Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law


Scientific Knowledge and the ICJ

Trends in the Judicial Handling of Science after the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Case

Keywords science, scientific disputes, geospatial evidence, Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros judgment, ICJ
Authors Katalin Sulyok
Author's information

Katalin Sulyok
Katalin Sulyok: senior lecturer, ELTE Law school, Budapest; chief legal advisor to the Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations, Budapest.
  • Abstract

      This article maps current trends in the scientific engagement of the ICJ in environmental disputes. As a starting point, the analysis takes a closer look at the shortcomings in the ICJ’s use of scientific knowledge and expertise in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros judgment. It argues that this decision marks the low-water mark of the ICJ’s willingness to engage with the scientific aspects of environmental disputes, and details the direct and more subtle ways in which scientific authority was neglected and circumvented in the ICJ’s inquiry. The article then points out three trends in more recent environmental decisions of the ICJ, which bespeak of a heightened judicial willingness to appreciate the scientific knowledge underlying environmental disputes. This paper examines how the ICJ now exerts greater control over the parties’ negotiations in scientific matters, how it undertakes a more active role in the scrutiny of party-submitted evidence, and how recent disputes feature an extensive use of geospatial evidence. The article concludes by explaining the advantages of the ICJ’s more thorough approach to science for the efficiency and legitimacy of environmental dispute resolution.

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