Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Preston Brown

First Page



South Africa has administered the adjoining territory of South West Africa (Namibia) for over fifty years. Initially, that administration was granted to South Africa when it was designated a mandatory by the League of Nations. Since the dissolution of the League 25 years ago, South Africa's administration of the territory and, more recently, its right to administer, have been the subject of continued and escalating controversy.

The most recent development in this confused situation is the advisory opinion that was rendered in June, 1971, by the International Court of Justice. That opinion was requested by the Security Council of the United Nations and dealt with the question of South Africa's right to continue to administer Namibia. It also confronted the consequences of the Court's conclusion that the right no longer exists. While it is not clear what the practical effect of the opinion will be because of South Africa's refusal to accept it, the opinion does raise important questions not only with respect to the Namibian situation, but also regarding the Court's role in the development of international law.

The latter consideration is currently receiving a great deal of attention. Of particular concern has been the widespread failure of member states to use the Court to resolve their disputes. This disuse is evidenced by the fact that the I.C.J.'s predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice, decided considerably more cases than the present Court despite the fact that it had a shorter lifetime.