Remarks at a UN General Assembly Debate on the International Court of Justice

Richard Visek
Acting Legal Advisor of the Department of State
New York, New York
October 26, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, President Donoghue, for your informative report today and for your leadership as President of the Court.

During your tenure, you have helped navigate the Court through the Covid pandemic, and guided the Court in managing a case load that has never been greater, whether in number of cases, their complexity, or their importance to the parties and international community at large.

We thank you for your service to the Court, to the United Nations, and the international community.

We also commend the Court’s investment in future practitioners of public international law around the world through the Court’s Judicial Fellowship Program, and its related Trust Fund to support participants from developing countries. The United States is pleased to have made a contribution to the fund earlier this year and encourages others to do likewise.

Before I continue, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing in May of this year of Judge Thomas Buergenthal. He was a Holocaust survivor, a member of the Court from 2000 to 2010, and a renowned international jurist and champion of human rights. Judge Buergenthal set an example for all of us by living a life of purpose and humanity. He is greatly missed.

The Court has a vital role to play in the maintenance of international peace and security, and has made important contributions to the realization of the purposes and principles of the United Nations through the peaceful settlement of disputes.

During the reporting period, we have been reminded yet again of the pivotal role the Court plays in addressing some of the most important questions of international law.

Looking to the Court’s future, it is clear that the Court’s caseload will only continue to grow, posing further challenges to the Court’s administration and management of its docket.

The increase in cases and questions before the Court is matched only by the continuing importance of the issues that are brought before it.

We note in this regard Ukraine’s continuing case against the Russian Federation under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Ukraine’s application seeks to address Russia’s claims of genocide and to establish that Russia has no lawful basis to take military action in Ukraine on the basis of those claims.

The United States continues to call on the Russian Federation to comply with the Court’s March 16 order on provisional measures and suspend its military operations against Ukraine.

Other important cases that have been brought before the Court include that brought by Canada and the Netherlands against Syria under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

We take note not only of those cases before the Court that implicate its contentious jurisdiction, but also of the vital questions on which the Court’s advisory opinion is sought.

In this regard, the United States looks forward to sharing its views to assist the Court in considering the questions referred in the General Assembly’s recent requests.

This year’s elections to the Court provide an opportunity to ensure the Court continues to be made up of judges able to take on this solemn responsibility.

The United States is therefore proud to support Professor Sarah Cleveland as a candidate to the Court.

We also extend our appreciation to the Court and its staff for their service to the international community, promotion of the rule of law, and for continually stressing the need for all States to act in conformity with their obligations under international law, whether in times of peace or war.

Thank you, Mr. President.