The Permanent Court of International Justice and domestic courts: a variation in roles
Legacies of the Permanent Court of International Justice
Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
Faculty of Law (FdR)
Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL)
By virtue of other international adjudicatory bodies or the role of domestic courts, the Permanent Court of International
Justice (hereafter PCIJ) was far from being entrusted of any sort of monopoly on the application of international law. It
is fair to say that the PCIJ operated in a multi-judiciary world made of domestic and international judicial bodies equally
dealing with questions of international law. In such a context, this paper examines some of the dynamics of the multi-judiciary
world of the first half of the 20th century. It particularly zeroes in on the interactions of the Permanent Court of International
Justice with other judicial bodies, in particular domestic judges. The first section offers a brief overview of the PCIJ’s
claim that it is a court of the international legal order and its use of the case-law of other international adjudicatory
bodies. The second section examines in further detail the relationship between the PCIJ and domestic courts, contrasting it
with the Court’s self-proclaimed international character. On that occasion, it will be particularly shown that, while, on
the surface, the Court stopped short of engaging with domestic courts, paying lip-service to their case-law, the PCIJ was
inclined to freely interpret domestic law and actually operate as a municipal court itself. A few concluding and critical
remarks are formulated, drawing on some analogies with the current dynamics in the practice of the International Court of
Justice (hereafter the ICJ).
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