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Rosalyn Higgins: Judge and President of the International Court of Justice (1995–2009)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 October 2009


This article was prompted by the retirement of Dame Rosalyn Higgins as judge and president of the International Court of Justice in February 2009. It reviews her brilliant career as law professor, barrister, advocate before various international courts, and international arbitrator. The major part of the article deals with her role as judge and president of the ICJ and her impact on the elaboration and development of international law by the Court.

HAGUE INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNALS: International Court of Justice
Copyright © Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law 2009

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1 East Timor (Portugal v. Australia), Judgment of 30 June 1995; Territorial Dispute (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Chad), Judgment of 3 February 1994; Questions of Interpretation and Application of the 1971 Montreal Convention arising from the Aerial Incident at Lockerbie (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v. United Kingdom), Preliminary Objections, Judgment of 27 February 1998; Case concerning Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia), Judgment of 25 September 1997.

2 Arbitration between Eritrea and Yemen: Territorial Sovereignty (1998); Maritime Delimitation (1999); President, AMCO Asia/Indonesia, Resubmitted case, Award on Jurisdiction, 1988; ibid., Award on Merits, 1992; President, Iron Rhine Arbitration (Belgium v. Netherlands) (2003–2005); President, Interpretation of the Award in the Iron Rhine (2005); President, Capital Power Mauritius I and Energy Enterprises (Mauritius) Company v. Republic of India (2004–5).

3 R. Higgins, Themes and Theories: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Writings in International Law, Oxford University Press (2009).

4 T. Buergenthal, Law-Making in the International Civil Aviation Organization (1969).

5 General Comment No. 24 on Issues Relating to Reservations Made upon Ratification or Accession to the Covenant or the Optional Protocols Thereto, or in Relation to Declarations under Article 41 of the Covenant, UN Doc A/50/40 (1995), 124 (Annex V).

6 Ibid., 131 (Annex VI).

7 Ibid., 135 (Annex VI).

8 Ibid., 104 (Annex VI).

9 See ILC Report on the work of its 59th session, UN Doc. A/62/10 (2007), 15–121; text of the guidelines on reservations to treaties provisionally adopted so far by the Commission, 46–66; Draft Guideline 3.1.12 on reservations to general human rights treaties, 65; Text of the draft guidelines with commentary, 66–121; Commentary on Draft Guideline 3.1.12, 113–16.

10 Ibid., Draft Guidelines 3.1.12, 65.

11 Art. 6(ii) of the Resolution concerning the internal judicial practice of the Court, adopted on 12 April 1976.

12 Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion of 8 July 1996, [1996] ICJ Rep. 226.

13 Ibid., at 266.

14 Ibid., at 583.

15 Ibid., at 592 (para. 41, emphasis added).

16 Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004, [2004] ICJ Rep. 136.

17 Ibid., at 207.

18 Ibid., at 212, para. 19.

19 Ibid., para. 23.

20 Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Belgium), Judgment of 14 February 2002, [2002] ICJ Rep. 3 (Judges Higgins, Kooijmans, Buergenthal, Joint Separate Opinion).

21 Ibid., at 63.

22 Ibid., at 64, para. 5.

23 Ibid., at 83, para. 65.

24 Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application: 2002) (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Rwanda), Jurisdiction of the Court and Admissibility of the Application, Judgment of 3 February 2006, [2006] ICJ Rep. 3.

25 Ibid., at 32, para. 67.

26 Ibid., at 65 (Judges Higgins, Kooijmans, Elaraby, Owada and Simma, Joint Separate Opinion).

27 Reservations to the Convention on Genocide, Advisory Opinion of 28 May 1951, [1951] ICJ Rep. 15.

28 Ibid., at 68, para. 13.

29 In her speech to the UN General Assembly, delivered on 30 October 2008, President Higgins reported that 2008 was the most productive year in the Court's history as far as its judicial output was concerned.

30 Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), Judgment of 26 February 2007, [2007] ICJ Rep. 43.