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GW Law Professor Sean Murphy Argues Case Before International Court of Justice in The Hague

December 11, 2009

WASHINGTON – GW Law Professor Sean Murphy recently appeared before the International Court of Justice to argue on behalf of the Republic of Kosovo in an advisory opinion proceeding. He is one of four representatives to argue before the International Court on behalf of Kosovo. Prof. Murphy’s arguments were heard Dec. 1, the first day of oral proceedings that conclude Dec. 11.

“It’s a real honor to represent Kosovo in this proceeding, which relates to an extremely important step taken by the people of Kosovo,” said Prof. Murphy, an expert in public international law.

In October 2008, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting the International Court to render an advisory opinion on the following question: “Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?” That declaration was issued in February 2008 by Kosovar leaders of what was then an autonomous province within Serbia. Since that time, 63 countries have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign state (including the United States), but others (including Serbia) have not.

Prof. Murphy noted that the Court might decline, as a matter of discretion, to answer the question asked by the General Assembly. But if it does answer the question, Prof. Murphy stated that Kosovo hopes the Court will find that Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence did not contravene any applicable rule of international law.

Prof. Murphy’s argument focused on the significance of a particular U.N. Security Council resolution that was adopted after the 1998-1999 crisis relating to Kosovo, known as Resolution 1244. Verbatim transcripts of the oral proceedings, as well as the written pleadings, photographs and video clips are available at the Court’s Web site:

All Member States of the United Nations, as well as the “authors of the Declaration,” were invited to file written pleadings with the Court in April and July of this year. Twenty-seven other countries participated in the oral proceedings before the Court, including China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. The United States was represented by the Department of State Legal Adviser, Harold Koh.

Prof. Murphy is GW’s Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law and has been a member of the Law School faculty since 1998. Prior to joining the faculty, Prof. Murphy served as legal counselor at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague, arguing several cases before the International Court of Justice and representing the U.S. government in matters before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Permanent Court of Arbitration and The Hague Conference on Private International Law. He also served as U.S. agent to the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, arguing cases on behalf of the U.S. government and providing advice to U.S. nationals appearing before that tribunal. Between 1987 and 1995, he served in the U.S. Department of State Office of the Legal Adviser, primarily advising on matters relating to international environmental law, international claims and politico–military affairs. He continues to serve as legal counsel to foreign governments, most recently Ethiopia, Macedonia and Suriname.

Prof. Murphy has published numerous articles on international law; his article on international environmental liability won the American Journal of International Law 1994 Deak Prize for best scholarship by a younger author. His book, “Humanitarian Intervention: The United Nations in an Evolving World Order,” won the American Society of International Law 1997 certificate for preeminent contribution to creative scholarship. His most recent books are “International Law: Cases and Materials” (5th ed. 2009) (with Damrosch, Henkin & Smit), and “Foreign Relations and National Security Law” (3d ed. 2008) (with Franck & Glennon).

Prof. Murphy is a member of the board of editors of the American Journal of International Law.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946. The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.

Established in 1865 and located four blocks from the White House, The George Washington University Law School is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia. Accredited by the American Bar Association and a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools, GW Law enrolls approximately 2,000 students each year in its J.D. and LL.M. programs. The Law School’s international law program is consistently ranked in the top 10 of U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools.”




Claire Duggan - 202-994-0616 - [email protected]
Emily Cain - 202-994-3087 - [email protected]



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