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International Judges: Is There a Global Ethic?

  • Richard J. Goldstone

Since the last decade of the twentieth century the number of international and transnational judges has burgeoned. There are now in excess of 100 international courts and tribunals, with thousands of international judges who sit on them. They come from all corners of the globe and bring with them the experience of many systems of justice.

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1 Project of International Courts and Tribunals (PICT), Synoptic Chart,

2 “The Tribunal irreversibly changed the landscape of international humanitarian law.” From the website of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), “About the ICTY,”

3 International Bar Association (IBA), Minimum Standards of Judicial Independence (adopted 1982).

4 Ibid., Sec. F, “Standards of Conduct.”

5 Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, endorsed by General Assembly resolution 40/32 of November 29, 1985 and welcomed by General Assembly resolution 40/146 of December 13, 1985),

6 The Universal Charter of the Judge (approved by the International Association of Judges on November 17, 1999),

7 Ibid.

8 The Bangalore Draft Code of Judicial Conduct 2001 (adopted by the Judicial Group on Strengthening Judicial Integrity, as revised at the Round Table Meeting of Chief Justices held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, November 25–26, 2002),

9 Ibid., Value 2, “Impartiality.”

10 Code of Judicial Ethics, No. ICC-BD/02-01-05, July 22, 2004,

11 Ibid.

12 Prosecutor v. Limaj, Bala, and Musliu, “Decision on Defense Motion on Prosecution Practice of ‘Proofing’ Witnesses,” IT-03-66-T, December 10, 2004,

13 Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, “Decision on the Practices of Witness Familarization and Witness Proofing,” ICC-01/04-01/06-679, November 8, 2006,

14 Prosecutor v. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui (Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), ICC-01/04-02/12, February 27, 2015,

16 International Bar Association, “IBAHRI Expresses Concern at the Presence of Judge Gwaunza on the Bench of the ICTY,” November 3, 2008,

17 Geoffrey Robertson, Crimes against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice, 3rd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007).

18 Prosecutor v. Šešelj, “Decision on Motion for Disqualification,” IT-03-67-PT, June 10, 2003: Judge Agius voluntarily self-recused, though he saw no merit to the motion for his disqualification.

19 Ibid.

20 See Mackenzie, Ruth and Sands, Philippe, “International Courts and Tribunals and the Independence of the International Judge,” Harvard International Law Journal 44, no. 1 (2003), pp. 271–86, “ICJ judges are full-time, but the ICJ has taken a flexible attitude with regard to certain outside activities. For example, some of the judges have accepted appointments to act as arbitrators. The practice may still not raise concerns where the arbitral dispute is between two states that are not involved in proceedings before the ICJ.”

21 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 36(3)(a), UN document A/CONF. 183/9, 37 ILM 1002 (1998)/2187 UNTS 90.

* This essay is based on a talk invited by the Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice and presented at the Fourth Annual Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellows Conference at City University New York in November 2014.

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Ethics & International Affairs
  • ISSN: 0892-6794
  • EISSN: 1747-7093
  • URL: /core/journals/ethics-and-international-affairs
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