Prior International Judicial Experience and Election to the ICJ

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In my previous post on the election of Julia Sebutinde I noted that she is currently a judge at the Special Court of Sierra Leone. This got me thinking about whether there were other judges elected to the ICJ having previously served on another international tribunal. It is not uncommon for persons who have served as senior national judges to be elected to the ICJ. Julia Sebutinde is one having been a high court judge in Uganda. On the current ICJ bench, Sir Kenneth Keith (New Zealand) and Ronny Abrahams (France) have also had national judicial experience at the highest levels. There have also been cases of ICJ judges then going on to serve in other international tribunals after leaving the ICJ. Mohammed Shahabuddeen went to the ICTY after leaving the ICJ. Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice went on to become a judge at the European Court of Human Rights after leaving the ICJ. Also judges have moved from the ad hoc international criminal tribunals to the ICC.

On the current ICJ bench there is one judge that had served on an international tribunal prior to election to the ICJ. This is Antônio  Cançado Trindade who had been President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights? But have there been others? One suspects that with the proliferation of international tribunals we will see more cases of ICJ judges having prior experience of working as an international judge. In the past, with few international tribunals, the opportunities were limited. Having said this Judges Cancado Trinidade and Sebutinde are not the first ICJ judges to have been judges on other international tribunals before going to the ICJ. I can think of at least three others. Depending on how one defines international tribunals there are perhaps more. Can readers think of any? Answers using the comments box please!

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Martin Cabrera says

December 15, 2011

I contribute with one name: Judge Thomas Buergenthal, before becoming member of the ICJ, was judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Dapo Akande says

December 15, 2011


Thanks for getting us going with the name of Judge Buergenthal. I have to confess, with much shame, that I forgot to include Judge Buergenthal in my own list. Of course, he was a judge and President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights before being elected to the Court. He had also been a judge at the Inter-American Development Bank's Administrative Tribunal.

k-a says

December 15, 2011

if you count judges ad hoc Budislav Vukas (FYRM v. Greece, Croatia v. Serbia) was Vice-President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Tobias Thienel says

December 15, 2011

Lord McNair became the first President of the ECtHR after serving in the ICJ (as Sir Arnold Duncan McNair; I think he was raised to the peerage between those two positions).

Wim Muller says

December 15, 2011

Mohamed Bennouna, the Moroccan judge currently serving in the ICJ, was an ICTY judge from 1998 to 2001.

Markos says

December 16, 2011

Vice-President Mbaye, after leaving the ICJ, went on to found and preside over the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (proviso: it all plays on what we consider to be an international tribunal)

Pietro Sferrazza says

December 18, 2011

Hi everybody
We must remember the great judge and jurist Antonio Cassese, ICTY's president from 1993 to 1997 and later Special Tribunal for Lebanon' s President from 2009 to 2011. All of us have lost a great fighter in the field of human rights.

Arrivederci e Grazie di cuore Antonio

See you
Pietro Sferrazza