Ending reappointment for WTO judges?

By David Bosco

I wrote last week about the controversy surrounding U.S. opposition to reappointing a member of the WTO’s appellate body. Yesterday, a collection of former appellate body members released a letter expressing concern about the episode’s impact on the impartiality of the body. In so doing, they suggest getting rid of the reappointment process altogether:

Should WTO Members conclude now that they would like to do still more to help ensure the impartial independence of the Appellate Body, we suggest that the current system of reappointment be abolished. Instead of one four-year term, with the possibility of a second four-year term, we recommend a single, longer term for all Members of the Appellate Body.

Practice regarding reappointment is mixed in other international judicial bodies. The International Court of Justice permits reappointment while the International Criminal Court does not (unless the judge has served less than a third of a full term). At the regional level, the European Court of Justice allows reappointment, but the European Court of Human Rights gives judges nonrenewable nine-year terms. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has six-year judicial terms and allows judges to be reappointed only once.

In the academic literature, a number of scholars–and a few former practitioners–have attempted to understand how states use appointment and reappointment processes to manage and influence international courts. For insightful articles, see here and here.

About David Bosco

Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. Author of Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics and Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World
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