ICJ election today: India watchful of UK’s attempt to hurt its prospects

Britain is expected to trigger a joint conference if the first round of voting in the Security Council and General Assembly, slated to start at 3 pm (US eastern time), does not yield a result.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2017 11:16 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington, Hindustan Times
ICJ election,Britian,India
International Court of Justice judges in the Hague. (AFP file)

When the UN resumes the International Court of Justice election on Monday, India will be watching the elected members of the Security Council to see if they will prevent Britain from triggering a rarely used instrument to choke off the vote.

Britain, one of the Permanent Five of the SC, is expected to call for a “joint conference” to select a judge to fill the fifth vacancy on the court, ending the election in which its candidate Christopher Greenwood is locked in a stalemated contest with India’s Dalveer Bhandari, both of whom are sitting judges seeking another term.

Britain needs nine votes in the council to successfully invoke the conference, which it is hoping to secure on the basis of the nine votes that Greenwood won in all of the five rounds that took place during voting last Thursday — he held a 9-5 lead over Bhandari, who had slipped from 6-8.

“These members may have voted for Greenwood but could take the position now that voting to elect someone is one thing and voting to throttle a vote, an election process is another and could have implications,” said a diplomat on condition of anonymity.

All but five members — the US, UK, Russia, France and China — of the 15-member Security Council are those elected by the General Assembly for a term of two years.

India has pointed to the ambiguous legal position of this conference citing a provision from the United Nation’s Juridical Yearbook, 1984: “It is the view of the Office of Legal Affairs that to proceed to a fourth or fifth meeting is a more normal procedure than a joint conference … Moreover, the resort to a joint conference also raises a number of difficult issues on which the relevant provisions of the Statute do not provide any clear solution.”

The conference will be made of three members named by the Security Council and the General Assembly each.

“It’s uncharted territory,” said a source, adding, “this was done only once before and that was decades ago.”

Britain is expected to trigger the conference if the first round of voting in the Security Council and General Assembly, slated to start at 3 pm (US eastern time), does not yield a result.

India is prepared to let the voting process continue till a result, as laid down in the guidelines for elections to the ICJ, based in The Hague, to continue for as many rounds as is needed, not just on Monday but the day after, if necessary.

The winning candidate must secure an absolute majority in both the Security Council and the General Assembly that will vote at the same time but independently — 8 and 97 respectively.

Bhandari has led in the General Assembly in multiple rounds of voting that took place last Monday — winning 110-79, 113-76, 111-79, 118-72 and 121-68, which was just eight short of a two-third majority.

Diplomats have said getting two-thirds of the general assembly gives Bhandari, and India, what is called the “moral majority”.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 11:08 IST