Prior International Judicial Experience and Election to the ICJ – The Answers

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In my post of yesterday I tried to come up with a bit of international law trivia. I asked readers to come with names of ICJ Judges who had been on international tribunals prior to their election to the ICJ. You can see the answers readers came up with in the comments to that post. Many thanks to Martin for noting that Judge Buergenthal was at the ICTY previously. Thanks also Wim Muller for pointing out that Mohamed Bennouna, also currently on the ICJ, also had prior experience of another international tribunal before election to the ICJ. This means that when Judge Sebutinde takes up her position at the Court, there will be three ICJ judges (together with Judge Antonio Cancado Trindade) serving on the bench at the same time who had earlier been judges at other international tribunals. This compares with around 5 previous ICJ judges who had served on international tribunals prior to election to the ICJ.

Thanks also to Tobias and Markos for the names of Lord McNair and Judge Mbaye. However, as Tobias and Markos note, these are examples of Judges going on to international tribunals after they left the ICJ.

The names of other ICJ judges with prior international judicial experience are Sir Humphrey Waldock, who was a Judge and President of the European Court of Human Rights prior to going to the ICJ and President Guerrero who was the first President of the ICJ. The last one is particularly tricky as Judge Guerrero was the last President of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Judge Guerrero was also Vice President of both the PCIJ and the ICJ. Though the ICJ was the continuation of the PCIJ they were technically separate courts so he counts as one who was another international tribunal prior to election to the ICJ.

Other Judges with experience of international judicial or quasi-judicial tribunals prior to going to the ICJ would be Judge Petren (Sweden) who had been a member (and President) of the European Commission of Human Rights and a Judge at the United Nations Administrative Tribunal. Incidentally, Waldock had also been member and President of the European Commission of Human Rights before going to the ECtHR and the ICJ. Judge Higgins had also been a member of the Human Rights Committee before election to the ICJ. I don’t count judges who had served on international arbitral tribunals or conciliation commissions as they were not standing courts or tribunals.

It is interesting to see that most of the British Judges at the ICJ have either had prior international judicial experience or gone to an international tribunal after leaving the ICJ. The exceptions are Hersch Lauterpacht (who sadly died while at the ICJ) and Robert Jennings.

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Andreas Zimmermann says

December 19, 2011

Pls. note that Hermann Mosler, ICJ judge 1976-1985 has also been judge at the ECtHR (1959-1980) and thus indeed, has been (at least to my knowlegde) the only ICJ jduge to exercise two international judgeships at the same time

Andreas Zimmermann

Dapo Akande says

December 20, 2011


Thank you very much for pointing this out. Judge Mosler was indeed on the ECtHR before his election to the ICJ and continued to serve on that court until 1981, i.e. for the first five years of his tenure at the ICJ.

Judge Mosler's current tenure on both courts raises questions about the application of Article 16 which says that:

"No member of the court may exercise any political or administrative function, or engage in any other occupation of a professional nature."

ICJ judges do often serve on arbitral tribunals but holding a position on an other standing tribunal is another matter. My guess is that Art. 16 was not regarded as a problem for Judge Mosler as the ECtHR was not particularly busy at the time (nor was the ICJ) and it might well have been the case that judges on that court were not full time at that period but only worked on that court as and when it had cases.