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International Court of Justice Judge Sir Kenneth James Keith Provides His Perspectives on The Court

April 04, 2012

International Court of Justice Judge Sir Kenneth James Keith, a New Zealand judge appointed to the international court in 2005, presented "Judging: A National and International Perspective" at the law school on April 3.

Keith provided an overview of the International Court of Justice which is the principal judicial organ of the U.N. seated at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

Keith described the evolution of the Court, adding that it has functioned more smoothly since the Cold War ended. To ensure a a “geopolitical balance,” five of the 15 judges on the Court are elected every three years so that the cultural and legal nuances of countries around the world are fairly represented on the Court, Keith said. Despite the judges' diverse backgrounds, Keith commented that there is a surprising “commonality of legal principle” among the judges. While many judges draw upon their unique legal backgrounds, the methods of interpreting or applying legal constructs is relatively consistent on the bench, Keith added.

Keith himself has heard disputes between Georgia and Russia, Romania and the Ukraine and many cases involving genocide in the Balkans. Recently, Keith presided over a dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over a stretch of coastal land - the Court found it was Cameroon's - but had to decide how Nigerians living there should be treated.

Prior to his appointment to the International Court of Justice, Keith was the recipient of the Order of New Zealand, a knight of The Order of the British Empire, a Queen’s Counsel, a Judge of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand from 1996 to 2003, a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London and one of the inaugural appointments to the new Supreme Court of New Zealand.