International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International judicial Academy of the International Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
with circulation assistance from the American Society of International Law

Winter 2018 Issue

International Tribunal Spotlight


Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States

Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

Probably members of the general public in many countries are not aware of an international body called the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Such an organization does exist. It is made up of some of the former states of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics. The CIS was partly established on December 8, 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union, with three states participating in the signing of an agreement: Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine. The establishment of the CIS was virtually complete on December 21, 1992, with the addition of the following former Soviet republics which signed a protocol: Armenia, Azerbajan, Kasakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Georgia joined the CIS in December, 1993, bringing the number of former socialist republics who became members of the CIS to 12 out of 15 eligible members. The three former socialist republics which did not join were the three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which eventually became members of NATO and the European Union (EU). Since that time, three members have left the CIS: Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, leaving the CIS with nine full members.

The CIS is not actually a supranational organization. It has been characterized as a “purely symbolic organization, nominally possessing coordinating powers” in trade, finance, law-making and security. It also promotes cross border cooperation in combating crime. There is a CIS free trade area in which eight of the nine member states participate. There are also some military and economic alliances among the member states. The primary location of the administrative agencies of the CIS is Minsk, in the Republic of Belarus.

The judicial organ of the CIS Charter is the Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It came into force by an agreement signed on July 6, 1992. However, different states in the CIS joined at different times: three in 1992, one in 1993, three in 1994 and one in 1995. Since then two states have withdrawn, leaving six states as full members of the Court.

According to one source, the Court can hear disputes about the fulfillment of economic commitments made pursuant to CIS provisions, about interpretation of international agreements in respect of CIS provisions relating to economic issues, issues relating to decisions of the Council of Heads of States and similar type issues. The Court can also interpret international agreements relating to the CIS and CIS statutory and other acts.

Only states and CIS institutions can bring actions before the Court. It cannot hear disputes or requests for interpretations by outside agencies or individuals. The decisions of the Court are binding. The execution of the opinion or judgment is carried out by the appropriate state. Decisions of the Court are final; there is no provision for appeals.

The number of judges of the Court is one from each participating state. The term of  a judge is ten years. Qualifications for selection are a recognized proficiency in economic legal relations and “higher juridical education”. The judges themselves elect the president of the Court, who serves a five year term. The judges hear cases in full panels. Decisions are made by a simple majority from the number of judges present. No judge can abstain from voting. Between February, 1994, when the Court began functioning with a full staff, and June, 2016, the Court heard 124 cases and examined and approved 133 acts.

The Court and its administrative offices are also located in Minsk, Belarus.

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© 2018 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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