The United Nations General Assembly elected the five new judges who will take charge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. The judges, elected on November 9, will take charge from February 6, 2024.
This selection was the result of an election and appointment process of judges carried out by the General Assembly and the UN Security Council, bodies that must meet simultaneously for this purpose based on the Statute of the ICJ, the Regulations of the General Assembly and the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council.
The ICJ is composed of 15 judges, each of whom is chosen for a nine-year term, with the option of being re-elected, although, to guarantee a certain continuity in the composition of that court, one-third of the members are renewed every three years.
In the latest election, five rounds of voting were needed for the five candidates to obtain an absolute majority.
Given this news, and in the context of the ICJ case on territorial controversy between Venezuela and Guyana over the Essequibo region, it is appropriate to look at the resume of the judges who will debut next year in a case plagued by biases and influence of the United States.
In the vote for the ICJ seat, Aurescu obtained 117 votes, with which he defeated the Russian judge Kirill Gevorgian for the Eastern European region. It would be the first time in history that the ICJ will not have a representative from Russia, and it would also be the first time that a Romanian sits on the tribunal.
Aurescu served as his country’s foreign minister between 2014 and 2015, and again from 2019 to 2023 under different prime ministers. He was also Romania’s lead lawyer in the Black Sea maritime delimitation case, and also served as head of his nation’s delegation to negotiations on the Romanian-American Agreement on Ballistic Missile Defense, which permits the deployment of a US defense system inside Romania. This arsenal was integrated as part of the anti-ballistic missile defense of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In 2003 he obtained a doctorate in legal sciences with the thesis “The concept of sovereignty and the primacy of International Law,” in which he argues in favor of non-absolute sovereignty based on the premise that it is the fundamental concept of international law that “is of true importance to delimit its two aspects: the substance and its exercise, for a more real and complete understanding of the question of the loss or limitation of the nation’s sovereignty.”
In December 2019, Aurescu sent a letter to the fugitive Venezuelan politician Julio Borges, recognizing the “interim government” of Juan Guaidó. Moreover, in 2020 and 2021, as part of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union, he followed the agenda imposed in that body by political factions related to the Guaidó project.
In November 2022, Aurescu was foreign affairs minister of Romania and held a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. After that meeting, at a press conference, Blinken expressed that “the United States could not wish for a more unconditional or committed ally than Romania.”
Charlesworth was re-elected to the ICJ where she has served as a member since 2021 due to the death of Judge James Richard Crawford, whose term was due to end in February 2024.
Charlesworth graduated from the University of Melbourne and has a JD from Harvard Law School. She has also been a visiting professor at universities in the United States and Europe.
According to an investigation by El Universal, she does not meet the requirements of impartiality given that until November 2021 she served as an ad hoc judge appointed by Guyana in the case on the illegal Arbitration Award of 1899. Before that, she had been an advisor to the government of Guyana.
Cleveland is a professor of human and constitutional rights at Columbia University Law School.
From 2009 to 2013 she served the United States government, specifically its State Department, as an advisor. She then served as an expert paralegal before the Office of the General Counsel on matters of International Law, including the interpretation and implementation of treaties. In between these positions she was a member of the Secretary of State’s International Law Advisory Committee in 2011, at that time represented by Hillary Clinton, a Democrat.
In the context of the 35th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, she moderated an event on Human rights and Democracy in Venezuela together with Nikki Haley, pre-candidate for the Republican Party for the 2024 US presidential elections and defender of unilateral sanctions against Venezuela, and other panelists such as Alonso Medina Roa from the NED-funded NGO Foro Penal Venezolano.
At that event, Cleveland commented that “Venezuela is posing a fundamental challenge to our regional and international human rights institutions.” This event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the UN, the World Trade Organization, and other international organizations based in Geneva.
He was the candidate who won the most votes in the ICJ election. Gómez-Robledo has an extensive diplomatic career, and since 2021 he is the deputy permanent representative of Mexico to the UN.
In 2018, he obtained the degree of Doctor of Law from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. That year he published the book The Principle of Non-Intervention in Mexico’s Foreign Policy. He was a co-author of an article titled “The International Court of Justice and the future of the rule of law at a global level” published in 2023, where he analyzed the possibility of “expanding the contentious jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, increase recourse to its advisory role and increase cooperation with the UN Secretary General.” The article concluded that “The Court has proven, sentence after sentence, to be an effective court due to the high level of compliance with its rulings, and absolutely respectful and consistent with its own jurisprudence.”
In 2017, he expressed in an interview Mexico’s position of calling for a political dialogue in Venezuela and advocated for backing the regulations of the Interamerican Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) in this regard.
In 2019, he supported the Montevideo Mechanism as a way to resume talks between some opposition political parties and the Venezuelan government.
He is the first South African judge at the ICJ. He has served as professor of International Law at the University of Pretoria. He also served as legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa and the South African delegation to the UN General Assembly.
In a 2020 investigation he exemplified the following without contextualizing the coercive reality on the Venezuelan State: “Attacks against international institutions and organizations include the withdrawal of Venezuela from the inter-American human rights mechanism.”
The Venezuela connection
When reviewing the resumes of the new ICJ judges, their lack of neutrality in political situations is alarming, particularly with regard to Venezuela. This is the case of the Romanian judge Aurescu who supported the Guaidó project, and that of the US judge Cleveland. As for Judge Charlesworth, she has openly supported the government of Guyana in the territorial controversy processes, and backed the fraudulent Paris Arbitration Award of 1899. On the other hand, the great unknown is embodied by the Mexican Judge Gómez-Robledo and the South African judge Dire Tladi, who seem to have no political track record, even though they have given their opinions and made evaluative comments about Venezuela in interviews and academic papers.
A recent publication by Misión Verdad included the findings of a 2005 study that concluded that there is a high probability that ICJ judges vote in favor of their States of origin, States that culturally coincide with them, in favor of rich or poor States according to their origin, and in a way that reflects their own psychological or philosophical prejudices, as in fact this has been the case.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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