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The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is an international human rights non-governmental organisation. The Commission itself is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists (judges and lawyers), including members of the senior judiciary in Australia, Canada, and South Africa and the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of Ireland: Mary Robinson.

The Commission is supported by an International Secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland, and staffed by lawyers drawn from a wide range of jurisdictions and legal traditions. The Secretariat and the Commission undertake advocacy and policy work aimed at strengthening the role of lawyers and judges in protecting and promoting human rights and the rule of law. In addition, the ICJ has national sections and affiliates in over 70 countries. Given the legal focus of the ICJ's work, membership of these sections is predominantly drawn from the legal profession: lawyers, judges, legal academics and law students.

The initials of the International Commission of Jurists are the same as those of the International Court of Justice. Given their common legal context, the two are sometimes confused with one another, although they are unrelated.



Born at the ideological frontline of a divided post-war Berlin, the ICJ was established in memory of a West German lawyer, Dr. Walter Linse, who, along with Dr. Theo Friedlander, was active in exposing human rights violations committed in the Soviet zone. On 8 July 1952, East German intelligence agents abducted and delivered Linse to the KGB and Dr Linse was executed in Moscow one year later for "espionage". This event led to the decision by a group of lawyers to found an organisation dedicated to the defence of human rights through the rule of law and its inaugural conference was convened in 1952. Today, the ICJ has national sections and affiliates in over 70 countries.

The ICJ was initially funded by the Central Intelligence Agency through the American Fund for Free Jurists, but the CIA's role was not known to most of the ICJ's members.[1] American founders like Allen Dulles and John J. McCloy conceived it as a counter to the International Association of Democratic Jurists controlled by the Soviet Union. [2] Ex-CIA officer Philip Agee considered that the ICJ was "set up and controlled by the CIA for propaganda operations."[3] The CIA funding became public in 1967, but the organization survived the revelations after a period of reform under Secretary General Sean MacBride, and through Ford Foundation funding.[1][2]

The ICJ was responsible for the Declaration of Delhi on the rule of law in 1959.

In 1978, the ICJ established the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL). It was instrumental in the formulation and adoption of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and its mandate is to work for their implementation.

In 1986, the ICJ gathered a group of distinguished experts in international law to consider the nature and scope of the obligations of States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The meeting witnessed the birth of the Limburg Principles, which continue to guide international law in the area of economic, social and cultural rights.

In the 1990's, a number of important international developments took place as a result of initiatives by the ICJ. These included the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the recommendation by the Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna to work on the setting up of an International Criminal Court. This was the direct result of an international conference on impunity, organised by the ICJ under the auspices of the United Nations in 1992, which adopted an appeal asking the Vienna conference to "set up an international penal tribunal…in order to finally break the cycle of impunity" .

The ICJ also initiated the drafting of the set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity and the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, both under examination at the UN Human Rights Commission.

Current activities

The ICJ is active in promoting human rights and the rule of law, whether at the international level (e.g. the UN), regionally (e.g. the EU and Council of Europe), or domestically through the activities of its national sections (e.g. JUSTICE in the UK). It currently operates programmes on the independence of judges and lawyers, the human rights impact of counter-terrorism legislation, the role of human rights in international corporate responsibility, and economic social and cultural rights.


Further reading

  • William Korey (2001). NGOs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a Curious Grapevine. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 031223886X.  
  • Howard Tolley (1994). The International Commission of Jurists: Global Advocates for Human Rights. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812232542.  

See also

External links



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