Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



In this Article, Judge Schwebel reviews the cases of the International Court of Justice and its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice, that have substantial human rights implications. He observes that, while the World Court is not a human rights court in the contemporary sense of that term, since standing in contentious cases is limited to States, it nevertheless has constructively dealt with a number of important issues of human rights, as in its early holding that individuals may be the direct beneficiaries of treaty rights.

The Court has played a notable role in promoting the protection of human rights by its interpretation of treaties protecting minorities. What may be the earliest judicial assertion of the doctrine of affirmative action is found in a case of the Court. The Court has proscribed the imposition of criminal liability by analogy; it has emphasized the supremely immoral and illegal character of genocide; it has concluded that apartheid violates on its face the norms of human rights; and it has held that the human rights provisions of the United Nations Charter give rise to obligations binding upon States. Judge Schwebel submits that in these and other respects the Court has been, and should continue to be, an instrumental force in the progressive development of the law of international human rights.