Page Banner

The role of the ICJ in international affairs

By Jasper Ang, The Wall Street Journal

Published: 18 Mar 2019 - 07:21 AM

The Wall Street Journal is a New York City based English-language international daily newspaper and publishes journals six days a week, which has been printed continuously since its launch in 8th July 1889.

The seal of the ICJ

The seal of the ICJ

For the upcoming United Nations (UN) meeting between delegates from all over the world, we will focus on the principal judicial organ of the UN, i.e. the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The role of the ICJ is to settle legal disputes according to international law and it will mainly be discussing two topics — the advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, and the application of the convention of prevention and punishment of the suspected action on the crime of genocide in the Rohingya crisis involving Myanmar and France.

Firstly, the use of nuclear weapons has been put in question due to its destructive nature. Ever since the first use of the Atomic Bomb by the USA against Japan in World War II, a huge debate over nuclear disarmament was sparked off. Next, the Cold War catalyzed the current stance of nuclear disarmament, especially the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Recently, there has been a general decrease in the total global nuclear stockpile, from 14 935 in 2017 to 14 465 in 2018. Similarly, under a 2011-20 programme, Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles are undergoing considerable modernization. Thus, the role of the ICJ is to define the realms and boundaries of international law, upholding their interests through the definition of international obligations, in spite of strong political aspects, with respect to the bipolar perspectives on nuclear weapons by both nuclear and non-nuclear states. As such, the ICJ has accepted the legal nature of the question and will carry out a legal assessment of the possible conduct of states under the obligation of international law, thus deciding whether nuclear disarmament is to be carried out.

Next, regarding the application of the convention of prevention and punishment of suspected action on the crime of genocide in the Rohingya crisis. Genocide firstly refers to acts of killing, causing serious injuries and prevention of births within a group, which are committed with the intent to destroy a national, racial, ethnic or religious group. Under article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, any treaty that conflicts with the norm is nullified, including but not limited to the prohibition of crimes against humanity, genocide and slavery. The 1991 Operation Pyi Thaya eviction of the Rohingya by force from Myanmar, resulted in 250 000 Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh. This aligns with the understanding that Genocides are accompanied by large numbers of a specific group of people being killed, eradicated or having harm deliberately inflicted on them. Besides, in 1982, the Citizenship Act came into effect, discriminating against the Rohingya as an ethnic group, causing them to be stateless. Hence, France filed a lawsuit against Myanmar for their act of failure to comply with the Genocide Convention, and the ICJ is thus obliged to follow through with a court trial to decide whether crimes of genocides are committed in the Rohingya crisis.