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Campaign Video

Professor Sarah H. Cleveland

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Vision Statement

Professor Sarah H. Cleveland

It is a great honor, and a great responsibility, to be selected as the U.S. candidate to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ was established to serve as the judicial arm of the United Nations – an institution created to protect and preserve world peace after a devastating global war. For over seven decades, the Court has served as a bulwark of the international system. The Court has facilitated the peaceful resolution of disputes between States that might otherwise have disintegrated into conflict. All the while the Court has clarified, elaborated, and advanced the rules of the international system. Today, numerous challenges confront the rules and institutions of the post-war international legal order. The Court’s work has never been more important.

My professional life has been dedicated to preserving the integrity of international law and strengthening the effectiveness of the international legal system. I have done so in my roles as a professor of international law, as an international lawyer and expert adviser to the U.S. government, and as an independent expert advising States through the UN Human Rights Committee. I have also done so in a private capacity, by defending migrant farmworkers in the United States and Haitian refugees detained at Guantánamo, challenging the United States’ detention policies, or litigating before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. For over a quarter century I have taught the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, in addition to that of other regional and international courts. Throughout my career, I have sought to secure the faithful interpretation of international law, while ensuring States uphold their international legal obligations.

Through my work, I have come to understand how States and international institutions engage with international law and the challenges they confront in doing so. My work on the Human Rights Committee, the Venice Commission, and other bodies has given me a deep respect for the great diversity of the world’s legal systems and cultural norms, and an appreciation for the delicate balance, and rich benefits, of accommodating these diverse approaches in civil and common law principles. At the same time, adherence to rules of jurisdiction and the faithful application of procedure is central to the legitimacy of any judicial institution – particularly the International Court of Justice, which exercises jurisdiction based on the consent of sovereign States. As a lifelong scholar of domestic and international civil procedure, I take judicial rules of jurisdiction, admissibility, and other procedures seriously. As co-coordinator of the American Law Institute’s Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, I grappled extensively with the rules of international law relating to jurisdiction and treaty interpretation.

If elected to serve as a member of the Court, I would bring a lifetime of scholarly and pragmatic experience. In my work I would be independent, meticulously impartial, respectful of the interests of the parties before it, and above all dedicated to preserving the integrity and authority of the Court and of international law. The United States has a long history of highly respected judges on the Court, including Judge Donoghue, the current President. My goal would be to continue to serve the Court in that venerable tradition.

“For over a quarter century, I have taught my students the importance of international law through the jurisprudence of the ICJ and that of regional and other international courts.”

Sarah H. Cleveland

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future