International Court of Justice orders U.S. to lift sanctions on humanitarian goods’ import by Iran

The United Nations’ highest court on Wednesday ordered the United States to lift sanctions on Iran that affect imports of humanitarian goods and products and services linked to the safety of civil aviation.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is legally binding, but it remains to be seen if the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will comply.

The U.S. sanctions “have the potential to endanger civil aviation safety” in Iran and sanctions limiting sales of goods required for humanitarian needs such as food, medicines and medical devices “may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial body of the UN. Established in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ mainly operates under the statute of its predecessor, which is included in the UN Charter.

It has two primary functions: to settle legal disputes submitted by States in accordance with established international laws, and to act as an advisory board on issues submitted to it by authorized international organizations.

The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years. Judges are eligible for re-election.

Every state government, party to the Charter, designates a group who propose candidates for the office of ICJ judges. This group includes four members/jurists of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (machinery which enables arbitral tribunals to be set up as desired and facilitates their work) also picked by the State. Countries not part of the statute follow the same procedure where a group nominates the candidates.

Each group is limited to nominate four candidates, two of whom could be of their nationality. Within a fixed duration set by the Secretary-General, the names of the candidates have to be sent to him/her.

What are the qualifications of ICJ judges?

A judge should have a high moral character.

A judge should fit to the qualifications of appointment of highest judicial officers as prescribed by their respective states or.

A judge should be a juriconsult of recognized competence in international law.

The 15 judges of the Court are distributed as per the regions:

  • Three from Africa.
  • Two from Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Three from Asia.
  • Five from Western Europe and other states.
  • Two from Eastern Europe.

Once elected, a Member of the Court is a delegate neither of the government of his own country nor of that of any other State. Unlike most other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

In order to guarantee his or her independence, no Member of the Court can be dismissed unless, in the unanimous opinion of the other Members, he/she no longer fulfils the required conditions. This has in fact never happened.

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