We thank South Africa for convening today’s open debate on an important topic. We thank His Excellency, Judge Abdulqawi A. Yusuf, for his insightful intervention.
The UN Charter is of irreplaceable importance for rules based international order. It has created a system of values, legal principles and political tools that help to stabilise the world. The Charter offers a framework for multilateral negotiations, conflict prevention and conflict solution. It carried forward a valuable system for settlement of disputes.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) contributes significantly to multilateralism by upholding and promoting the rule of law at the international level. Estonia remains a strong supporter of the role of the ICJ in the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. We recognise that while the Court’s judgments are binding upon the parties concerned, its jurisprudence has broader impact, including as guidance in the interpretation of international law.
The 75th anniversary of the Charter and the UN system more broadly offers us a momentum to consider the role that the Security Council plays and could play in peaceful resolution of disputes, a role that is complementary with the role of the ICJ.
The mandate of the Security Council in relation to the ICJ is manifold. In accordance with the Charter, and as has been mentioned repeatedly, the Security Council can request the ICJ to provide an advisory opinion, may recommend that parties to a legal dispute refer it to the ICJ, and can proactively take measures to ensure compliance with an ICJ judgment.
It is also not hard to recognise that these comprehensive tools have been far too rarely used by the Council during the past 75 years of its existence.
There is indeed scope for improvement and further cooperation between the Security Council and ICJ and for Member States. Estonia believes that more frequent resort to the ICJ by the Council could provide a useful avenue for clarification of legal issues that contribute to resolving disputes and by that promote international peace and security.
We hope that the exchange today will contribute to further consideration of a more strict application of paragraph 3 of Article 36 of the UN Charter, namely that legal disputes should, as a general rule, be referred to the International Court of Justice.
At the same time, in order to enhance upholding of the rule of law and rules-based international order, we emphasise the necessity of members of the Council to apply initiatives that aim to deter the use of veto in cases related to the commission of atrocity crimes.
Another crucial step would be for a party to a dispute to recuse itself from voting in the Council, in accordance with the Charter. We echo the plea also to not use the votes by other members to block any recommendations regarding judicial settlement of disputes by the Council.
Estonia would also like to take the opportunity to call on all Member States that have not yet done so to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court. Currently, only five countries from the Security Council’s membership of fifteen, including Estonia, and altogether only 74 Member States of the UN have accepted this jurisdiction.
Finally, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put our societies and economies under exceptional strain, it is clear that for coming out of the crises stronger, multilateralism and respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law should remain essential.
Estonia is ready to support creating more space for the ICJ and the Security Council to work more closely in striving towards these aims.