A Theory of International Adjudication
Some international tribunals, such as the Iran-U.S. claims tribunal and the trade dispute panels set up under GATT, are dependent in the sense that the judges are appointed by the state parties for the purpose of resolving a particular dispute. If the judges do not please the state parties, they will not be used again. Other international tribunals, such as the International Court of Justice, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the new International Criminal Court, are independent in the sense that the judges are appointed in advance of any particular dispute and serve fixed terms. The conventional wisdom, which is based mainly on the European experience, is that independent tribunals are more effective at resolving disputes than dependent tribunals are. We argue that the evidence does not support this view. We also argue that the evidence is more consistent with the contrary thesis: the most successful tribunals are dependent. However, selection effects and other methodological problems render a firm conclusion impossible. We support our argument through an examination of qualitative and quantitative evidence, and we argue that the European Court of Justice is not a good model for international tribunals because it owes its success to the high level of political and economic unification among European states. We conclude with pessimistic predictions about the International Criminal Court, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the WTO dispute resolution mechanism, the newest international tribunals.