State Consent to International Jurisdiction: Conferral, Modification and Termination

About the project

An international legal system to resolve disputes cannot be imposed ‘top-down’ because all depends on whether States are willing to give an 'external force', such as an international court or tribunal, the power to judge whether they have complied with their obligations. In legal terms, the question is one of 'State consent to international jurisdiction'. After the rise in the creation of new international courts in recent decades, States are now restricting the scope of their consent or even withdrawing it altogether due to allegations that courts are unduly limiting State sovereignty.

State consent to jurisdiction serves as a barometer indicating fluctuations in State support for the international legal system. For example, in October 2017, Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC), raising concerns about the effects on the ongoing ICC investigation into allegations of severe human rights abuses in Burundi. In February 2017, the UK modified the conditions under which it accepts the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which seems aimed at evading disputes regarding its compliance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The fundamental tension examined in this project is that, on the one hand, States wish to have ‘manoeuvring space’ by maintaining the possibility to avoid being sued before an international court, while on the other hand, they wish to restrict the behaviour of other States by ensuring that international rules are enforced through a well-functioning court system.

This project fulfils the need for an up-to-date analysis of how international law accommodates this fundamental tension by regulating when, how and with which legal consequences States confer, modify or terminate their consent to the jurisdiction of an international court or tribunal. In turn, this enables the identification of systematic policy patterns and strategies to improve State accountability at the international Level.

Read the research plan (pdf).


The fundamental dichotomy underlying this project is that States wish to maintain the possibility of retreat from the international dispute settlement process while restricting the scope of unpredictable behaviour of other States by enforcing international law through the establishment of international courts. The primary objective is to explore this dichotomy through providing an up-to-date detailed analysis of the international law regulating States' ability to confer, modify or terminate consent to jurisdiction of such courts and tribunals.

Secondary objectives include:

  • constructing a database of documents through which States have conferred, modified or withdrawn consent to jurisdiction;
  • empirically analysing these documents to examine how international law enables States to tailor their consent;
  • identifying systematic policy patterns in States' conferral, modification or termination of consent; assessing how international law accommodates or restricts these patterns.

Methods and outcomes

Empirical analysis of a purpose-built database of consent-related documents will allow this project to fulfil the urgent need for an up-to-date detailed analysis of the international law regulating when, how and with which consequences States can confer, modify or terminate consent to jurisdiction. In turn, this will enable the identification of systematic policy patterns.



The project will run for a four-year period in 2018-2022, and is hosted by PluriCourts - Norwegian Centre of Excellence for the Study of the Legitimacy of the Global Judiciary.


Research Council of Norway, project number 274946.


  • Nicola Claire Strain (2020). Regulating Collective Resources under Multilateral Treaties: The Decision in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan). Melbourne Journal of International Law.  ISSN 1444-8602.  20
  • Freya Baetens (2019). First to rise and first to fall: the Court of Cartago (1907-1918), In Jorge E. Viñuales & Ignacio de la Rasilla (ed.),  Experiments in International Adjudication: Historical Accounts.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9781108565967.  Chapter.  s 211 - 239
  • Freya Baetens (2019). Combating climate change through the promotion of green investment: from Kyoto to Paris without regime-specific dispute settlement, In Kate Miles (ed.),  Research Handbook on Environment and Investment Law.  Edward Elgar Publishing.  ISBN 978 1 78471 462 8.  Chapter.  s 107 - 130
  • Freya Baetens (2019). Invoking human rights: A useful line of attack or a defence tool for States in investor-State dispute settlement?, In Martin Scheinin (ed.),  Human Rights Norms in ‘Other' International Courts.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9781108499736.  Chapter 8.  s 227 - 262
  • Freya Baetens (2019). Unseen actors in international courts and tribunals: challenging the legitimacy of international adjudication, In Freya Baetens (ed.),  Legitimacy of Unseen Actors in International Adjudication.  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9781108641685.  Chapter 1.  s 1 - 28
  • Emma Hynes Brandon (2019). Grave breaches and justifications: The war crime of forcible transfer or deportation of civilians and the exception for evacuations for imperative military reasons. Oslo Law Review.  ISSN 2387-3299.  6, s 107- 124

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  • Freya Baetens (ed.) (2019). Legitimacy of Unseen Actors in International Adjudication. Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 9781108641685.  496 s.

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  • Freya Baetens (2019). Ejusdem Generis and Noscitur a Sociis, In Constantinos Salonidis; Joseph Klingler & Yuri Parkhomenko (ed.),  Between the Lines of the Vienna Convention? Canons and Other Principles of Interpretation in Public International Law.  Wolters Kluwer.  ISBN 9789041184030.  Chapter.  s 133 - 160
  • Emma Hynes Brandon (2019). Holding Signatories to Account: Applying interim obligations under Article 18 of the VCLT to states in the process of ratifying the Rome Statute.
  • Freya Baetens (2019). State consent to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice: modify or perish.
  • Freya Baetens (2019). High-jacking anticipated, prevented and overcome: how to safeguard the WTO appellate system - and beyond.
  • Nicola Claire Strain (2019). The Murky Waters of Jurisdiction and Applicable Law in International Economic Disputes.
  • Nicola Claire Strain (2019). The Murky Waters of Jurisdiction and Applicable Law in International Economic Disputes.
  • Freya Baetens (2019). ‘UNCLOS: a tool for regional peace, stability and sustainable use of resources?’.
  • Freya Baetens (2019). ‘Human rights norms before specialised courts and tribunals: WTO, ISDS, CJEU, African regional courts and ITLOS’.
  •  (2019). EJIL Talk! Blogpost 'The International Court of Justice renders its judgment in the Jadhav case (India v. Pakistan)' (18 July 2019).
  •  (2019). EJIL Talk! Blogpost ‘Abuse of process and abuse of rights before the ICJ: ever more popular, ever less successful?’ (15 Oct. 2019).
  •  (2019). EJIL Talk! Blogpost ‘Renewable energy incentives: reconciling investment, EU State aid and climate change law’ (18 Dec. 2019).
  • Freya Baetens & Pierre Bodeau-Livinec (2019). Face à Face: Interview with ICJ President Yusuf – President of the International Court of Justice. The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals.  ISSN 1569-1853.  18, s 267- 278
  • Freya Baetens; Martins Paparinskis; Ilija Mitrev-Penusliski & John Gaffney (2019). Modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), Special Issue. Transnational Dispute Management.  ISSN 1875-4120.
  •  (2017). Blogpost: ‘Increasing importance of the transitory mechanism regulating EU Member States’ BITs with third countries: good intentions but problematic implementation?’, (21 Dec. 2017).

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Tags: ICJ, Trade, Investment, Human Rights, Criminal law
Published Dec. 7, 2017 12:37 PM - Last modified June 30, 2020 10:21 PM