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States must end disputes peacefully at UN’s highest court

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon delivers a speech during a conference of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees aimed at securing concrete pledges from world nations to resettle Syrian refugees, on March 30, 2016 at the UN Offices in Geneva. The refugee crisis caused by Syria's war requires an "exponential" rise in global solidarity, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on March 30, 2016, as he opened a conference on securing resettlement places for those displaced. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon delivers a speech during a conference of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees aimed at securing concrete pledges from world nations to resettle Syrian refugees, on March 30, 2016 at the UN Offices in Geneva.<br />The refugee crisis caused by Syria’s war requires an “exponential” rise in global solidarity, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on March 30, 2016, as he opened a conference on securing resettlement places for those displaced. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said Wednesday states should seek a peaceful end to disputes at the International Court of Justice, as the UN’s highest tribunal marked 70 years of global decision-making.

“It is essential that all states reaffirm their commitment under the (UN) Charter to resolve disputes by peaceful means,” Ban said in an address in The Hague.

He was speaking at a special sitting of the court in the imposing Peace Palace, which houses the ICJ, that was also attended by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and other high-ranking dignitaries.

“If the path of peace is chosen, if states entrust the judges of this august institution to determine their differences, stability is fostered and the broader international community benefits,” said Ban, who is in the Netherlands for a number of international justice events.

Set up in 1946 after World War II, the ICJ’s 15-judge bench, elected for a nine-year term, is seen as having the final word in rows between states and an impartial arbiter when quarrels erupt between neighbours.

Many of the 200 or so decisions handed down by the ICJ have been born out of bilateral tensions which the tribunal has helped resolve, including bitter border disputes, nuclear testing and even whale hunting in the Antarctic.

But observers say the global referee’s reach remains limited because it cannot intervene in disputes unless both the countries involved agree or have recognised the court’s jurisdiction in some manner.

So far only 72 states around the globe have recognised the ICJ’s “compulsory jurisdiction” which means a state can sue any other state, as long as both have accepted the court’s authority as binding.

In his address, Ban urged countries that have not yet accepted the court’s jurisdiction “to do so”.

“The importance of resolving disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law has never been more urgent,” said Ban.

“Conflict is the most efficient method of derailing development known to humankind,” he said.

Ban on Tuesday opened the new building of the International Criminal Court which is also located in the Dutch legislative city, where he made an impassioned plea for nations everywhere to end impunity for the world’s worst crimes.



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