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It's official: Judge Thomas Buergenthal will resign from the ICJ

We have heard it before but today the ICJ confirmed that Judge Buergenthal will resign from the ICJ. Judge Buergenthal has been a member of the ICJ since March 2000 and was re-elected to serve a nine-year term beginning in February 2006. He was at the time of his election the first judge of US nationality on the ICJ since 1981. According to a press release from the George Washington University Law School, Judge Buergenthal will return to GW Law to resume his tenure as Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence. For his GW Law profile see here.

The date for the election for the vacancy on the ICJ was, pursuant to Art. 14 of the Statute of the ICJ, set by the UN Security Council. In its resolution 1926(2010) the UNSC determined that the election will take place on 9 September 2010 at simultaneous but separate meetings of the UNSC and of the UNGA. The vacancy that was created with Judge Buergenthal’s resignation will be filled for the remainder of his term of office, i.e. until 2015 (cf. Art. 14 ICJ Statute).

Here is the press release from the ICJ:

THE HAGUE, 10 June 2010. Judge Thomas Buergenthal will resign as Member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with effect from 6 September 2010. His term would have expired on 5 February 2015.

The United Nations has fixed 9 September 2010 as the date for the election of his successor by the Security Council and the General Assembly. The Member of the Court then elected will complete Judge Buergenthal’s term.

Judge Buergenthal has been a Member of the Court since 2 March 2000. After his first term, he was re-elected as from 6 February 2006.

Former Judge and President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank, Judge Buergenthal is also a Member of the American Bar Association, the American Society of International Law, the American Law Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the German Society of International Law. In addition, he is an associé of the Institut de droit international. Holder of numerous prizes and distinctions, Judge Buergenthal sits on the Editorial Board of various publications. He is the author of many books, essays and articles.

Just a couple of days ago Judge Jiuyong from China also resigned from the ICJ; his term was set to expire on 5 February 2012. Elections to fill the vacancy created by his resignation have been set in UNSC resolution 1914(2010) to take place on 29 June 2010 at a meeting of the Security Council and at a meeting of the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session. Judge Jiuyong in 2003 became the first Chinese President of the ICJ.

I won’t start making any predictions on who may become Judge Buergenthal’s or Jugde Jiuyong’s successor. But feel free to share your suggestions in the comment section below 😉

Here is a short overview of the election process:

According to Art. 14 ICJ Statute vacancies shall be filled by the same method as that laid down for the first election. The resignation is to be addressed to the President of the Court (currently Judge Hisashi Owada) who then transmits it to the UN Secretary-General (Art. 13(4) ICJ Statute). With the notification to the UNSG the place at the ICJ is made vacant. Pursuant to Art. 14 in conjunction with Art. 5 ICJ Statute, the UNSG then issues invitations to the members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration which are also parties to the ICJ Statute (Art. 4(1) ICJ Statute), and to the members of the ad hoc national groups appointed by States not members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (Art. 4(2) ICJ Statute), inviting them to undertake the nomination of persons in a position to accept the duties of a member of the Court. Every group may nominate a maximum of four persons, and only two of whom may be their own nationals (Art. 5(2) ICJ Statute). The date of the election shall, according to Art. 14 in fine ICJ Statute, be fixed by the Security Council.

When making their nominations the national groups are recommended to consult their highest court of justice, their legal faculties and schools of law, and their national academies and national sections of international academies devoted to the study of law (Art. 6 ICJ Statute). The Statute establishes a number of criteria which the (future) judges of the ICJ should fulfil. These include: independence and high moral character. Furthermore the nominees must possess qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or they must be jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law (Art. 2 ICJ Statute). However, although the two electing bodies, the UNSC and the UNGA are called upon to “bear in mind” these individual qualifications (see Art. 9 ICJ Statute), and even if they “should” assure that on the court as a whole the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world are represented, the election procedure is (and has always been) a very politicised matter characterized by confidentiality. The necessary majority is a an absolute majority of votes in the UNGA and in the UNSC (Art. 10(1) ICJ Statute). What is worth noticing is that the vote in the UNSC is taken without distinction between permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC.

Finally, the normal tenure for ICJ judges is nine years (Art. 13(1) ICJ Statute) and they may be re-elected. However, in the current situation where a judge is elected to replace a member whose term of office has not expired, the new judge shall hold office for the remainder of his predecessor’s term. After the expiration of this term he may nevertheless be re-elected for a full term.


  1. Gentian Zyberi Gentian Zyberi 10 June 2010

    Thanks Dominik for the post. I am guessing that the judges are going to have the same nationality as the judges that have resigned. That is all I can venture to predict. Both Judge Buergenthal and Judge Shi Jiuyong will be missed at the Court.
    I read recently the book by Judge Buergenthal ‘A lucky child’ where he tells his story of survival through the Holocaust. What a powerful book! A book that brings tears into your eyes for what happened, but that also gives you hope that the future will be better and will not repeat itself. It is a must read.

  2. Dominik Zimmermann Dominik Zimmermann 11 June 2010

    I agree. We have mentioned Judge Buergenthal’s book “A lucky child” here before but it deserves to be underlined what a captivating book this is.

  3. Joe Joe 11 June 2010

    Why would they resign from such an important position?

  4. alban alban 24 June 2010

    I think they are personal reasons. Hes long contribute to the justice would have an slow down one day to leave more space to his personal life.
    I would like him concluding this process as He’s been since the very beginning an contributor but I don’t think He’s resignation would affect the justice.
    They are other high profile judges like Mr. Buergenthal with comparable experience who can bring also an valuable expertize.

  5. judge alinawaz chowhan judge alinawaz chowhan 19 July 2010

    While serving as an intl judge of the UN at the Hague I had the honour of meeting Judge Buergenthal.several tiles mostly in the judges cafe at the peace palace. A friendly person down to earth like a tree full of fruit bending under its weight which in his case was knowledge and the respect for mankind. The lucky child his book will inspire many. The Icj will miss such a good person. I wish him good health and life at his new place.

  6. judge alinawaz chowhan judge alinawaz chowhan 19 July 2010

    JUDGE CHOWHAN Pakistan

  7. judge alinawaz chowhan judge alinawaz chowhan 19 July 2010

    SENDING MY RESPECTS TO THE great JUDGE whom I ave met several times at the HAGUE
    JUDGE CHOWHAN Pakistan

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