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At UN, Election of ICJ Judges Is Archaic, Somali and French Electioneering

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 6 -- Five judges for the International Court of Justice were to be elected Thursday, with both the General Assembly and Security Council simultaneously considering lists of nine names. In front of the Security Council, a representative of the Somali mission handed out flyers for their candidate Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf. A French representative handed out the biography of Ronny Abraham, and told Inner City Press that "if the African candidates get a majority, it will all have to be re-voted."

  The other candidates are Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan), Sayeman Bula-Bula (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Antonio Augusto Cançado Trindade (Brazil), Miriam Defensor Santiago (Philippines), Christopher John Greenwood (United Kingdom), Maurice Kamto (Cameroon), Rafael Nieto-Navia (Colombia).

  Inner City Press asked South Africa's Dumisani Kumalo about the three African candidates. Pointing at the U.S. Deputy -- and soon to be Acting -- Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff, Kumalo said, "Now he has an African president, he's talking about judges."

  The African Group endorsed the Somali candidate -- the Somali representative handed Inner City Press a copy of the endorsement -- but the candidates of DR Congo and Cameroon did not withdraw.  And so messages flew back and forth between the Assembly and Council.

  Some wondered, how did they do this before the Internet?  Others were more practical: how would the new five rule on Serbia's case challenging the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence?

UN's Ban at ICJ in The Hague, simultaneous voting not shown

   The process is archaic and Kibuki-like

"When five candidates (and no more) have an absolute majority in either body, the president will notify the other president of the outcome. The results are kept confidential by each president and are disclosed only to members of the second body after their own voting is concluded. (However, it is always possible that the numbers will leak from Security Council delegations.) In the event that the five candidates elected by one are not the same as those elected by the other, both will proceed (independently) to new balloting to fill the unresolved seats. As before, the results of each body will be compared only after the required number of candidates has achieved an absolute majority in each. This process will continue for three meetings, when, if all vacant positions are still not filled, the Council and the General Assembly may decide to convene a conference of six members (three from each) to recommend a candidate for the respective acceptance by the General Assembly and Security Council."

  At 10:35 a.m., the voting began in the Security Council.

  At 10:45, Jorge Urbina, this month's Council president, said the counting could begin, tied to the process in the General Assembly.  The GA process was suspended, by PGA d'Escoto Brockman, to 11:30. The Council followed suit.

  And in the Delegates' Lounge, the Ambassadors milled about....

Update of 11:26 a.m. -- In the big-screen TV in the Delegates' Lounge, George Bush's Rose Garden speech was played live, to a large crowd. One Middle Eastern Ambassador scoffed to Inner City Press, "Now he sees the light." Similarly, of the Non-Alligned Movement's letter to the Council about the bombing of Syria, he said "too late."

Update of 11:31 a.m. -- the fix may well be in. Inner City Press asked the DR Congo Permanent Representative how he likes the chances of his country's candidate. "We will elect one African judge," he said cryptically. He had no flyers in his hands.

Update of 3:25 p.m. -- four of the five have made it, there is still a run-off of the African candidates. Those who've made it are Ronny Abraham (France), Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan), Antonio Augusto Cançado Trindade (Brazil) and Christopher John Greenwood (United Kingdom).

 Now the run-off, between Sayeman Bula-Bula (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Maurice Kamto (Cameroon) and the endorsed candidate, as the Somalis are emphasizing, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf. Oh, Cameroon...

Update of 3:37 p.m. -- a source inside the Security Council tells Inner City Press that "Yusuf the Somali" has won the Council vote...

Update of 3:59 p.m. -- The DR Congo, whose candidate received only two votes in the last General Assembly round, withdrew him from consideration, urging the GA to ensure representation of all great civilizations on the ICJ. Does this mean two more votes for the Somali?

Update of 4:06 p.m. -- the Permanent Representative of Guinea-Bissau, citing General Assembly Rule of Procedure 150, has thrown the Assembly into chaos, or at least silence, asking to know under which Rule an attempt is being made to call the next vote. Giunea-Bissau has its problems, but it apparently knows the rules...

Update of 4:18 p.m. -- the disagreement is whether there were two sessions or meeting in the morning in the General Assembly, or whether by suspending in morning, it was all a single meeting.

Update of 4:31 p.m. -- the Perm Rep of Guinea-Bissau insists "this is serious!" The Perm Rep of Jamaica, presiding over the meeting, says it was a single meeting in the morning. It is a stand-off. Only at the UN.

Update of 4:44 p.m. -- as negotiations continue on two tracks, on the legal question of "how many meetings" and the political question of one of the African candidates dropping out,  Inner City Press asked the DR Congo Ambassador for his views, now that DRC withdrew its candidate. The numbers don't look good for Africa, he said, raising the specter of the Philippines candidate getting the final seat.

  Divide and conquer, an African diplomat called it. Lack of unity, said another. Inner City Press suggested a "judge-off" in which the three remaining candidates each write a draft decision on this case. Let the most erudite or inscutible win!

Update of 5:10 p.m. -- the Representative of Cameroon has demanded an explanation, from the Legal Office, which the Jamaican chair says would take the meeting past 6 p.m.. "We are all very reasonable people," the rep of Guinea-Bissau says.

But where in the world in OLA chief Patricia O'Brien?

Update of 5:17 p.m. -- the Rep of Benin asks if the DR Congo candidate was entitled to withdraw. There is groaning.

Update of 5:29 p.m. -- the vote was finally taken in the General Assembly, and a 15 minute break declared to count the paper ballots. In the Delegates' Lounge, there was grumbling about Cameroon, and a question: who is working for whom?

Update of 5:55 p.m. -- the fifteen minutes have long since past, but still no announcement of vote. The GA Secretary says its simple, it's not a meeting "until you have the numbers." So still no meeting, by this definition. But it is six o'clock, and the session is opening again.

Update of 6:03 p.m. -- the dispute about "how many meetings" is now described an a philibuster. Meanwhile the Ambassadors of South Africa and Libya are summoned to the Council. There is talk of Somalia getting congratulated. Perhaps the fix is in.

Update of 6:06 p.m. -- in the General Assembly, the Somali candidate just won, with 116 votes, to Philippines' 52 and Cameroon 21 (and some bad feelings). Now the Council.

Update of 6:17 p.m. -- it's done. And even after the vote, Cameroon complained about the procedure, that the Council and Assembly voted on diffrent lists. Most says "sour grapes;" one Cameroonian tells Inner City Press that "promises were made" and questions in whose interest it is to put a "failed state" representative on the ICJ.  But as some saying, looking at the resumes, just because it's a failed state doesn't make him a failed candidate. We'll continue to follow this, but for now, signing off, from the 2d story of the UN.

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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