is not to be very quick to make conclusions, but reflect all the time.”
Wise advice from a man who had reached the age of 100.
Was it a good idea to refer the dispute between Croatia and Slovenia to an international arbitral tribunal, I asked. “Yes”, he replied, but added: “What I am sceptical of is some of the judges that were appointed to the court, I am not entirely convinced that the tribunal has been totally independent.” He paused. “It seems there are some invisible forces. There are justices and there are injustices.” Recent events have caused me to go back to that conversation. Read the rest of this entry…