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International Justice

Guide from the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis.

International Judges

International judges serve on courts and tribunals established by global or regional bodies to address issues of justice that cross national borders. An international judge serves on a body whose jurisdiction includes more than one sovereign nation, or on a body established by an international organization to deliver justice in a country where the legal structure is deemed insufficient to address a severe situation, such as the aftermath of ethnic cleansing or genocide.

International judges sit on fewer than twenty international judicial bodies, located in places like The Hague (The Netherlands), Arusha (Tanzania) and San José (Costa Rica). In their professional capacity, their allegiance is to a body of international law that has developed through treaties, custom, and the development of general legal principles. They are usually nominated for their positions by their own governments, but often they are elected or appointed through a regional or international organization like the European Community, the Organization of American States, or the United Nations.

The courts that international judges serve on vary considerably in their jurisdictions, the types of cases they hear, and the impact of their judgments.  Some international courts have jurisdiction across the globe; others have jurisdiction in specific continents or regions.  In every case, however, these judges serve alongside peers from different countries. Their mission compels them to work across boundaries of geography, background, culture, training, and experience to forge law and render justice that will earn the respect of citizens of countries across the globe.

—Excerpted from The International Judge, by Daniel Terris, Cesare P.R. Romano, and Leigh Swigart (Brandeis University Press, 2007). Profiles of international judges from the book follow:

 Navanethem Pillay, International Criminal Court (now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights)

Thomas Buergenthal, International Court of Justice

Georges Abi-Saab, Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (now retired)

Cecilia Medina Quiroga, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (now president of the court)

John Hedigan, European Court of Human Rights (now on the High Court of Ireland)