CNN – The International Court of Justice, or “World Court,” is nearing a decision on a contentious case involving regional rivals India and Pakistan. In March of 2016, a former Indian naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested in Pakistan near the Indian border on charges of espionage, a claim which the Indian government has denied. For his alleged crimes, Pakistan has sentenced him to death, which caused the case to receive widespread international attention. Observers on both sides of the dispute hope that a decision by the Court will diffuse the tension. At least one Judge on the Court, Mr. Dalveer Bhandari, shared that hope. At the time of interview, they were unable to tell CNN what the Court’s decision will be, though they said that they think both sides would find the ruling fair. However, they countered that optimism with a blunt statement about the Court’s efficacy, conjecturing that “Pakistan could execute him [Mr. Jadhav] and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
If Mr. Bhandari’s analysis is correct, it calls into question the efficacy and purpose of the ICJ. If the Court, or the United Nations to which it belongs, cannot enforce a ruling, what is its purpose? This goes far beyond one particular case. The ICJ makes rulings on conflicts arising from international agreements, and if the Court’s own justices doubt its ability, it removes a leg supporting the modern system of international law that arose following the World Wars.