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Trivia: Judges on Multiple International Tribunals

Published on January 2, 2019        Author: 
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In previous posts (here and here) of some years ago, I noted the increasing number of judges elected to the International Court of Justice who had prior experience on another international tribunal. With the proliferation of international tribunals over the past couple of decades, this phenomenon of judges being elected to one international tribunal after having served in some judicial capacity on another appears to be on the increase. About 10 days ago, the United Nations General Assembly held elections for two judicial vacancies on the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. The Assembly elected Yusuf Aksar of Turkey as a judge, but after  six rounds of balloting was unable to elect the second judge, with a further round of balloting to be held at date to be announced. Professor Aksar currently serves as an ad hoc judge of the European Court of Human Rights. This is the latest example of an international judge with prior international judicial experience. 

All of this leads me to wonder which international judge (by which I mean, judge of a standing international tribunal) has served on the most number of (standing) international tribunals. I can think of one judge who has sat on three international tribunals and two judges who have served on/been elected to  four.

My opening trivia questions for the new year are these:

  1. Which judge has served on the International Court of Justice; the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court?

  2. Which judge has been elected to the  International Court of Justice; the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and the International Criminal Court?

  3. Which judge has served on the  International Court of Justice; the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organisation?

  4. Can anyone think of an international judge who has served on 5 or more standing international tribunals?

Answers in the comments box below please!

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7 Responses

  1. 1. Christine van den Wyngaert
    2. Mohamed Shahabudeen
    3. Georges Abi-Saab
    4. nope

    Thanks, Dapo. Here is my question: Which judge served on both the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the International Court of Justice?

  2. Marija Đorđeska Marija Dordeska

    Dapo, I love these trivia questions!

    Another judge to consider is Elizabeth Odio Benito, who serves/d at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

  3. Just chiming in to reply to Matthias’s question: unless I am sorely mistaken, that would be Max Sørensen.

  4. Gentian Zyberi

    To continue on Marija’s example, Odio Benito is also a member of the PCA, bringing the number of international tribunals for her to four. Same goes for Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson (Jamaica) currently at the ICJ, previously ICTY and ICTR, and ICSID arbitrator.

    As to your question four, Judge James Crawford has been a judge or arbitrator in many international proceedings (ICJ, OECD, ICSID, PCA, UNCITRAL, NAFTA).

  5. Dapo Akande Dapo Akande

    Many thanks to all those who responded to my trivia questions. Matthias Goldmann was pretty quick in getting the answers to the first three questions, despite what I thought was a bit of trickery in how I phrased the questions,

    Christine van der Wyngaert ‘served’ on the ICJ as a Judge ad hoc [Arrest Warrant Case (DRC v Belgium)] in addition to being elected and serving as a judge of the ICTY and the ICTR.

    Judge Shahabuddenn was elected to and served on the ICJ. He was also elected to and served on the ICTY. While there he was appointed to the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY which served as a common Appeals Chamber for the ICTR. He was then elected to the ICC but sadly passed away before he was able to take up that appointment. Thus he never ‘served’ on that Court.

    Georges Abi-Saab also ‘served’ on the ICJ as an Judge ad hoc [in two cases – Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali) and Territorial Dispute (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Chad)]. He was also member of the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY and ICTR. He then served on the WTO Appellate Body.

    Thanks to Marija for pointing out that Judge Odio-Benito also served on 3 international tribunals, as did Max Sørensen, as pointed out by Matthias and Niccolò. In fact, Sørensen had served as a member of the European Commission of Human Rights before going on to serve as a Judge ad hoc at the ICJ [North Sea Continental Cases (Germany v Netherlands & Denmark)], the ECJ and the ECHR where he was a judge for just about a year before he passed away. If one regards the Commission as a tribunal, which in a sense it was, he also served on 4 tribunals.

    Gentian, I defined international tribunal, for the purpose of the question, as referring to a standing tribunal so acting as an arbitrator does not count on that definition.

    No one was able to come up with a judge on five tribunals. The only person that I can think of is Georges Abi Saab, who in addition to the tribunals indicated above was also a Commissioner of the United Nations Compensation Commission.

    The UNCC was created by the United Nations Security Council (SC Res 687 & 692 (1991)) after the 1990/91 Gulf War to process claims and pay compensation for losses and damage suffered as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. The Commissioners worked in panels of three to evaluate claims and determine the amount of compensation that could be awarded.

    There could be an argument as to whether the UNCC was an international tribunal. The Report of the UN Secretary General (para. 20) which provided the basis for the Commission’s function stated that: “The Commission is not a court or an arbitral tribunal before which the parties appear; it is a political organ that performs an essentially fact-finding function of examining claims, verifying their validity, evaluating losses, assessing payments and resolving disputed claims. It is only in this last respect that a quasi-judicial function may be involved.” However, in reality that “quasi-judicial” function of resolving disputed claims turned out to be a large part of the Commission’s work. UNCC is the largest claims “tribunal” that has ever existed. It awarded US$52billion dollars in damages and at some point a whopping 30% of all of Iraq’s oil revenue went to the payment of claims awarded by the UNCC.

  6. Kriangsak Kittichaisaree

    A word about Judge Georges Abi-Saab.

    A by-election was held on 12 Oct 2001 to fill the vacancy due to Judge Bedjaoui’s resignation as of 30 September 2001. There were ‘2 candidates who were Egyptians’ for the vacancy.

    The National Group of Egypt nominated Ambassador Nabil Elaraby, then an ILC member from Egypt, and he had the full support of the Egyptian Govt. The National Groups of France, Greece, Liechtenstein, Sweden, and the UK then joined in nominating Elaraby. However, the National Group of Belgium nominated Georges Abi-Saab. This caused a lot of confusion among UN Member States. There was a widespread belief that the Egyptian National Group and Govt. did not opt for Abi-Saab because he was considered to be too ‘European’ and ‘remote’ from his own country.

    On 6 Oct 2001, Abi-Saab sent a letter to the UN Secretary General, which reads:

    ‘I have been informed in a letter from the President of the International Court of Justice that my name is on the list of candidates nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration to succeed Judge Mohammed Bedjaoui as a member of the International Court of Justice. I am very grateful to those who deemed me worthy of fulfilling this function and I appreciate the true value of their initiative in spontaneously nominating me.
    Subsequently, however, the Government of Egypt chose to give its official support to another candidate. Accordingly, I should like to ask you to withdraw my name from the list of candidates and to inform the delegations of the content of this letter.’

    His withdrawal left Elaraby running against Francis Romain Wodie, an appeal court judge from Cote d’Ivoire, whom Elaraby beat easily. C’est la vie!