ICJ president lauds Canada's international contributions

TheInternational Law Association and The Advocates' Society kick-started thecountdown to the association's upcoming conference with a special address fromJudge Shi Jiuyong, president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Photo: Kirsten McMahon.  International Court of Justice president Shi Jiuyong says criticism of deliberation times for cases heard by the court is unwarranted.Shi's lecture, held in Convocation Hall at Osgoode Hall late last month, was a discussion of ICJ processes and the role it plays in the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

"We have had many distinguished visitors in this historic hall but none more so than our visitor today," said litigator Earl Cherniak, moderator of the event.

Shi said he was "truly grateful for the opportunity" to speak in Toronto to members of the legal community.

"Canada has always been a pioneer in the development and promotion of international law, setting a commendable example for other nations," he said. "Canada recognizes the usefulness of the international dispute resolution mechanisms."

He pointed to the formation and promotion of the International Criminal Court as an example of Canada's leadership on the world stage.

Born in Zhejiang, China, in 1926, Shi holds a bachelor's degree in government and public law from St. John's University in Shanghai and a master's degree in international law from Columbia University in New York. In addition to holding numerous research positions in international law, he has also taught at several universities in China.

The ICJ was formed in 1946 as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The court is composed of 15 judges, each elected by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. Only a single judge of any particular nationality may be included at any one time, which is why it is often referred to as "the world court."

"This is especially true of today's court," said Shi. "Court members come from Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Madagascar, the Netherlands. . . ."

The members of the court do not represent their governments, but sit as independent magistrates. Each must possess the qualifications required in their respective country for appointment to the highest judicial office, or be jurists of recognized competence in international law.

Shi explained the dual role of the ICJ. It settles "contentious cases" in accordance with international law. These are legal disputes submitted by states. The court is also asked to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies. These are known as advisory cases.

Shi said the court's broad jurisdiction and dual role in contentious and advisory cases is what differentiates it from other international tribunals.

"It is very interesting to note the relationship that exists between the court and the Security Council," he said. "The Security Council can recommend the states submit their disputes to the court. The Security Council may take appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the decisions of the court."

Shi said it is true in the past that the ICJ has been criticized for the length of time it takes to decide cases. Generally, it only decides one to three contentious cases a year.

"That criticism is not justified in my opinion," said Shi. These proceedings take time because of the procedures and various jurisdictions involved, he said. "In recent years, the court has taken a full review of its operations and as a result has introduced mechanisms to enhance its internal functions."

The 72nd biennial conference of the International Law Association will be held in Toronto from June 4 to 8, 2006, and attendees at Shi's lecture got a sneak peek at some of the planned programming and social activities.

Barry Leon, co-chair of the event, stated that he is looking forward to hosting the spring conference. "It really is a special opportunity for us to participate in these types of programs right here in Toronto," he said.

Linda Rothstein, president of The Advocates' Society, agreed and added, "The Advocates' Society is delighted and honoured to have had a hand in planning this very special program."

For more information on the conference, visit www.ila2006.org.

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