Maybe the ICJ is Useful After All

Maybe the ICJ is Useful After All

After bashing the ICJ a bit here, I thought it is only fair that I pass along ways that the ICJ can serve a useful though limited role in the settlement of international disputes.

First, Malaysia and Indonesia, last seen sending out naval ships to confront each other over disputed islands, appear willing to consider sending this dispute as well to the ICJ.

Second, Pakistan has suggested it will send one of its less nasty disputes with India over the Bagilar dam to the ICJ, although the World Bank is supposed to have appointed a neutral arbitrator. Later, Pakistan backed off this plan, but it still might happen.

Finally, Japan has suggested it might ask China to agree to resolution of some of its territorial disputes by the ICJ. This would be remarkable since neither Japan nor China have ever had a case before the ICJ.

One thing to keep in mind, though. If the ICJ gets involved in settling any of these disputes, it will almost certainly occur because the state parties agree to get the ICJ involved rather than as part of the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction (to which only Japan and Pakistan, I believe, have assented). So the ICJ’s usefulness, at least in these instances, really results from its operation as a “glorified arbitration tribunal” as Eric Posner has put it rather than as an independent free-standing international court.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Notify of
Jeff V.
Jeff V.

I have one question: is there any such thing as an ICJ clerkship comparable to what US judges have? If so, are there any tried and true routes to scoring one? This kind of brings up a broader question that I have. As an incoming 1L (Columbia) who is very interested in someday finding a job that deals with international law, I’m trying to figure out what types of activities will be worthwhile. For example, has a great article ( about how to land a government job in a conservative administration, listing the law firms (Kirkland Ellis), judges (Scalia, Thomas, and others), law schools (Chicago), and law school activities (Federalist Society) that usually get young conservative lawyers noticed for these types of positions. I know this has touched on before, but what are the comparable schools, firms, clerkships, activities, etc for international law? Does it matter that much if one is “liberal” or “conservative?” (It seems to me that this distinction is much less revelant for international than domestic politics). I’ve heard that the ASIL is extremely important; would this be a better place to frequent than, say, the American Constitution Society? I’ve also heard that Wilmer Cutler is… Read more »