India’s Dalveer Bhandari re-elected to world court after Britain bows to UN majority

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UNITED NATIONS: Judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected on Monday before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when the General Assembly joined him in a show of force that caused Britain to bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood .

“I am grateful to all the nations that have supported me,” Bhandari told IANS in the Assembly chamber after the election. “It was a great choice, as you know.”

The withdrawal of his candidate by Great Britain, which had the support of his fellow permanent members, was a setback for the Security Council that had locked itself in a test of will with the Assembly.

A candidate must win a majority in both houses. Bhandari won majorities in the Assembly in the first 11 rounds of voting in two meetings, while the Council blocked his election by giving majorities to Greenwood in the ten rounds of voting he had.

“Finally, the British had to submit to the will of the majority,” said one diplomat. “The Indians looked down.”

The permanent members of the Council have traditionally had a judge at the International Court of Justice, assuming it is a matter of law. This time, the 193-member Assembly affirmed itself, forcing the Council to step back and jeopardize the continued benefit of the ICJ from the permanent members.

In letters written to Presidents Miroslav Lajcak of the Assembly and Sebastiano Cardi of the Council, the Permanent Representative of Great Britain, Matthew Rycroft, said that his country was withdrawing the candidacy of Greenwood considering “the close relationship that the United Kingdom and India have always enjoyed. ” and will continue to enjoy. ”

The election of Bhandari was a dramatic change of fortune for India, as it lost the Asian seat in the International Court of Justice before the Lebanese lawyer turned diplomatic Nawaf Salam, who had been campaigning for two years and had the support of the powerful Organization. of the Islamic Cooperation with 55 members in the UN.

Bhandari had a second chance only because an unpopular Britain could not get a majority of the Assembly for a remaining magistracy that required a second round in which the two UN chambers would be divided in their vote.

The cause of Bhandari became a meeting point for nations that were not members of the Council, who were becoming irritated under the dominance of the unrepresentative Council to make a popular demonstration of force.

India stressed the representative nature of the Assembly in comparison with the Council and insisted that UN members follow democratic principles and re-elect Bhandari by accepting the global majority he has received in the Assembly.

In the last round of voting on November 13, Bhandari received 121 votes, barely a two-thirds majority in the 193-member Assembly, while Greenwood received nine in the Council.

“The precedent is clear,” said the Permanent Representative of India, Syed Akbaruddin, at a reception for Bhandari attended by representatives of more than 160 countries on Thursday.

“As expected in the 21st century, the candidate who enjoys overwhelming support from the membership of the General Assembly may be the only legitimate candidate that can pass.”

Diplomats familiar with the behind-the-scenes maneuvers said Britain indicated at the end of last week that it would withdraw Greenwood, but over the weekend it changed course with the backing of some permanent members and proposed a plan for the Council to ask that it be put an end to the vote and establish a joint conference to resolve the impasse.

The bylaws of the ICJ stipulate a joint conference composed of three members each of the Council and the Assembly to resolve a stalemate that persists after three electoral meetings.

India feared the outcome and made a determined campaign to avoid it, noting the precedents in the 2011 and 2014 elections and earlier when the leading candidate in the Council withdrew in favor of the candidate with the majority in the Assembly, although in those cases the members permanent were not involved.

The election of Bhandari upsets what has become a traditional balance in the International Court of Justice. In addition to the fact that a permanent member is not represented, four Asian countries will be represented on the bench of the International Court of Justice instead of the usual three.

Three incumbent judges of the ICJ: President Ronny Abraham of France, Vice President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, and Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil, were elected along with Salam in the first four rounds of voting on November 9.

Bhandari and the others elected will begin their term in February of next year.