Individuals appearing before the ICJ on behalf of states are not subject under international law to any compulsory code of conduct to guide them in navigating issues of professional ethics. Article 42(2) of the ICJ Statute merely provides that parties “may have the assistance of counsel or advocates before the Court” and does not impose qualification requirements on those a state elects to appear on its behalf. In practice, legal teams appearing before the Court are comprised of individuals from different legal backgrounds who are either qualified legal practitioners or academics (referred to below as “counsel”). Qualified practitioners will likely be subject to professional codes of conduct applicable to them in their home jurisdiction, and those codes of conduct may bind them in relation to proceedings before the ICJ. But the professional obligations applying to practitioners from different jurisdictions can vary considerably. Some may consider that their domestic code of conduct does not (and/or should not) bind counsel before an international court. Those who are academics or are not admitted in any jurisdiction may not be subject to any conduct rules when acting as counsel. The absence of a common set of professional obligations means that the obligations bearing upon the conduct of particular counsel are unclear and certainly not uniform. This may have an impact on the presentation of a case before the Court, and in turn on the Court's understanding of the dispute. Ultimately, it could materially impact the outcome of a case.
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