Actio Popularis, la difesa dell’interesse comune (Ing. & Fr.)

gandhi

“Even in areas where international law is clearly inspired by the Community interest and the defense of collective interest, this does not exclude any form of reciprocity. In the field of human rights, for example, it is common to use the terminology of “absolute” or “objective” obligations as opposed to other obligations that are clearly based on reciprocity. Admittedly, the norms of protection of human rights are inspired more by the existence of collective interests (or values) than by the idea of reciprocal exchange of benefits.]
] Any process of ratification of a treaty therefore contains an inherent form of reciprocity. […[

Actio Popularis. The ICJ and the defense of the collective interest.

The acceptance of the hypothesis of community interest would require an acknowledgement of the right of any state to take cognizance of a breach of a treaty even if not directly affected by the breach. This is probably true under existing international law with reference to a multipartite treaty, any party to which would be justified in protesting against a breach of the agreement, because of its interest in the maintenance of the system which the treaty establishes. This would be clearly true in regard to a breach of an international sanitary convention, a postal convention, a convention on radio, or particularly a treaty codifying some part of international law. […] If the state directly affected should take no step to vindicate its rights, another party to the treaty might itself apply to the Court.

 Ph. C Jessup, A Modem Law of Nations, New York, 1948.

Nowadays, there is hardly any area of international relations where there is no form of common interest. This common interest is, however, particularly evident in certain sectors, for example in the areas of international peacekeeping, human security, human rights, development cooperation, protection of the natural environment, communications (Marine resources beyond the jurisdiction of coastal states, high seas fishery resources, outer space, moon and other celestial bodies).

We saw that the main role of the IJC was to settle disputes between States on various matters and on different levels of involvement, in a broader sense to establish the defense of collective interest. The Statute of the International Court of Justice raises two limits to the defense of collective interest. Firstly, only States have capacity to bring a dispute before the Court. International organizations, other entities or individuals are not admitted as applicants in the context of contentious proceedings. Secondly, the Court can exercise its jurisdiction only with the consent of the States concerned. States may naturally express this consent in advance by means of a jurisdictional clause inserted in a treaty or by the formulation of unilateral declarations of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, but this consent is always necessary. Thus, only a State may bring an action before the International Court of Justice and it can do so only if it is able to avail itself of an appropriate title of jurisdiction.

Consequently, what seems difficult to discern is the term ‘jurisdiction’ which is easy to understand within the domestic law framework and at the same time quite puzzling on international justice level. On the international level, it could be common to mix, during the elaboration of a dispute settlement procedure, from purely judicial methods to more political or diplomatic conciliatory techniques. It seems therefore necessary to avoid two pitfalls: that of a definition too strict, which would be ill-suited to mixtures of genres of international practice; and that of a definition too evanescent, which would lose all its substance to the very principle of judicial settlement. In accordance with the etymological origins of the term “jurisdiction”, it would be convenient and accurate to consider as such any body specifically entrusted with the “law”, whether or not its decision is formally legally binding on the parties. The defense of collective interest is not only a legal technique; It is also a reflection of the organization and especially of certain values society. The defense of collective interest finds its consecration by international law, whether at the level of the international community as a whole or within more restricted groups of States. The content and legal structure of international obligations invoked in the context of defense of collective interest resolve the decisive influence of the general rules of the law of treaties and Especially those of international responsibility.

“One must not forget that traditionally patterned, bilateralist international law still constitutes the basis on which the new developments are taking shape – and a rather pertinacious basis at that.” B. Simma, “From Bilateralism to Community Interest in International Law”,RCADI, vol. 250, 1994-VI, p. 230.

The emergence of new normative concepts has not been accompanied by developments in international institutions which could have been expected. It would be wrong to assume that bilateral law was purely and simply replaced by Community law, and it would also be wrong to believe that entire fields of international relations fall exclusively within one or the other of these two categories. In fact, in almost all areas of law, there are several legal methodologies at work simultaneously. In this sense, international law seems to be less like a mountain composed of distinct rock strata than the delta of a river where alluvial deposits accumulate and mix year after year. Even in areas where international law is clearly inspired by the Community interest and the defense of collective interest, this does not exclude any form of reciprocity. In the field of human rights, for example, it is common to use the terminology of “absolute” or “objective” obligations as opposed to other obligations that are clearly based on reciprocity. Admittedly, the norms of protection of human rights are inspired more by the existence of collective interests (or values) than by the idea of reciprocal exchange of benefits. States generally agree to become parties to a treaty on the protection of human rights only when they know that other States have done the same or will do so. Some want to set an example, others want to show that they are prepared to respect certain rules. Any process of ratification of a treaty therefore contains an inherent form of reciprocity. This probably explains why both the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights have refrained from completely excluding reciprocity in the functioning of human rights standards.

Over the last fifty years, international responsibility has undergone substantial changes not only in its content but also in its nature and functions. These transformations have direct consequences for the defense of collective interest, comparing the classical conception of responsibility with modern trends. Of course, the possibility of bringing a contentious case before the International Court of Justice or before another dispute settlement body continues to depend on the existence of a jurisdictional title. In the conventional frameworks already existing where popular action is clearly recognized, only few States are inclined to use it. It remains true that such a mechanism of judicial review, even if it is uncertain in its functioning, remains preferable to a situation in which each State unilaterally judges the existence of a crime and its consequences.

The international responsibility of the ICJ in order to show that the modern evolution of the nature and function of responsibility has paved the way for the defense of the collective interest.

Ban Ki-Moon UN Secretary-General claimed during a press conference: “Building the future, thinking ahead involves most of the time change.” François Voeffray, Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales de Genùve./ Translated by myself.

Le Statut de la Cour internationale de Justice pose d’emblĂ©e deux limites bien connues Ă  l’actio popularis. PremiĂšrement, seuls les Etats ont qualitĂ© pour saisir la Cour d’un diffĂ©rend. Les organisations internationales, d’autres entitĂ©s ou les individus ne sont pas admis Ă  titre de demandeurs dans la procĂ©dure contentieuse. DeuxiĂšmement, la Cour ne peut exercer sa juridiction qu’avec le consentement des Etats concernĂ©s. Les Etats peuvent naturellement exprimer ce consentement Ă  l’avance par le biais d’une clause juridictionnelle insĂ©rĂ©e dans un traitĂ© ou par la formulation de dĂ©clarations unilatĂ©rales d’acceptation de la juridiction obligatoire de la Cour faites conformĂ©ment Ă  l’article 36 § 2 du Statut, mais ce consentement est toujours nĂ©cessaire. Ainsi, seul un Etat peut intenter une actio popularis devant la Cour internationale de Justice et il ne peut le faire que s’il est en mesure de se prĂ©valoir d’un titre de juridiction appropriĂ©.

Ces limites statutaires rappelĂ©es, l’actio popularis est-elle permise devant la Cour internationale de Justice ? Soulever cette question oblige Ă  Ă©voquer inĂ©vitablement l’affaire du Sud-Ouest africain. Le refus de l’actio popularisconstituait, en effet, un Ă©tendard de bataille des juges qui dĂ©cidĂšrent en 1966 – grĂące Ă  une majoritĂ© technique obtenue Ă  travers la voix prĂ©pondĂ©rante du PrĂ©sident – de rejeter les requĂȘtes dĂ©posĂ©es par l’Ethiopie et le Liberia au sujet de l’administration du territoire du Sud-Ouest africain. La portĂ©e de cet arrĂȘt ne doit cependant pas ĂȘtre surestimĂ©e. Formellement, l’arrĂȘt ne traite de l’admissibilitĂ© d’une action en dĂ©fense de l’intĂ©rĂȘt gĂ©nĂ©ral que dans le cadre spĂ©cifique du rĂ©gime des mandats de la SociĂ©tĂ© des Nations. De plus, les divergences entre les juges de la Cour au sujet de la qualitĂ© pour agir des deux Etats demandeurs n’étaient pas les plus importantes. C’était sur le rĂŽle de la justice et la nature du processus de crĂ©ation du droit international que s’opposaient vĂ©ritablement les deux camps au sein de la Cour. Enfin et surtout, l’arrĂȘt de 1966 n’est qu’une Ă©tape, la plus hostile Ă  l’actio popularis, de l’évolution de la jurisprudence de la Cour internationale de Justice. Quelques annĂ©es plus tard, un revirement jurisprudentiel s’est dessinĂ© dans le cĂ©lĂšbre passage de l’arrĂȘt de la Barcelona Traction qui affirme l’existence en droit international d’obligations erga omnes, c’est-Ă -dire d’obligations au respect desquelles tous les Etats ont un intĂ©rĂȘt juridique. L’étendue de ce revirement jurisprudentiel demeure encore incertaine. Mais c’est incontestablement ce prononcĂ© de la Cour internationale de Justice – bien plus que celui de l’affaire du Sud-Ouest africain – qui constitue aujourd’hui le principal point d’ancrage jurisprudentiel de toute discussion relative Ă  l’actio popularis.

Bien que l’actio popularis ait Ă©tĂ© Ă©voquĂ©e Ă  plusieurs reprises devant la Cour internationale de Justice, la position de la Cour paraĂźt encore incertaine. La fresque jurisprudentielle, faite de touches et de retouches successives apposĂ©es par plusieurs peintres, n’est manifestement pas achevĂ©e. Plusieurs pans sont fortement travaillĂ©s, alors que d’autres demeurent encore au stade de l’ébauche. Pour dresser un bilan, il convient de revenir briĂšvement sur l’arrĂȘt rendu par la Cour en 1966 dans l’affaire du Sud-Ouest africain, puis d’essayer d’évaluer l’ampleur du revirement jurisprudentiel que constitue l’affirmation de l’existence en droit international d’obligations erga omnes.

Pour apprĂ©cier les possibilitĂ©s d’intenter une actio popularis devant la Cour internationale de Justice, l’analyse de la jurisprudence ne suffit pas. Une telle action en justice suppose que l’Etat demandeur puisse se prĂ©valoir d’un titre juridictionnel donnant compĂ©tence Ă  la Cour internationale de Justice pour connaĂźtre du diffĂ©rend. Or, de nombreux titres juridictionnels paraissent se prĂȘter Ă  une telle action intentĂ©e dans l’intĂ©rĂȘt commun.

En dĂ©pit des rĂ©ticences de certains Etats Ă  l’égard du rĂšglement juridictionnel, de nombreux traitĂ©s multilatĂ©raux en vigueur contiennent une disposition attribuant compĂ©tence Ă  la Cour internationale de Justice pour connaĂźtre des diffĂ©rends entre Etats parties relatifs Ă  leur interprĂ©tation ou Ă  leur application. Il a Ă©tĂ© soutenu parfois dans la doctrine ancienne que tout Etat partie Ă  un traitĂ© a un intĂ©rĂȘt Ă  son respect, car une stricte observation des dispositions par toutes les parties contribue Ă  la stabilitĂ© et Ă  la crĂ©dibilitĂ© du rĂ©gime conventionnel. Il faut constater Ă  ce propos que l’article 63 du Statut de la Cour internationale de Justice reconnaĂźt l’intĂ©rĂȘt de tous les Etats parties Ă  un traitĂ© multilatĂ©ral Ă  intervenir dans une procĂ©dure pendante au sujet de l’interprĂ©tation ou de l’application de ce traitĂ©. Le Statut de la Cour internationale de Justice affirme donc une sorte d’intĂ©rĂȘt « systĂ©mique » de tous les Etats parties vis-Ă -vis de l’interprĂ©tation et du respect d’un traitĂ© multilatĂ©ral. Cependant, cet intĂ©rĂȘt de tous les Etats parties n’est reconnu expressĂ©ment qu’en matiĂšre d’intervention. Or, l’intervention dans une procĂ©dure pendante a une portĂ©e plus limitĂ©e que le dĂ©pĂŽt d’une requĂȘte en tant que demandeur. Elle ne permet pas, par exemple, de dĂ©poser une demande de rĂ©paration. Il est douteux qu’un tel intĂ©rĂȘt « systĂ©mique » Ă  l’intĂ©gritĂ© et Ă  la stabilitĂ© d’un traitĂ© suffise pour fonder une actio popularis, c’est-Ă -dire un droit de tous les Etats parties Ă  agir en justice en tant que demandeur. Un tel droit d’agir n’existe que lorsque le traitĂ© vise Ă  protĂ©ger des intĂ©rĂȘts communs.

Le domaine par excellence oĂč domine l’idĂ©e de protĂ©ger des valeurs ou intĂ©rĂȘts communs aux Etats parties est celui des droits de l’homme. La plupart des traitĂ©s conclus Ă  ce sujet sur le plan universel contiennent une clause juridictionnelle en faveur de la Cour internationale de Justice qui permet Ă  celle-ci de juger d’un diffĂ©rend sur demande unilatĂ©rale de n’importe quel Etat partie. Des clauses juridictionnelles susceptibles de servir Ă  une actio popularis se trouvent Ă©galement dans certains traitĂ©s multilatĂ©raux relatifs Ă  la protection de l’environnement marin ou concernant le maintien de la paix, le dĂ©sarmement, la prĂ©servation et la diffusion du patrimoine culturel, la rĂ©pression d’activitĂ©s internationalement illicites ou d’autres intĂ©rĂȘts similaires de caractĂšre gĂ©nĂ©ral.

En plus de cinquante annĂ©es de fonctionnement, la Cour internationale de Justice n’a Ă©tĂ© amenĂ©e Ă  connaĂźtre que d’un nombre trĂšs limitĂ© de requĂȘtes pouvant ĂȘtre assimilĂ©e – de prĂšs ou de loin – Ă  une actio popularis. Cette pratique limitĂ©e peut s’expliquer d’abord par les rĂ©ticences des Etats Ă  l’égard du principe mĂȘme du rĂšglement judiciaire. Actuellement, seul un tiers des États membres de la communautĂ© internationale ont reconnu Ă  l’avance, par le biais d’une dĂ©claration unilatĂ©rale, la juridiction obligatoire de la Cour internationale de Justice. De plus, ceux qui l’ont fait ont assorti parfois leur dĂ©claration de rĂ©serves qui limitent considĂ©rablement l’étendue de leur consentement Ă  la juridiction obligatoire. Par ailleurs, l’insertion dans les traitĂ©s multilatĂ©raux de dispositions attribuant compĂ©tence Ă  la Cour est rĂ©guliĂšrement contestĂ©e au cours de nĂ©gociations. En consĂ©quence, nombre de traitĂ©s sont complĂštement dĂ©pourvus d’une telle clause, alors que d’autres contiennent des clauses « émasculĂ©es » qui empĂȘchent toute saisine unilatĂ©rale de la Cour. Enfin, on relĂšvera que les dispositions relatives Ă  la compĂ©tence juridictionnelle de la Cour internationale de Justice figurent parmi celles qui ont fait l’objet du plus grand nombre de rĂ©serves. Ces rĂ©ticences bien connues Ă  l’égard du rĂšglement judiciaire limitent les possibilitĂ©s d’intenter une actio popularisdans certains domaines – tels celui du droit de l’environnement – qui s’y prĂȘteraient particuliĂšrement. Comme nous l’avons vu, il existe nĂ©anmoins de nombreux titres de juridiction qui pourraient ĂȘtre invoquĂ©s en vue de fonder la compĂ©tence de la Cour pour connaĂźtre d’une actio popularis. La nĂ©cessitĂ© d’un consentement des Etats Ă  la juridiction de la Cour n’est donc pas la principale explication de la raretĂ© des requĂȘtes de ce type. François Voeffray, Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales de GenĂšve./

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