International Courts and Tribunals

2 ECTS / 12h / English

The number and variety of international bodies charged with resolving disputes between States, international organisations, companies and individuals is little short of staggering. Some are relatively venerable, others are newer but well established, still others are in their infancy, planned but not yet established or, in some cases, still on the drawing board; a small number have even disappeared, though not generally without trace. Some are (intended to be) permanent, others are (intended to be) temporary, or even ad hoc. Some have global aspirations, others are regional in character, still others have a limited territorial reach. 

The jurisdiction of such bodies is similarly variegated. Some have a general jurisdiction for disputes between specific categories of party, others are charged with supervising the interpretation and application of a set of related instruments, or even a single international agreement. Many have optional jurisdiction only, while recourse to some of these judicial bodies for matters within their jurisdiction is not only obligatory but enforceable.Their material jurisdiction is equally kaleidoscopic: relations between States, protection of fundamental rights, international trade relations, the protection of the environment, enforcement of international criminal law, resolution of disputes between international organisations and their staff, and in some cases a combination of some, or even all, of the above.

What they have in common is their increasing, indeed ineluctable, relevance in a globalized world.

The course will set out to provide a typology of international courts and tribunals; the context and reasons for their establishment, their ‘success’ and (potential) durability, an overview of the law they apply and relations between such courts and tribunals (and the problem of inconsistent decisions), the authority of their decisions in their specific field of concern and, possibly, beyond, and their structures, personnel and functioning. The character of certain of the major courts/tribunals, and the possible limits to the judicialisation of international relations, will be illustrated by examining a number of leading judgments of international courts and tribunals.

The CJEU will not be examined in detail, as it is discussed in the ‘Law of European Integration’ course, though it may occasionally be referred to.


Kieran Bradley is Judge of the Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank (Washington DC) and of the Administrative Tribunal of the…