On 30 August 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, signed a Declaration recognizing as compulsory the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. The declaration was approved at the Cabinet meeting of 27 August 2019 pursuant to the Law “On the Recognition of the Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice” adopted by the Saeima on 30 November 2017.
To ensure state continuity, this declaration replaces the declaration made on behalf of the Latvian Government to the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice on 31 January 1935 that came into effect on 26 February 1935.
By this declaration, Latvia recognizes as compulsory the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice established by the Charter of the United Nations. Consequently, within that jurisdiction, Latvia will be entitled to bring a case, and be party to a case before the International Court of Justice in order to resolve international disputes.
Accepting of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as compulsory is in Latvia’s interests. It will confirm that Latvia is prepared to fully participate in the international system, will strengthen the rule of law and send a message to other countries that Latvia treats its international commitments with utmost responsibility. At the same time, accession to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice makes it possible for Latvia to bring other states before the court if they would not fulfil their international obligations vis-à-vis Latvia.
Some of the most important provisions of the declaration are as follows:
- Latvia accepts as compulsory the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice over all disputes arising after the date when the Declaration is deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
- At the same time, Latvia establishes several reservations concerning disputes that cannot be brought before the Court, for instance, any dispute connected with the deployment of armed forces abroad or the use for military purposes of the territory of the Republic of Latvia.
- In addition, other countries will not be able to misuse Latvia’s accession, since, as stated in the Declaration, the International Court of Justice will have no jurisdiction over any dispute in respect of which any other Party has also accepted the compulsory jurisdiction only for the purpose of a dispute with Latvia.
In accordance with the Cabinet Decision, the Declaration signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is being forwarded to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Latvia to the United Nations in New York, and it will take effect as from the moment of its deposition with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The International Court of Justice was established in 1945, and it is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The ICJ is the main mechanism for a peaceful settlement of legal disputes between countries, and its decisions are binding on the states parties to the case. The seat of the Court is in The Hague, Netherlands.
Latvia had recognized the jurisdiction of the predecessor of the International Court of Justice – the Permanent Court of International Justice – before the occupation of Latvia in 1940.
To date, the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice has been recognised as compulsory by 74 countries, including Latvia. There are 24 EU Member States among them, including Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.
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