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International courts: their current role

International courts: their current role
To find out more about international accords, and the relevance of the Paris Peace Conference, I’ve come here to this cafe to meet an expert on the topic. Hi. Hi, Christian. Welcome to Paris. Thank you. It’s very good to see you. Alina Miron, who’s a researcher at the University of Paris Nanterre, and who’s regularly appearing in international proceedings, before the International Court of Justice, the World Court. Hello, Alina. It’s great to speak to you and to get your views on international courts. Now, the World Court was, in some ways, established at the Paris Peace Conference. And the term World Court, which we use for that court, sounds impressive.
But in the major crises of the day, we don’t really hear a lot about that World Court. It doesn’t seem to play a major role. Why is that so? Mainly because states are not obliged to go to the Court. And the biggest crises are never solved in front of the Court. Instead, before the World Court, states must have consented. And therefore, whenever you have a major crisis, it’s not easy to have states to have the Court deciding their dispute. And this is what must be understood about international justice. It is a justice for settling disputes. It’s not there for every crisis. OK.
And that sounds almost pessimistic, given the high hopes with which well– people, at Paris and before and since then have thought about the World Court. So if it’s not a useful court, does it make any sense to have it? Well, states have recourse to the Court, in particular when they reach a deadlock in their negotiations. Because the Court is just a means for the states to settle their disputes. And before going to the Court, they are into negotiations. If, in negotiations, they reach a deadlock, I think the Court can play a role in ensuring peace. Take for instance the Qatar Bahrain case. You had armed conflicts between the two states for almost two centuries, although the sovereign’s changed there.
And you had the Court’s decision, in 2001, which distributed the islands between the two states. And it actually ended what was a very possible war– armed conflict. So that’s interesting. Because you hardly ever hear about that in the news. Now, why would states like Qatar and Bahrain– why would they accept such a judgement from an international court? Because they have consented first to the Court’s jurisdiction, and that’s one of the reasons. But also because when they go to court it is because they have failed in their negotiations. Negotiations reached a deadlock. And still, you have to find a solution to the dispute.
It’s easier to make it accepted, on the domestic level, too, which is very important for the implementation of the judgement . Because there are some cases, for instance, where the negotiators, because the public opinion perceived their compromise as a bad bargain for the country, were held responsible, even on the criminal level for high treason and things like that. And careers were broken, because of bad bargains. And in that case, when you have a third party settlement, it’s easier to make it accepted on the domestic level, too. OK. So the fact that the World Court decides would give it some extra authority. So the first World Court is approaching its centenary. It’s going to be 100 years relatively soon.
And I suppose preparations are already underway for those festivities. If you look back, from your experience as somebody who has appeared before essentially the same World Court in a number of cases, what was the relevance of the peace conference in Paris in 1919? The very fact that the peace conference set out the permanent Court of International Justice, which is the ancestor of the present day court– It’s very important. And then, the way the permanent court functioned just paved the way for the present-day Court. All right, many, many thanks. Thank you.

The Paris Peace Conference set up the first permanent international court, but almost a century on, courts play a relatively marginal role in world affairs. Christian meets an expert on the topic, Alina Miron from Paris, to discuss the reasons. In the interview, Alina discusses how courts can play a useful role in international conflicts, and illustrates this by reference to a judgment settling a long-standing dispute between Qatar and Bahrain, which the International Court of Justice settled in the early 2000s.

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World War 1: Paris 1919 - A New World Order?

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