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United Nations elects LSE international law expert as a judge at 'the world's court'

Professor Christopher Greenwood has been elected a judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) - the body which settles disputes between nations and provides legal opinion to the United Nations.

He will serve a nine-year term as one of the court's 15 judges - hearing cases that range from territorial disputes and allegations of racial discrimination to issues of genocide and environmental protection.

Professor Greenwood, an authority in international law who has taught at LSE for 12 years, is also a practising barrister who has been a QC since 1999 and has appeared as an advocate in several cases at the ICJ. 

Photograph of Professor Christopher GreenwoodHe said: The ICJ is sometimes described as "the world's court" and I think that's a good description. At its low point, 30 years ago, the court didn't have any cases at all but the number before it now shows how countries from all parts of the world are increasingly turning to the ICJ for the resolution of their disputes.'

Cases currently before the court, which sits in The Hague, include the dispute between Georgia and Russia, several maritime boundary disputes and a request from the UN General Assembly for an advisory opinion on Kosovo. In recent years, the Court has ruled on allegations of genocide in Bosnia, the security wall built by Israel and the death penalty for foreign nationals in the United States.

New judges have to be elected by a majority in both the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and this time five judges were elected from eight candidates. Professor Greenwood came second in the poll in the General assembly, with 157 votes, and was the only candidate to obtain all 15 votes in the Security Council. Candidates from Brazil, France, Jordan and Somalia were also elected.

About a third of all countries accept the court's jurisdiction in all areas of international law while many more are parties to treaties which recognise its authority in specific areas. The court has no criminal jurisdiction over individuals.

Professor Greenwood said: 'For counsel, the biggest difference between appearing at the ICJ and appearing in an English court is that the judges in the ICJ never interrupt. One former English judge told me he felt English judges should have a note in front of them saying "Shut up. Remember you're paid to be irritated".'

He will leave LSE to take up his appointment in the new year. He follows in the footsteps of Professor Rosalyn Higgins, who is current President of the ICJ and was his predecessor as Professor of International Law at LSE.

Professor Greenwood said: 'One thing I will certainly miss is teaching because I enjoy it so much. I can't understand people who become academics and say they don't like teaching.'

Christopher Greenwood is Joint Editor of the International Law Reports and has taught at universities in the United States and Germany as well as at the Academy of International Law in the Hague. A practising barrister, his cases have included the Pinochet, Kuwait Airways and Guantanamo Bay cases in the English courts, the Lockerbie, Kosovo and Rwanda cases in the International Court of Justice and the Bankovic case in the European Court of Human Rights.

His appointment was welcomed by Foreign Secretary David Miliband who said: 'Professor Greenwood is highly respected within the international legal community as an outstanding academic and practitioner of international law. I am certain that he will make a significant contribution to the promotion of the rule of law in international affairs.'
He is one of three new judges elected to the court. Full details available from the ICJ press room|


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LSE Press Office 020 7955 7440


13 November 2008