Examines the achievements of an undervalued agency of the United Nations
Jeffrey S. Morton suggests that despite fifty years of operation and an impressive list of successes, the International Law Commission of the United Nations remains one of the world's least understood and appreciated legal institutions. In this appraisal of the organization, Morton sheds light on its functions and the process by which it pursues its stated goals of codifying and developing international law. He addresses the dearth of systematic analysis of the commission's work and specifically considers its progress on two monumental tasks: the establishment of a binding code of international crimes and the creation of a standing international court.
Beginning with a review of the commission's history, Morton looks closely at its efforts to synthesize myriad multilateral and bilateral treaties, General Assembly resolutions, and United Nations documents into a unified code of crimes. He also charts the steps the commission has taken to create a blueprint for an international criminal court. He examines the contents of the two most important documents produced by the commission—the Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind and the Statute for an International Criminal Tribunal.
Morton's assessment of these documents tests two central issues—the degree to which the commission is influenced by international political, economic, and ideological struggles, and the impact of the end of the cold war on international law. Using statistical measures to analyze official statements made by commission members, he finds that the commission, contrary to the claims made by its supporters, is subject to the same political, ideological, and economic cleavages evident in other United Nations bodies. In addition Morton compares debate patterns before and after the end of the cold war to reveal both the impact of the cold war's end on the commission and the attributes of the emerging post-cold war legal order.
Jeffrey S. Morton is an assistant professor of international law and politics at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.