General Assembly Security Council

United Nations Security Council Open Debate

on Strengthening the Cooperation between the Security Council and the International Court of Justice 

Statement by 

Ambassador T.S.Tirumurti

Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations


18 December 2020


Mr. President,


Allow me at the outset to thank His Excellency Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), for his detailed and comprehensive presentation focusing on strengthening cooperation between the Security Council and the Court. 


2. The UN was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. The founding fathers of the UN sought to achieve this objective by the twin approach of prohibiting the use of force in Article 2(4) of the Charter and by promoting the peaceful settlement of international disputes under Article 33, Chapter VI of the Charter.


3. The International Court of Justice is the principal institution mandated to adjudicate on disputes and thereby advance the broader goals and principles of the UN.


Mr. President,


4. While it is true that the Court’s jurisdiction remains based on the consent of States appearing before it, Article 36 of the Charter vests the Security Council with the power to recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustment to States parties to an international dispute, the extension or aggravation of which are susceptible of jeopardizing international peace and security.


5. Thus, the prospect of the Security Council recommending to parties to refer their dispute to the Court may have a stabilizing impact on the relations between the parties or defuse tensions between them, a feature that often characterizes proceedings before the Court.


6. The Security Council and the ICJ, pursuing their independent mandates, have already made an important contribution to efforts to achieve this vision. As a country committed to upholding the international rule of law, India believes that the Council has an important role to play in promoting and strengthening a rules-based international system.


7. How far does the power of the Security Council under Chapter VI extend? It is pertinent to note that Article 33 requires the Council, when it deems necessary, to call upon the parties to settle their disputes through peaceful methods but the choice of means of settlement by parties, strictly construed, would entail that the parties are bound no further than to engage by employing their best efforts to find a peaceful solution.


8. Article 36 gives the Council power to recommend appropriate procedures or methods of adjustments for situations brought before it. The procedure recommended in Article 36 should take into consideration any procedure for the settlement of the disputes, which have already been adopted by the parties. But in the choice of procedures under this Article, the Council is not bound by the list included in article 33 (1). 


9. The work of the Council and the Court were always intended to be complementary in this way, as is clear by the inclusion in the UN Charter of Article 36 (2) on the role of the ICJ and Article 94 on member states complying with the decision of the ICJ. 


10. It is also a fact that Council has invoked Article 36 (3) so far only on one occasion, the reason why the Council may not have recommended cases to the ICJ under Article 36 (3) is due to the political and multifaceted nature of the issues/disputes which come before the Security Council. The resolution of issues brought before the Council has several dimensions, only one of which may be the legal dimension. Consequently, the exercise of Council’s action to invoke Article 36 (3) for referring to ICJ should be used only when all possible remedies have been exhausted by the Council and the issues/disputes are also amenable to a Court’s decision. Needless to add, it is also kept in mind that majority of the member states do not accept Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.


11. As institutions with related but decidedly different competencies in the settlement of international disputes, the Security Council could play a role in ensuring compliance with the Court’s decisions. While the ICJ is tasked with the responsibility to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies, the Security Council under Article 94 of the Charter, can give effect to the Court’s decision, should a contested party refuse to comply or fail to perform the obligations incumbent upon it under a judgement rendered by the Court. We believe that respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the Organization; therefore, any failure to respect or implement the decisions of international courts and tribunals constitutes a failure to respect the rule of law.We call on all member states to respect the rule of law at the international level.  


Mr. President


12. In India’s view, the contribution that the Court and the Council can make to international peace and security should not be measured solely in terms of peaceful settlement of disputes. It must also be assessed in the light of the valuable role these organs can play together in the prevention of conflict and the promotion of respect for the rules-based international order.


13. The Council has functions of a political nature assigned to it, whereas the Court exercises purely judicial functions. Both organs can therefore perform their separate but complementary functions. Accordingly, as we discuss the complementary functions of the International Court of Justice and the Security Council, we should reflect broadly on whether there are opportunities for the Court and the Council to work together to deliver outcomes that support justice, promote the rule of law, and contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. 


Thank you.