(As delivered)Mr. President,
Mr. President of the International Court of Justice,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin by thanking Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the ICJ, for his dedication and leadership, as well as for his in-depth and comprehensive report on the work of the Court. I also express my deep appreciation and support for the achievements of the Court during the reporting period, as well as for the dedicated work of the Registry which has supported such achievements under the able guidance of the Registrar Mr. Philippe Couvreur.
I would like also to express my respect to former Judge Hisashi Owada for his long-standing contribution to the Court, and welcome Judge Yuji Iwasawa, who assumed his post as a Member of the Court this year.
Japan commends the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, for the important role it has played over the years in the peaceful settlement of international disputes and the promotion of the rule of law.
The rule of law and peaceful settlement of international disputes provide the essential foundation of stable, rule-based international relations, and are essential principles underpinning Japan’s foreign policy. Japan became a State party to the Statute of the ICJ in 1954, two years before it joined the United Nations. Japan has accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ since 1958.
Japan is making its own active efforts to promote the rule of law. Recently, we had the honour of hosting the Fifty-Seventh Annual Session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) in Tokyo. As host country, Japan took the initiative to introduce a new agenda item “Peaceful Settlement of disputes”.
In our discussions under said agenda item, attention of the Members was drawn to the fact that the submission of disputes to the ICJ has increased progressively since the end of the Cold War. In fact, during the 27 years after 1991, 81 contentious cases have been submitted to the ICJ, in sharp contrast to the 67 cases brought before the ICJ in the 45 years between 1947 and 1991. Today, 73 States have made the “optional clause” declaration under article 36, paragraph 2 of the Statute, and about 300 bilateral and multilateral treaties recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction over disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the treaty.
As far as Asian and African countries are concerned, it was also pointed out that, generally speaking, Asia-Pacific States still seem cautious to utilize the ICJ mechanism. For example, as of 1st October 2018, only eight Asia-Pacific States have made the “optional clause” declaration (this is 15% of the Asia Pacific Group’s members).
The increase in the number of cases brought before the ICJ speaks for itself that more and more States respect and support the legal wisdom of the Court and the role it plays in the peaceful settlement of international disputes. In order to encourage other States to follow suit, Japan sincerely hopes that the Court will continue to deliver fair judgments and advisory opinions which can enjoy the confidence of States.
Japan believes that this is the only way for the ICJ to enhance its credibility in the international community in the long run.
The international community today enjoys the benefit of numerous peaceful means of dispute settlement other than the ICJ, such as the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS), arbitral tribunals, international investment tribunals, and the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Japan welcomes the availability of diverse fora to settle legal disputes, and views the current trend of States utilizing these various means as appropriate. But there is no doubt that the ICJ occupies a special and central place among them.
In the AALCO session, it was also pointed out by Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, that disputes between States may be “inherent to the process by which international law is made.” In this regard, given the increasing diversification of the means of peaceful settlement, Japan would like to encourage international courts and tribunals to make efforts to ensure the consistency of jurisprudence of respective courts and tribunals in order to avoid the fragmentation of international law.
Let me conclude by reaffirming our unwavering support for the Court. We are convinced that the Court will continue to make a significant contribution to clarifying international law, thereby strengthening the rule of law.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.