International Commission of Jurists

International Commission of Jurists

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The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is an international human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 non-governmental organization
Non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

. The Commission itself is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists (judges and lawyers), including members of the senior judiciary
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, and South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of Ireland
President of Ireland
The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

, Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson
Mary Therese Winifred Robinson served as the seventh, and first female, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish Senate...

, was the president of the Commission from 2008 to 2010 and in January 2011, Pedro Nikken has taken place of her.

The Commission is supported by an International Secretariat based in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, and staffed by lawyer
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s drawn from a wide range of jurisdictions and legal traditions. The Secretariat and the Commission undertake advocacy and policy work aimed at strengthening the role of lawyers and judge
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

s in protecting and promoting human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 and the rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

. In addition, the ICJ has national sections and affiliates in over 70 countries. Given the legal focus of the ICJ's work, membership of these sections is predominantly drawn from the legal profession: lawyers, judges, legal academics and law students.

The initials of the International Commission of Jurists are the same as those of the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

. Given their common legal context, the two are sometimes confused with one another, although they are unrelated.

History


Born at the ideological frontline of a divided post-war Berlin, the ICJ was established in memory of a West German lawyer, Dr. Walter Linse, who, along with Dr. Theo Friedlander, was active in exposing human rights violations committed in the Soviet zone. On 8 July 1952, East German intelligence agents abducted and delivered Linse to the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 and Dr Linse was executed in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 one year later for "espionage". This event led to the decision by a group of lawyers to found an organisation dedicated to the defence of human rights through the rule of law and its inaugural conference was convened in 1952. Today, the ICJ has national sections and affiliates in over 70 countries.

The ICJ was initially funded by the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 through the American Fund for Free Jurists, but the CIA's role was not known to most of the ICJ's members. American founders like Allen Dulles and John J. McCloy
John J. McCloy
John Jay McCloy was a lawyer and banker who served as Assistant Secretary of War during World War II, president of the World Bank and U.S. High Commissioner for Germany...

 conceived it as a counter to the International Association of Democratic Jurists controlled by the Soviet Union. Ex-CIA officer Philip Agee
Philip Agee
Philip Burnett Franklin Agee was a Central Intelligence Agency case officer and writer, best known as author of the 1975 book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, detailing his experiences in the CIA. Agee joined the CIA in 1957, and over the following decade had postings in Washington, D.C., Ecuador,...

 considered that the ICJ was "set up and controlled by the CIA for propaganda operations." The CIA funding became public in 1967, but the organization survived the revelations after a period of reform under Secretary General Sean MacBride
Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride was an Irish government minister and prominent international politician as well as a Chief of Staff of the IRA....

, and through Ford Foundation
Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is a private foundation incorporated in Michigan and based in New York City created to fund programs that were chartered in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford....

 funding.

From 1970 to 1990, Niall MacDermot
Niall MacDermot
Niall MacDermot was a British Labour Party politician.He was first elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Lewisham North, at a by-election in 1957 following the death of Conservative MP Sir Austin Hudson.MacDermot lost his seat two years later at the 1959 general election,...

 was Secretary-General, succeeding Sean MacBride
Seán MacBride
Seán MacBride was an Irish government minister and prominent international politician as well as a Chief of Staff of the IRA....

. MacDermot rescued the ICJ from its association with the CIA, to the forefront of the international human rights movement.

The ICJ was responsible for the Declaration of Delhi
Declaration of Delhi
The New Delhi Congress or Declaration of Delhi was an international gathering of over 185 judges, lawyers, and law professors from 53 countries all over the world, united as the International Commission of Jurists that took place in New Delhi, India in 1959. The theme of the New Delhi Congress was...

 on the rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

 in 1959.

In 1978, the ICJ established the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL). It was instrumental in the formulation and adoption of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and its mandate is to work for their implementation.

In 1986, the ICJ gathered a group of distinguished experts in international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 to consider the nature and scope of the obligations of States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from January 3, 1976...

. The meeting witnessed the birth of the Limburg Principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which continue to guide international law in the area of economic, social and cultural rights.

In the 1990s, a number of important international developments took place as a result of initiatives by the ICJ. These included the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the recommendation by the Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights
World Conference on Human Rights
The World Conference on Human Rights was held by the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, on 14 to 25 June 1993. It was the first human rights conference held since the end of the Cold War...

 in Vienna to work on the setting up of an International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

. This was the direct result of an international conference on impunity, organised by the ICJ under the auspices of the United Nations in 1992, which adopted an appeal asking the Vienna conference to "set up an international penal tribunal…in order to finally break the cycle of impunity". In November 2006 the ICJ held an international meeting in Yogyakarta for LGBT rights and published The Yogyakarta Principles in March 2007.

The ICJ also initiated the drafting of the set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, both under examination at the UN Human Rights Commission and also received the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights
United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights
The United Nations Prizes in the Field of Human Rights were instituted by United Nations General Assembly in 1966.They are intended to "honour and commend people and organizations which have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of the human rights embodied in the...

 in 1993.

Current activities


The ICJ is active in promoting human rights and the rule of law, whether at the international level (e.g. the UN), regionally (e.g. the EU and Council of Europe), or domestically through the activities of its national sections (e.g. JUSTICE
JUSTICE
JUSTICE is a human rights and law reform organisation based in the United Kingdom. It is the British section of the International Commission of Jurists, the international human rights organisation of lawyers devoted to the legal protection of human rights worldwide...

in the UK). It currently operates programmes on the independence of judges and lawyers, the human rights impact of counter-terrorism legislation, the role of human rights in international corporate responsibility, and economic social and cultural rights.