Ethics and the International Judiciary
The success of international courts, like that of national courts, depends to a large extent upon the integrity of those who decide the cases that come before them. If judges carry out their function ethically, and are furthermore perceived to do so, the public will have confidence in judicial institutions and respect and abide by their decisions.
The establishment of public confidence is particularly essential for international courts, many of which are still young and remain unfamiliar to the average person. International courts may also suffer from a lack of support — both political and financial — on the part of states falling within their jurisdictions or belonging to the institutions that created the courts in the first place.
While notions of judicial ethics do not tend to vary much from the national to the international domain, international judges may face challenges rarely experienced by their national counterparts. Serving on a part-time basis — a common arrangement for international judges — poses the issue, for example, of what kind of secondary work is compatible with judicial duties. International benches also bring together judges from different legal traditions, which may have disparate views on various kinds of courtroom behavior. The diversity of the international judiciary thus requires that special attention be paid to judicial behavior and its perception.
Given the importance of ethical behavior to the international judiciary, the center has accorded a central place to its exploration in the various programs it designs for this professional group. Each Brandeis Institute for International Judges devoted a lengthy session to topics touching upon judicial independence, impartiality, conflicts of interest and other relevant issues.
These sessions were often characterized by lively debate, as judges attempted to define and agree upon their own duties and responsibilities. Each “topic in ethical practice” has been highlighted in the BIIJ reports that summarize institute proceedings.
The relevant report excerpts are listed below. To request a PDF of any of these excerpts, please complete our online publication request form.
- Pre- and Post-Judicial Service Considerations for International Judges (BIIJ 2012). A discussion of the potential impact of past professional activities on international judicial service and, in turn, how this service may affect future employment after judges leave an international court or tribunal.
- Challenges to Judicial Independence (BIIJ 2010). What are the challenges of working under the gaze of a public that holds judges to the highest standards of behavior and criticizes any deviation — real or perceived — from the ideal?
- Professional Conduct in the International Justice System (BIIJ 2009). Two areas of professional conduct are addressed by participants: 1) the professional conduct of counsel and advisers who appear in proceedings before international courts and tribunals; and 2) the ethical considerations inherent in the exercise of freedom of expression and association by international judges.
- Integrity and Independence: The Shaping of the Judicial Persona (BIIJ 2007). An examination of the need for judicial independence and integrity on international courts and tribunals, and a discussion of the impact of these concerns on members of the international judiciary.
- The Judiciary as a New Moral Authority? (BIIJ 2006). Discussions center around the notion of the “secular papacy” and the idea that judges have replaced — or should replace – religious figures as modern moral leaders on a national or international level.
- The Responsibilities and Challenges of Judging (BIIJ 2004). How can international judges be fair and impartial in the exercise of their duties while maintaining their humanity and sensitivity toward parties before the court?
- The Role of Judges in Public Life and Securing the Appearance of Impartiality (BIIJ 2004). Participants explore questions of perennial concern to their profession: 1) Do members of the international judiciary have the responsibility to speak out on pertinent issues of public debate, or alternatively the responsibility to remain silent? 2) How can international judges best preserve the appearance of impartiality in their courts?
- Toward the Development of Ethics Guidelines for International Courts (BIIJ 2003). Ethics guidelines for international courts and tribunals in two areas, developed through a one-day workshop: 1) impartiality and outside activities, and 2) accountability and disciplinary procedures.
- Ethical Dimensions of International Jurisprudence and Adjudication (BIIJ 2002). A keynote address by Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, The Legal Counsel of the United Nations.