Tribunals & other mechanisms

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Tribunals & other mechanisms

ICTY inauguration in 1993.

The principal judicial organ of the United Nations is the International Court of Justice. Its Statute is annexed to the Charter of the United Nations. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.

The Organization also supports other judicial mechanisms, such as the ad hoc criminal tribunals and hybrid tribunals, established mainly to address past international crimes in war-torn societies, and fact-finding/investigatorial bodies. Many of these mechanisms are hybrid tribunals or commissions, involving often mixed national and international composition and jurisdiction. They are set up in cooperation with national authorities under UN auspices and with mandates tailored to the specifics of each situation.

These include:

  • Ad hoc international criminal tribunals established by the Security Council as subsidiary organs of the UN for the former Yugoslavia (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) and Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda).
  • The Special Court for Sierra Leone: a mixed tribunal based on an agreement between the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone.
  • Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: a mixed tribunal, proposed under a national law specially promulgated in accordance with a treaty.
  • The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: a mixed tribunal of an international character, based on an agreement between the UN and the Lebanese Republic.
  • A Panel with Exclusive Jurisdiction over Serious Criminal Offences in Timor-Leste, established by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor.
  • The use of international judges and prosecutors in the courts of Kosovo, pursuant to regulations of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.
  • The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), established as an independent investigative body by an agreement between the UN and Guatemala. CICIG has the objective of assisting the Guatemalan State in investigating and dismantling violent criminal organizations believed to be responsible for widespread crime and the paralysis in the country's justice system.
  • A Commission tasked with looking into the facts and circumstances surrounding the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
  • The International Commission of Inquiry on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya), established in February 2011, to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and the crimes perpetrated, to identify those responsible and to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures.
  • The International Commission of Inquiry on Cote d'Ivoire, established in April 2011 to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed in Cote d'Ivoire following the presidential election of 28 November 2010, in order to identify those responsible for such acts and to bring them to justice.
Many international treaties have mandated UN treaty bodies, including tribunals such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and human rights treaty bodies, including the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The UN supports non-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms. Cross-border commissions established by the UN have included the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (2000-2002) and the Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission. The UN Compensation Commission was established by the Security Council in 1991 to process claims and pay compensation for losses resulting from Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, established in 2000, recently rendered its final awards on damages in each Party's Claims.

The UN monitors violations of human rights, and conducts fact-finding and commissions of inquiry on alleged violations of international law. UN Commissions of Inquiry have included the Commission of Experts to examine and analyse alleged violations of international law committed in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1994), the Commission of Inquiry in Rwanda (1996), the Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon (2006), the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur (2004/2005), the International Commission of on Libya (2011) and the Internationa Commission of Inquiry on Cote d'Ivoire (2011).

UN efforts to combat impunity and strengthen universal justice also involve assistance to Member States to enable them to pursue accountability and reconciliation, and to provide victims with redress, through support for various other transitional justice processes and mechanisms.