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International Court of Justice: Justice Preparation

Photo by Alkan de Beaumont Chaglar

Being a Justice of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) simulation at the American Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference is a challenging and fulfilling experience. Justices are central to  the simulation as they hear oral arguments, deliberate the cases and present the opinions of the Court. But the role actually begins months in advance; a justice must prepare prior to Conference by researching the ICJ as a whole, the way the ICJ works at AMUN, and the cases that will be simulated for the current year.

The best place to begin your preparations as a Justice is the ICJ section of the AMUN Handbook. In order to participate to the fullest extent as a justice, an understanding of the structure and parameters of the simulation is imperative, and you can find that information within the handbook.  The handbook also includes background briefs of the three cases. These background briefs are a good launching point to begin your research on the cases for the current year, and the briefs provide context and set the stage for what you can expect the advocates to argue  at Conference.

But the handbook is just a starting point. To fully prepare, justices should do additional research to gain familiarity with all of the cases. The more research you do ahead of time, the more enjoyable your experience will be at Conference because your ability to understand the cases will ease your communication with your colleagues on the court and enable you to ask better questions of the advocates. Good preparation will allow you to spend time discussing the merits and arguments of the case, rather than spending too much time on determining factual details or arguing over legal matters that have already been decided.

In your research, pay close attention to the types and origins of sources you are using. Many sources of information, especially for a case that has (at a minimum) two sides, will be biased in favor of one side. . This bias doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, just that you must be mindful of that potential bias. Being aware of the range of sources and arguments will make you attuned to the various arguments that parties to the case may make. 

Although you will likely be influenced by these sources and a preliminary  understanding of the case, be sure you do not prejudge a case. The advocates may present or emphasize different facts and arguments than what you anticipated in doing your own research. It’s crucial to keep an open mind to each case and intently listen to the arguments made by the advocates in order to better understand the case and be able to deliberate with your fellow justices.

Once you arrive at Conference, your full experience as a justice begins.  Because the simulation can accommodate only a small group of participants, you will have many opportunities to learn, deliberate and express your reasoning for the validity of legal arguments in front of the simulation as a whole. The small size of the simulation also means it is critical that you be present for the duration of the Conference. Every justice is required for the Court to do its work, and things will kick off on Saturday evening and conclude on Tuesday afternoon. If you have been accepted as a justice, take the time to talk to your delegation’s leaders to ensure you are present for every session. 

If you have any questions about the simulation or your preparations as a justice, feel free to email the ICJ staff at icj@amun.org, and they will get back to you as soon as possible.

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