International courts and global justice

November 15, 2002

(Nov. 15, 2002, TEMPE, Ariz.) - As human rights concerns have increasingly become the prevailing moral vocabulary of international relations, so too will the occurrence of international courts to address those concerns, says Arizona State University's David Jacobson, a political sociologist.

International courts, such as the International Criminal Court, are a recent phenomenon that raises a series of sociological, legal-normative and political issues that have been examined only to a limited degree within academia and the media, says Jacobson.

In May 2003, Jacobson plans to change the dynamics of the international courts discussion. He was recently awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Grant to enable a distinguished group of international scholars and lawyers to come together for four days in Bellagio, Italy to apply rigorous scholarly and collective analysis of this global judicial process.

Jacobson, who is an expert on global judicialization processes, teams with Stephen Krasner, Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations at Stanford University, to organize the event.

"The workshop will bring together, for the first time, an interdisciplinary group of 15 social scientists and legal scholars, practitioners and theorists, supporters and critics of the courts," he said. "Organizing the workshop around opposing views is critical to the discussion since international courts have received much analysis in a strictly legal sense, but not in the context of looking at judicial globalization as a manifestation of deep social and political currents."

Jacobson believes the expansion of human rights issues is reflected in the dramatic growth of such issues in legal institutions, and the readiness of courts to adjudicate on cases once viewed as the prerogative of the executive and legislative branches of government, such as in areas of foreign policy and immigration.

"This stems from a belief in certain ineluctable rights of the individual regardless of nationality, and in making governments and other entities accountable for upholding those rights," Jacobson said. "Since September 11, there has been questioning of this phenomenon, and international courts, which seek to advance human rights are by their nature thrown into this whirl of issues." He suggests that potential problems, as well as the promises- of such courts, need to be investigated.

Although Jacobson?s workshop is breaking new ground, the outcomes may be even more significant.

Participants--all leading figures in their field--will publish a collective set of papers from the workshop. Ultimately, Jacobson expects these works to generate a set of substantive policy recommendations that could help shape the international courts of the future. The recommendations will be presented to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Supreme Court, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, and other judicial bodies in the Council of Europe countries and will cover topics from accountability issues to institutional structure and conflict resolution.
ASU Media Relations: Lynette Summerill, (480) 965-4823,
Interview source: Dr. David Jacobson, (480) 965-2640

Arizona State University

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