26 Apr 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.