The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Monday elected its new president and vice president [press release, PDF], who will each serve a term of three years. Judge Peter Tomka [official profile] of Slovakia will serve as president. Tomka, who has been vice president of the ICJ since 2009, has also worked for the Slovakian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has held several UN positions, including being a member of the UN International Law Commission [official websites]. Judge Bernardo Sepulveda-Amor [official profile] of Mexico will serve as vice president. Sepulveda-Amor has been a member of the ICJ since 2006 and was previously an Ambassador of Mexico to the US, the UK and Ireland, worked as the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations [official website] and has held numerous UN positions. The ICJ, located in The Hague, is the UN's highest court and settles disputes between governments and issues advisory opinions on topics presented by UN bodies. The court consists of 15 judges elected for nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council [official websites]. No two judges can come from the same home country, and efforts are taken to ensure that the primary world legal systems are represented.
The ICJ is currently reviewing 13 cases. Last week, the court ruled [JURIST report] that Germany has immunity from claims brought in foreign courts by victims of the Nazi regime. The court found that a 2008 decision by Italy's Supreme Court [JURIST report] violated Germany's sovereign rights by allowing an Italian national to seek reparations in response to his deportation in 1944. Germany appealed this decision to the ICJ, which heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in September 2011. The ruling by the ICJ is final and binding, effectively ending thousands of reparations claims against Germany. In December, the ICJ ruled that Greece wrongly blocked [JURIST report] the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website] in a dispute over the use of the name "Macedonia." Greece objects to FYROM's use of "Macedonia" out of concern that the country will use the moniker to make claims to regions of Northern Greece [JURIST comment] that also are known by the name Macedonia. The ICJ order may have been a largely symbolic victory for FYROM because the court did not sanction Greece, nor did it order the country to refrain from taking similar action in the future.