Emory International Law Review


Over the last seven decades, there has been a proliferation of international tribunals. Yet, they have not received unanimous approval, raising questions about their legitimacy. A legitimate international tribunal is one whose authority to adjudicate international disputes is perceived as justified. Using the case study of the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.), this Article highlights the three criteria that should be considered in assessing the legitimacy of an international tribunal, which include legal, sociological, and moral elements. It also contends that the I.C.J. cannot claim “full” legitimacy if any of these components are missing in its decisions. The Article further suggests that the legitimacy of the I.C.J. has a dynamic nature, as litigating parties may continually change their perception of the court’s authority at any time before, during, or after the judicial process. The Article equally describes other factors that can contribute to maintaining the international court’s legitimacy, including fairness and unbiasedness, sound interpretation of international legal norms, and transparency.