Press Releases

    16 February 2005

    General Assembly Elects Ronny Abraham of France to International Court of Justice, Acting Concurrently with Security Council

    Will Serve Until 5 February 2009 -- Remainder of Nine-Year Term of Gilbert Guillaume, Who Resigned Effective 11 February

    NEW YORK, 15 February (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations General Assembly today, meeting independently, but concurrently with the Security Council, elected eminent jurist Ronny Abraham of France to the International Court of Justice, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge and former President Gilbert Guillaume, as of 11 February.

    Mr. Abraham will serve for the remainder of his predecessor’s nine-year term, through 5 February 2009. Judge Guillaume was elected as a member of the Court as from 14 September 1987 and was re-elected as from 6 February 1991 and from 6 February 2000. The principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice -- which sits in The Hague, Netherlands -- was set up to hear disputes between States and to issue non-binding advisory opinions on the legality of certain matters.

    The Assembly began its work today on a sombre note, paying tribute to the memory of and holding a moment of quite reflection for several world leaders and top government officials who had passed away in recent weeks, beginning with the late President of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died this past Saturday, 5 February. The Assembly also remembered Zurab Zhavania, late Prime Minister of Georgia, who passed away on Thursday, 3 February, and the former Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations, Sami Kronful, who passed away on 1 February.

    Before calling for a moment of silence, Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) expressed his condolences to the grieving Member States, including Lebanon, which had just yesterday also lost its former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and to the people of Togo, whom personally hoped would find peace and calm within the framework of their Constitutional law, “even though the present situation was troubling”.

    In other business, President Ping informed the Assembly that, as a result of the resignation of Christopher Thomas (Trinidad and Tobago), Member States would be required to fill a vacancy in the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) during the current session. The term of office for that opening in the JIU would expire on 31 December 2008.

    Mr. Ping said that following consultations, he had received a letter from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States informing him that it had endorsed Peru to propose a candidate to fill that vacancy. President Ping requested Peru to submit the name of a candidate, and informed the Assembly that, following consultations with the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Secretary-General, he would propose a candidate to the wider Assembly.

    Also today, the President told the Assembly that Benin, Paraguay, Suriname, Ukraine and Uruguay had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount in Article 19 of the Charter. [Article 19 of the Charter stipulates that a Member State shall have no vote in the Assembly if the amount of its arrears in its financial contributions to the Organization equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two years.]

    Tributes and Expressions of Condolence

    JUDITH MBULA BEHEMUKA (Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African States, expressed profound sadness on the passing of the Togolese President. She said the African Group shared in the pain and sorrow of the Togolese people. In the wake of the President’s death, the Group would urge the authorities to return the country to constitutional rule in the interest of the Togolose people. It would also urge the Togolese people to exercise the utmost restraint and to organize free and fair elections as soon as possible. She also expressed shock and dismay at the assassination yesterday of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, and condemned the heinous act, which posed a risk to peace and security in Lebanon.

    TAWFEEQ AHMED ALMANSOOR (Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Asian Group, conveyed sympathy to the Togolese people and the West African region on the “great loss” of the late President Eyadema. The Asian Group called on all the parties in Togo to pursue the path of dialogue and peace in the wake of the tragedy. He also offered the Group’s condolences to Georgia, and expressed its shock at the loss yesterday of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, a “formidable” leader whose demise was a great loss to the Arab region and the world. He also paid tribute to the memory of the late Lebanese representative to the United Nations.

    IRENA ZUBČEVIĆ (Croatia), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, extended her delegations’ condolences to those being honoured today, and expressed sincere sympathies to the people of Georgia on the loss of Mr. Zhvania “a true patriot”, who had been instrumental in promoting and strengthening that country’s democratic development.

    ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, expressed condolences to those whose memory was being honoured by the Assembly today. The Group paid just tribute to those “just and distinguished” figures that had served their countries with dignity.

    ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), on behalf of Western European and other States, extended condolences to the family of the former Togolese President and to the people of the country. The Group also expressed condolences to the people of Georgia and the people of Lebanon.

    FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), speaking on behalf of the Arab States, praised the work of late President Eyadema and said his delegation was convinced that the people of Togo would overcome the painful loss and continue to pursue the path of dialogue. The loss of Mr. Zhvania, he continued, had been a great loss for the Georgian people, particularly because he had worked so tirelessly on their behalf to consolidate democratic and economic progress. Syria and the Arab States also expressed shock and sadness at the tragic death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri at the hands of criminals and terrorists. One of the leaders of freedom had been killed and his cruel death was not only a loss for Lebanon, but for all Arab countries. The world would feel that loss, particularly Syria, which had enjoyed great cooperation and fraternity with the Lebanese leader.

    KODJO MENAN (Togo) thanked the Assembly President and the Assembly for their heartfelt condolences. The people of Togo would likewise express sincere condolences to the countries, families and friends of all those others who were being honoured at today’s meeting. He went on to highlight the career and works of President Eyadema, whose life and deeds had touched so many throughout Africa and the world.

    GEORGE KALADZE (Georgia) joined others in expressing condolences to the people of Togo, and Lebanon. The people of Georgia shared their sadness and grief, having just lost one of their own great political leaders. The late Mr. Zhvania had made all Georgians hopeful for the future as a prosperous and democratic nation. The best tribute to his irreplaceable memory would be to press ahead along that path.

    IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) spoke on behalf of the people of his country, who were in a state of lasting sorrow following yesterday’s tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri. The Lebanese people and the Arab world had lost “a man with a future”, whose past had meant so much to so many. Lebanon was also grieving over the recent passing of its former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and stood in solidarity with the people of the other Member States mourning the loss today of top officials.

    Assembly Action

    Before the election began, the President informed the Assembly that, independently, the Security Council was also appointing a member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the Assembly’s vote would not be communicated to the Council until one candidate had obtained the required majority. He added that the curriculum vitae of the one nominated candidate, Ronny Abraham of France, had been issued as document A/59/684-S/2005/52.

    The meeting was adjourned at 11:20 a.m., and was reconvened at 12 noon.

    Election results

    Number of ballot papers: 157

    Number of invalid ballots: 0

    Number of valid ballots: 157

    Abstentions: 3

    Number of members voting: 157

    Required majority: 96

    Number of votes obtained: 154

    Having obtained the required majority, Mr. Abraham was elected to the Court to finish out the remainder of Judge Guillaume’s term, until 5 February 2009.

    Mr. Ping read out a letter from the President of the Security Council informing the Assembly that the Council had also elected Mr. Abraham.

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