Time and the Law: International Perspectives on an Old Problem

Rosalyn Higgins Dbe Qc

in Themes and Theories

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780198262350
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682322 | DOI:
Time and the Law: International Perspectives on an Old Problem

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The concept of time plays an important part in international law. Because the jurisdiction of all international tribunals is based on consent, acceptances of that consent have to be articulated at a precise moment of time. One method by which states accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is through Article 36(2) of the Statute, the so-called Optional Clause. The jurisdiction of the ICJ may also be based on a treaty provision. Here too the Court has applied the principle of jurisdictional retroactivity. The retrospective application of the criminal law has very special overtones. The policy considerations concerning punishment for crimes occurring in the past are many and varied. The principle of res judicata, indeed the whole concept of precedent, is complicated in the ICJ because of the need for consent to jurisdiction. The principle of finality applies in international law. Time-related problems in international law are by no means restricted to the so-called inter-temporal rule.

Keywords: International Court of Justice; Optional Clause; international law; time; jurisdiction; consent; jurisdictional retroactivity; principle of finality; inter-temporal rule; criminal law

Chapter.  8900 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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