Let me begin by expressing Portugal’s gratitude to the President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Owada, for the thorough report on the Court’s work over the period under review. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his election as President of the Court.
The International Court of Justice is the only international court of a universal character with general jurisdiction. The Court holds important responsibilities in the international community. Also, it plays a fundamental role in the judicial settlement of disputes between States as well as in the strengthening of the international rule of law. Furthermore, such a role enables it to play another very particular role, which is helping to avoid that disputes between States erupt into violence.
The Court has a crucial function in the international legal system which is being more and more recognized and accepted. By the 31st July 2009, all of the States Members of the United Nations were parties to the Statute of the Court and 66 out of these had recognized its jurisdiction as compulsory. Moreover, approximately 300 bilateral and multilateral treaties provide for the Court to have jurisdiction over the resolution of disputes arising out of their application or interpretation.
The heavy workload of the Court confirms its success.
It is worth highlighting that the Court’s cases come from all over the world, relate to a great variety of matters and have a high factual and legal complexity. This confirms not only the universality of the Court but also the expansion of the scope of its work and its growing specialization.
The Court is doing an impressive effort to cope with the very demanding level of activity. However, it is also important for the United Nations Member States to acknowledge the Court’s need for adequate resources.
The Court recalls in its Report that everything it does is aimed at promoting the rule of law. Indeed, this is so. It’s worth mentioning the outstanding contribution of the International Court of Justice to the development of International Law.
In this context, it is also worth stressing that although the International Court of Justice is a main player in the international jurisdictional field, there are other international courts and tribunals whose significance should be emphasized. Portugal strongly believes that all of them must co-operate towards the enhancement of the international legal order and consequently face together the challenges posed by the fragmentation of international law and the proliferation of international courts and tribunals.
Although we recognize that there is a certain tension between Law and Power, between the obligation of States to settle their disputes in a peaceful manner and the need of sovereign consent to resort to such mechanisms, it is our firm belief that the Court is an institutional pillar of the international community. In this sense, Portugal would like to encourage all States that have not yet done so to consider accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Portugal is confident that the Court will continue to overcome the challenges that will increasingly impend upon it. These challenges are a good sign. They mean that States have confidence that the Court will contribute to the settlement of their disputes as well as to the strengthening of the international rule of law towards justice and peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.