December 16, 2017

Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus Mr. James Droushiotis at the Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly – Report of the International Court of Justice

Mr. President,

It is a particular honour and pleasure for the delegation of Cyprus to address the General Assembly on its consideration of the Report of the International Court of Justice. We attach great importance to the role and work of the International Court of Justice and to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means in conformity with justice and international law, as provided for in the United Nations Charter.

The occasion offers us the opportunity to commend highly the Court on its significant work as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, and to pay tribute and respect to its President, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, and its members, who eminently serve the Court with dedication and distinction.

We are once again grateful to the President of the Court for his lucid introduction of the Report and for his insightful remarks on the work and functioning of the Court. The annual address of the President of the Court to the General Assembly has become a welcome practice and a highlight of the item’s consideration by the Assembly.

 

Mr. President,

The increased activity of the Court, either by submission of contentious cases, or requests for advisory opinions, is a much welcomed development. The diversity of cases before it – submitted by states from various regions of the world and different legal systems, concerning a wide range of matters – is a positive reflection of the Court’s general jurisdiction open to all states and the confidence and recognition the Court enjoys as the Organization’s principal judicial organ.

We hope that this growing willingness to resort to the Court and the prevailing “law habit” among states – as highlighted by the UN International Law Decade – will be marked by an increase in the number of declarations by states recognizing without reservation as compulsory the jurisdiction of the Court, as contemplated by Article 36, (paragraphs 2 and 5), of the Statute.

 

Mr. President,

It is now widely recognized that the peaceful settlement of disputes within the framework of the Charter, requires an integrated and coordinated approach, combining more than one category of strategies of dispute settlement. A welcome development, in this regard, is the increasing recourse to the International Court of Justice, in parallel with other methods of dispute resolution, thereby emphasizing the role of the Court in the UN’s system for the maintenance of international peace and security and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

In this regard, Chapter IV of the Report, on the role of the Court, which contains a summary of the points made by the President of the Court in his address to the Assembly last year, is significantly notable. These are that “the Court is no longer seen solely as the last resort in the resolution of disputes” and “states may have recourse to the Court in parallel and with other methods of dispute resolution, appreciating that such recourse may compliment the work of the Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as bilateral negotiations”. It was also importantly observed that “in this combined process of dispute resolution, judicial recourse has helped parties to clarify their positions” and “the Court’s decision, in other cases, has provided the parties with legal conclusions, which they may use in framing further negotiations and in achieving settlement of the dispute”.

In this regard, I would wish to recall that Cyprus has accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court under article 36(2) of the Statute. Moreover, we have declared our readiness to submit the legal components of the Cyprus problem, either by way of contentious or advisory proceedings, to the International Court of Justice for adjudication.

A fitting example of this complementary strategy of political and judicial resolution of disputes working in parallel, which readily comes to mind, under the Presidency of the Assembly, of the Foreign Minister of Namibia, Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, is the Namibia case of 1971, through which the Court rendered an advisory opinion upon the request of the Security Council on the legal obligations of states arising from the illegal presence of the then regime of South Africa in Namibia.

Also noteworthy in the case, by way of example, of the Court’s important contributions to human rights law, was the Court’s finding that apartheid was objectively illegal, and is a flagrant violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter.

In addition, the Court, as the most authoritative interpreter of the UN Charter, determined the binding character of resolutions of the Security Council under Article 25 of the Charter.

There are several more recent examples of combining political and judicial resolution of disputes, as is set out by the Reports of the Court and mentioned by the President of the Court, earlier this morning.

Furthermore, in relation to the role and functioning of the Court, I would like to note that Cyprus has consistently advocated – in major law treaty-making conferences and other legal fora – third party compulsory dispute settlement procedures, entailing a binding decision, and in this regard we have accorded the highest respect for the Court, as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

 

Mr. President,

Lastly, as appears in the Report, the increasing case load of the Court places great pressure on its human and financial resources. The Court should be provided with the means it needs to function properly and effectively, as the Organization’s principal judicial organ.

May I mention in passing that as a token of our support of the Court and the importance we attach to the peaceful settlement of disputes, Cyprus was among the first states to contribute to the Court’s Trust Fund established to assist developing countries, financially, in availing themselves, and in utilizing the Court.

Cyprus, being a small state, relies on the principles and norms of international law and the United Nations Charter, and their strict and full application and ascribes great importance to the International Court of Justice as the highest judicial organ of the United Nations.

 

Mr. President,

In view of the announced end of the tenure of the President of the Court, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, and the Registrar of the Court, Mr. Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, we wish to express our highest appreciation for their commitment and dedication to the work of the Court. President Schwebel’s contributions to the Court have been meaningful and profound. While they will be retiring from the Court, we look forward in the future to their continued valuable contributions in the field of International law.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.