Media Center



April 10, 2014 - Washington, DC

Thank you very much. It is an honor to welcome the President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Peter Tomka, to this House of the Americas. We also welcome Judge Kenneth Keith from the International Court of Justice; Jean Michel Arrighi, the Secretary for Juridical Affairs; and Ambassadors and all those that are present.

As you know the International Court of Justice is a United Nations body and the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations, but it has had, from the beginning, close ties with the Inter-American system.

We must remember too that it was in our region, in 1907, that the first international tribunal was established: the Central American Court of Justice. When it ceased operating in 1917, thought was given to establishing an Inter-American Court of Justice, and the so-called "Peace Code" considered at the Seventh International Conference of American States in 1933 detailed its rules, procedures, composition, and powers. However, when it came to establishing the International Court, it was decided not to move ahead with implementation of the Inter-American Court, the reason being that the countries of the Americas were at that time a majority in the universal system, so therefore it was unnecessary to have an Inter-American Court if we were going to have an International Court of Justice.

The birth of the OAS in 1948 was also accompanied by the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement (Pact of Bogotá). In a sense, that treaty brought the Court in The Hague into the Inter-American system. The court is a part of the Inter-American system also because it very clearly states the possibility of the signing countries to ask the Court to solve their differences when the other forms of peaceful resolution have not been able to solve the case. We pride ourselves of being the region that has had the fewest number of wars in the last century and, at the same time, the region that has gone to the International Court of Justice more often. Nobody has used the Court more than the countries of Latin America. This, I think, is something that we should consider a positive. Peaceful resolution is possible and peaceful settlement of conflicts can be achieved and, when it is not achieved, there is also the peaceful recourse to the International Court of Justice.

Several distinguished American jurists have been members of the Court, have been President of the Court and today we have three members of the Court from OAS countries. I mean members of the Court who come from the Americas: Judge Antonio Augusto Cançado Trindade of Brazil, Judge Joan Donoghue of the United States of America, and Judge Bernardo Sepúlveda of Mexico, who, in addition, accompanies you, Mr. President, as the Court's current Vice President.

Whenever a tribunal hands down a judgment, it may be criticized and it may be a source of frustrated expectations for some or one of the parties, but, in the end, luckily we all trust that its judgments will be complied with, in good faith. The final decisions of the Court are the result of a lengthy process in which the parties have every opportunity and ample time to expound their points of view and their arguments. Today, it is the vehicle that should enable us to put longstanding differences behind us and focus on a future of friendship and cooperation among our countries. This is a part of the world that, more than any other, as I mentioned before, has constantly sought to settle differences between its states by peaceful means; only exceptionally have our countries resorted to the use of force to resolve international disputes. Hence the importance we have always attached to international tribunals and to respect for international law as "the standard of conduct of States in their reciprocal relation," to cite Article 3 of the OAS Charter. We also hope to continue using the Court. There are some cases that are there at the Court. Some others, from some member countries, are waiting for an agreement between then to go to court. We certainly look forward to a fruitful relationship with you in the future.

I should also say that we are very pleased to welcome you to this House of the Americas, as I said before. This has something in common with the Peace Palace in The Hague where the International Court has its seat. Both were funded partially by the same person. Andrew Carnegie was important in the donation for the Palace of Peace and for the founding of this building, even though they don’t look very much alike since they are in a different line of architecture.

With this, Judge Peter Tomka, we are very pleased to welcome you. Judge Peter Tomka has had a long legal, diplomatic and academic career in his country, Slovakia. We hope that you will continue your successful term as President of the Court. Make yourself at home. This is your house. The House of the Americas is yours and I am very proud to give you the floor.

Thank you very much.