United Nations elects Essex Court barrister as a judge at ‘the world’s court’

17 November, 2008

Professor Christopher Greenwood QC has been elected a judge
at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the body which settles disputes
between nations and provides legal opinion to the United Nations.

He will serve a nine-year term as one of the court’s 15
judges – hearing cases that range from territorial disputes and allegations of
racial discrimination to issues of genocide and environmental protection.

Professor Greenwood, an authority in international law, joined
Essex Court Chambers in 1995 and has practised international law before the
English and international courts.  Major
cases include the Pinochet , Kuwait Airways and Al-Skeini cases in the House of Lords, the Lockerbie and Rwanda cases in the ICJ and the Bankovic case in the European Court of Human Rights.
Professor Greenwood was appointed as a QC in 1999. He has also been
Professor of International Law at
the London School of Economics (LSE) since 1996,

He said: The ICJ is sometimes described as “the world’s
court” and I think that’s a good description. At its low point, 30 years ago,
the court didn’t have any cases at all but the number before it now shows how
countries from all parts of the world are increasingly turning to the ICJ for
the resolution of their disputes.’

Cases currently before the court, which sits in The Hague, include the
dispute between Georgia
and Russia,
several maritime boundary disputes and a request from the UN General Assembly
for an advisory opinion on Kosovo. In recent years, the Court has ruled on
allegations of genocide in Bosnia,
the security wall built by Israel
and the death penalty for foreign nationals in the United States.

New judges have to be elected by a majority in both the
Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and this time
five judges were elected from eight candidates. Professor Greenwood came second
in the poll in the General assembly, with 157 votes, and was the only candidate
to obtain all 15 votes in the Security Council. Candidates from Brazil, France, Jordan and Somalia were
also elected.

About a third of all countries accept the court’s
jurisdiction in all areas of international law while many more are parties to
treaties which recognise its authority in specific areas. The court has no
criminal jurisdiction over individuals.

Professor Greenwood said: ‘For counsel, the biggest
difference between appearing at the ICJ and appearing in an English court is
that the judges in the ICJ never interrupt. One former English judge told me he
felt English judges should have a note in front of them saying “Shut up.
Remember you’re paid to be irritated”.’

He will leave Essex Court Chambers to take up his
appointment in the new year. He follows in the footsteps of Professor Rosalyn
Higgins, the current President of the ICJ. She, too, was a member of Essex
Court Chambers, as well as being his predecessor as Professor of International Law at LSE.

His appointment was welcomed
by Foreign Secretary David Miliband
who said: ‘Professor Greenwood is highly respected within the international
legal community as an outstanding academic and practitioner of international
law. I am certain that he will make a significant contribution to the promotion
of the rule of law in international affairs.’

He is one of three new judges elected to the court. Full details available from
the ICJ website.

For further interest see Joshua Rozenberg’s article in The Telegraph.