Monday, August 26, 2019
The ICJ and the ICC: Gaining an Appreciation for American Courts through International Comparative Study
This summer, I had the pleasure of teaching in and directing the Stetson Law study-abroad program at The Hague, Netherlands. The program was attended by roughly 60 law students from several law schools, and teaching in the program were notable professors and judges focusing on international law topics. A big highlight of the program, and the main reason for its location is its access to the international courts. Both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are located in The Hague. Students take field trips to both courts during their month long studies.
(above, The International Criminal Court)
In my course we surveyed the structure and process of the ICC, a completely independent organization. The ICC was brought into being through the Rome Statute, effective in 2002, and now currently has the agreement of 122 member states. Learning about the ideas behind the formation of the court was instructive, and informed my own understanding of the American system of justice. There are many overlapping protections afford by the ICC that are also found in the US system, but there are differences that are balanced by structures foreign to American courts. One such difference is a much reduced adherence to strict rules of evidence. At the ICC, there are three levels of adjudication, similar to the US, but at all three levels, including at the trial level there is a panel of at least three judges. There are no juries at the ICC. Because of this, law educated judges will always be the ones assessing the weight of the evidence. Less rules are required to protect them from prejudicial material, in contrast to our concerns for a jury of laymen.
(above, the International Court of Justice)
At the ICJ, an organ of the United Nations, the court seats a single panel of at least fifteen judges that must represent every geographical region of the globe. In contrast to the ICC, the ICJ does not take up any criminal matters, but only adjudicates disputes between sovereign nations. Further, there is no appeals process at the ICJ.
Discussing the formation and operation of these world courts helped me to appreciate the equally thoughtful construction of our own justice system, and reminded me of the lofty goals of due process. While not always implemented with perfection, the idealistic objectives of the American system has helped to influence legal systems across nations.