Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Patterns of avoidance: political questions before international courts

  • Jed Odermatt (a1)
Abstract

International courts (ICs) have found themselves dealing with issues that are ‘political’ in nature. This paper discusses the techniques of avoidance ICs have developed to navigate such highly political or sensitive issues. The first part discusses some of the key rationales for avoidance. Drawing on the discussion of the political question doctrine in US constitutional law, it shows how ICs may justify avoidance on both principled and pragmatic grounds. It then discusses the different types of avoidance strategies employed by ICs, based on examples from the Court of Justice of the European Union, the International Court of Justice and the East African Court of Justice. ICs are rarely upfront about avoidance strategies. Rather, ICs tend to avoid cases in a more subtle fashion, relying on procedural rules to exclude a case, or by resolving the dispute in a way that avoids the most politically sensitive questions and controversies.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. E-mail: jed.odermatt@jur.ku.dk
References
Hide All
Alter, KJ (2014) The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Anghie, AT (2017) Politic, cautious, and meticulous: an introduction to the symposium on the Marshall Islands case. AJIL Unbound 111, 6267.
Benvenisti, E (1993) Judicial misgivings regarding the application of international norms: an analysis of attitudes of national courts. European Journal of International Law 4, 169183.
Bianchi, A (2017) Choice and (the awareness of) its consequences: the ICJ's ‘structural bias’ strikes again in the Marshall Islands case. AJIL Unbound 111, 8187.
Bickel, A (1962) The Least Dangerous Branch. The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
Bickel, AM (1961) The supreme court 1960 term foreword: the passive virtues. Harvard Law Review 75, 4079.
Bobbitt, P (1982) Constitutional Fate: Theory of the Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bodansky, DM (1999) The legitimacy of international governance: a coming challenge for international environmental law? American Journal of International Law 93, 596624.
Carrubba, CJ, Gabel, M and Hankla, C (2008) Judicial behaviour under political constraints: evidence from the European Court of Justice, American Political Science Review 102, 435452.
Caserta, S (2017) Regional International courts in search of relevance – adjudicating politically sensitive disputes in Central America and the Caribbean. Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law (forthcoming).
Clayton, CW (1999) The Supreme Court and political jurisprudence: new and old institutionalisms. In Clayton, CW and Gillman, H (eds), Supreme Court Decision-Making: New Institutionalist Approaches. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Cole, JP (2014) The Political Question Doctrine: Justiciability and the Separation of Powers. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.
Coleman, A (2003) The international court of justice and highly political matters. Melbourne Journal of International Law 4, 2975.
Crawford, J (2012) Brownlie's Principles of International Law, 8th edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dawson, M, De Witte, B and Muir, E (2013) Judicial Activism at the European Court of Justice. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
De Baere, G (2012) European integration and the rule of law in foreign policy. In Dickson, J and Eleftheriadis, P (eds), Philosophical Foundations of European Union Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
De Wet, E (2004) The Chapter VII Powers of the United Nations Security Council. Hart: Oxford.
Delaney, EF (2016) Analyzing avoidance: judicial strategy in comparative perspective. Duke Law Journal 66, 167.
Ferejohn, J (2002) Judicializing politics, politicizing law. Law and Contemporary Problems 61, 4168.
Franck, TM (1992) Political Questions Judicial Answers: Does the Rule of Law Apply to Foreign Affairs? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Ginsburg, T (2014) Political constraints on international courts. In Romano, CPR, Alter, KJ and Shany, Y (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Adjudication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldsmith, JL (1999) The new formalism in United States foreign relations law. University of Colorado Law Review 70, 13951438.
Hellman, D (1995) The importance of appearing principled. Arizona Law Review 37, 11071151.
Henkin, L (1976) Is there a ‘political question’ doctrine? Yale Law Journal 85, 597625.
Hirschl, R (2008) The judicialization of politics. In Whittington, KE, Kelemen, RD and Caldeira, GA (eds), Oxford Handbook of Political Science. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Hogg, JF (1962) Peace-keeping costs and charter obligations – implications of the international court of justice decision on certain expenses of the United Nations. Columbia Law Review 62, 12301263.
Huq, AZ (2014) The negotiated structural constitution. Columbia Law Review 114, 15951686.
Krisch, N (2017) ‘Capitulation in The Hague: The Marshall Islands Cases’, EJIL Talk! Available at https://www.ejiltalk.org/capitulation-in-the-hague-the-marshall-islands-cases/ (accessed 1 March 2018).
Lauterpacht, H (1933) The Function of Law in the International Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Letsas, G (2006) Two concepts of the margin of appreciation. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 26, 705732.
Lonardo, L (2017) The political question doctrine as applied to common foreign and security policy. European Foreign Affairs Review 22, 571587.
Madsen, MR (2017) Rebalancing European human rights: has the Brighton Declaration engendered a new deal on human rights in Europe? Journal of International Dispute Settlement, forthcoming.
Madsen, MR, Cebulak, P and Wiebusch, M (2018) Backlash against international courts: explaining the forms and patterns of resistance to international courts. International Journal of Law in Context 14, 528.
McGoldrick, D (2016) A defence of the margin of appreciation and an argument for its application by the human rights committee. International and Comparative Law Quarterly 65, 2160.
McWhinney, E (1991) Judicial Settlement of International Disputes: Jurisdiction, Justiciability and Judicial Law-Making on the International Court. Dordrecht: Nijhoff.
Mulhern, P (1988) In defence of the political question doctrine. University of Pennsylvania Law Review 137, 97176.
Odermatt, J (2017) Council of the European Union v Front populaire pour la libération de la saguia-el-hamra et du rio de oro (Front Polisario) – Case C-104/16 P. American Journal of International Law 111, 731738.
Pettinato, JS (2006) Executing the political question doctrine. Northern Kentucky Law Review 33, 6181.
Ranganathan, S (2017) Nuclear weapons and the court. AJIL Unbound 111, 8895.
Scharpf, FW (1966) Judicial review and the political question: a functional analysis. Yale Law Journal 75, 517597.
Staton, JK and Moore, WH (2011) Judicial power in domestic and international politics. International Organization 65, 553587.
Thirlway, H (2002) Judicial activism and the international court of justice. In Andō, N (ed.), Liber Amicorum Judge Shigeru Oda. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.
Voeten, E (2013) Public opinion and the legitimacy of international courts. Theoretical Inquiries in Law 14, 411436.
Wasserfallen, F (2010) The judiciary as legislator? How the European court of justice shapes policy-making in the European union. Journal of European Public Policy 17, 11281146.
Waters, TW (2013) Misplaced boldness: the avoidance of substance in the International Court of Justice's Kosovo opinion. Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law 23, 267334.
Wechsler, H (1959) Toward neutral principles of constitutional law. Harvard Law Review 73, 135.
Weiler, JH (2001) The rule of lawyers and the ethos of diplomats: reflections on the internal and external legitimacy of WTO dispute settlement. Journal of World Trade 35, 191207.
Wouters, J and Odermatt, J (2016) Certain expenses of the United Nations (Article 17, paragraph 2 of the Charter): advisory opinion, [1962] ICJ Reports 151. In C Ryngaert, C, Dekker, IF, Wessel, RA and Wouters, J (eds), Judicial Decisions on the Law of International Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yoo, JC (1996) The continuation of politics by other means: the original understanding of war powers. California Law Review 84, 167305.
Zarbiyev, F (2012) Judicial activism in international law – a conceptual framework for analysis. Journal of International Dispute Settlement 3, 247278.
Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, 727 F.Supp.2d 1, 52 (D.D.C. 2010).
Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Georgia v. Russian Federation) (Preliminary Objections) [2011] ICJ Rep 70.
East African Court of Justice, Democratic Party v Secretary General of the East African Community and Others (Reference No.2 of 2012), 29 November 2013.
East African Court of Justice, Samuel Mukira Mohochi v. Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda (Reference No. 5 of 2011) 17 May 2013 Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F.2d 774, 803 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1984).
Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 21 December 2016, Council of the European Union v. Front populaire pour la libération de la saguia-el-hamra et du rio de oro (Front Polisario), Case C-104/16 P, EU:C:2016:973.
Opinion of Advocate General delivered on 13 September 2016 in Council of the European Union v. Front populaire pour la libération de la saguia-el-hamra et du rio de oro (Front Polisario), Case C-104/16 P, EU:C:2016:677.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Law in Context
  • ISSN: 1744-5523
  • EISSN: 1744-5531
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-law-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 145 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 455 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 29th May 2018 - 15th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.