"The General Assembly,
Considering the request for a supplementary appropriation of $179,420, made by the Secretary-General in his report (A/2534) for the purpose of covering the awards made by the United Nations Administrative Tribunal in eleven cases numbered 26, and 37 to 46 inclusive,
Considering the concurrence in that appropriation by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions contained in its twenty-fourth report to the eighth session of the General Assembly (A/2580),
Considering, nevertheless, that important legal questions have been raised in the course of debate in the Fifth Committee with respect to that appropriation,
To submit the following legal questions to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion :
(1) Having regard to the Statute of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and to any other relevant instruments and to the relevant records, has the General Assembly the right on any grounds to refuse to give effect to an award of compensation made by that Tribunal in favour of a staff member of the United Nations whose contract of service has been terminated without his assent ?
(2) If the answer given by the Court to question (1) is in the affirmative, what are the principal grounds upon which the General Assembly could lawfully exercise such a right ?"
The letter of the Secretary-General of the United Nations with the annexed Resolution was communicated on 24 December 1953, to all States entitled to appear before the Court, in accordance with Article 66, paragraph 1, of the Statute. The Court was not sitting and the President considered that the States Members of
The following availed themselves of this opportunity to present written statements : The International Labour Organisation and the Governments of France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Greece, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the Philippines, Mexico, Chile, Iraq, the Republic of China, Guatemala, Turkey and Ecuador. The Governments of Canada, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Egypt, while not submitting written statements, drew attention to the views expressed by their representatives in the General Assembly when the question which has given rise to the request for an Advisory Opinion was debated there.
In accordance with Article 65, paragraph 2, of the Statute, the Secretary-General of the United Nations transmitted to the Court the documents likely to throw light upon the question. He also submitted a written statement.
Public hearings were held on June 10th, 11th, 12th and 14th, 1954, for the purpose of hearing oral statements. The following addressed the Court in the order which was decided by the President of the Court in consultation with them :
Mr. C. A. Stavropoulos, Principal Director in charge of the Legal Department of the Secretariat, representing the Secretary-General of the United Nations ;
The Honorable Herman Phleger, Legal Adviser of the Department of State, representing the Government of the United States of America ;
M. Paul Reuter, Professor of the Faculty of Law of Paris, Assistant Legal Adviser of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, representing the Government of the French Republic ;
Professor Jean Spiropoulos, Legal Adviser of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, representing the Hellenic Government;
The Right Honourable Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, Q.C., M.P., Solicitor-General, representing the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ;
M. A. J. P. Tammes, Professor of International Law at the University of Amsterdam, representing the Government of the Netherlands.
"Having regard to the Statute of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and to any other relevant instruments and to the relevant records, has the General Assembly the right on any grounds to refuse to give effect to an award of compensation made by that Tribunal in favour of a staff member of the United Nations whose contract of service has been terminated without his assent ?"
This Question is strictly limited in scope. It relates solely to an award made by the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations in favour of a staff member of the United Nations whose contract of service has been terminated without his assent. According to Article 2, paragraph 1, of the Statute of that Tribunal, it "shall be competent to hear and pass judgment upon applications alleging non-observance of contracts of employment of staff members of the Secretariat of the United Nations or of the terms of appointment of such staff members". A comparison between this provision and the terms of the first Question submitted to the Court shows that an award as defined by that Question must be considered as falling within the competence of the Tribunal as defined by Article 2. A claim arising out of the termination of a contract of service without the assent of the staff member must, in fact, either fall within the term "non-observance of contracts of employment", or relate to "the terms of appointment" of the staff member. The Question concerns, in other words, only awards which are made within the limits of the competence of the Tribunal as determined by Article 2. The Court does not therefore seem to be requested to express its view with regard to awards which may exceed the scope of that statutory competence.
In the Resolution by which the present Advisory Opinion is requested, the General Assembly refers to the request for a supplementary appropriation made in a report of the Secretary-General for the purpose of covering the awards made by the Administrative Tribunal in eleven cases. It also refers to the concurrence in that appropriation by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions in its report to the General Assembly, and the first Question refers to the Statute of that Tribunal and "to any other relevant instruments and to the relevant records". In none of these reports or relevant records is to be found any suggestion indicating that the Tribunal, when rendering its awards in those eleven cases, was not legally constituted according to the provisions of Article 3 of its Statute. In such circumstances the Court understands that the first Question submitted to it contemplates awards made by a properly constituted Tribunal.
"A Joint Appeals Board is established to consider and advise the Secretary-General regarding appeals filed under the terms of Staff Regulation 11.1 by staff members serving at Headquarters."
The Statute of the Administrative Tribunal contains no similar provision attributing an advisory character to its functions, nor does it in any way limit the independence of its activity. The independence of its members is ensured by Article 3, paragraph 5, which provides :
"No member of the Tribunal can be dismissed by the General Assembly unless the other members are of the unanimous opinion that he is unsuited for further service."
The original Statute, as adopted on November 24th, 1949, contained in Article 9 the following provisions :
"If the Tribunal finds that the application is well founded, it shall order the rescinding of the decision contested or the specific performance of the obligation invoked; but if, in exceptional circumstances, such rescinding or specific performance is, in the opinion of the Secretary-General, impossible or inadvisable, the Tribunal shall within a period of not more than sixty days order the payment to the applicant of compensation for the injury sustained. The applicant shall be entitled to claim compensation in lieu of rescinding of the contested decision or specific performance...."
These provisions were amended on December 9th, 1953. Article 9 now provides in paragraph 1 :
"If the Tribunal finds that the application is well founded, it shall order the rescinding of the decision contested or the specific performance of the obligation invoked. At the same time the Tribunal shall fix the amount of compensation to be paid to the applicant for the injury sustained should the Secretary-General, within thirty days of the notification of the judgment, decide, in the interest of the United Nations, that the applicant shall be compensated without further action being taken in his case; provided that such compensation shall not exceed the equivalent of two years’ net base salary of the applicant. The Tribunal may, however, in exceptional cases, when it considers it justified, order
"In any case involving compensation, the amount awarded shall be fixed by the Tribunal and paid by the United Nations or, as appropriate, by the specialized agency participating under Article 12."
A similar provision is contained in Article 9, paragraph 3, of the amended Statute. Both provisions show that the payment of an amount of compensation awarded by the Tribunal is an obligation of the United Nations as a whole or, as the case may be, of the specialized agency concerned.
Article 12 is based on the same legal considerations. It provides that the competence of the Tribunal may be extended to any specialized agency brought into relationship with the United Nations upon the terms established by a special agreement to be made with each such agency by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and it continues :
"Each such special agreement shall provide that the agency concerned shall be bound by the judgments of the Tribunal and be responsible for the payment of any compensation awarded by the Tribunal in respect of a staff member of that agency...."
As mentioned above, the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal has not provided for any kind of review of judgments, which according to Article 10, paragraph 2, shall be final and without appeal. This rule is similar to the corresponding rule in the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal of the League of Nations, Article VI, paragraph 1, which equally prescribed that "judgments shall be final and without appeal". The report of the Supervisory Commission, proposing the Statute of this Tribunal of the League of Nations, shows that the omission of any provision for a review of judgments was deliberate. The report stated :
"No provision for the revision of judgments of the Tribunal is inserted in the statute. It is considered that, in the interests of finality and of the avoidance of vexatious proceedings, the Tribunal’s judgments should be final and without appeal as is provided in Article VI, paragraph 1."
It is likewise the result of a deliberate decision that no provision for review of the judgments of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal was inserted in the Statute of that Tribunal. According to the official records of the General Assembly, Fifth Committee meeting on November 15th, 1946, the representative of Belgium asked the rapporteur of that Committee
The Court must now examine the principal contentions which have been put forward, in the written and in the oral statements, by the Governments that take the position that there are grounds which would justify the General Assembly in refusing to give effect to awards of the Administrative Tribunal.
The legal power of the General Assembly to establish a tribunal competent to render judgments binding on the United Nations has been challenged. Accordingly, it is necessary to consider whether the General Assembly has been given this power by the Charter.
There is no express provision for the establishment of judicial bodies or organs and no indication to the contrary. However, in its Opinion— Reparation for Injuries suffered in the Service of the United Nations, Advisory Opinion : I.C.J. Reports 1949, p. 182—the Court said :
"Under international law, the Organization must be deemed to have those powers which, though not expressly provided in the Charter, are conferred upon it by necessary implication as being essential to the performance of its duties."
The Court must therefore begin by enquiring whether the provisions of the Charter concerning the relations between the staff members and the Organization imply for the Organization the power to establish a judicial tribunal to adjudicate upon disputes arising out of the contracts of service.
"Such subsidiary organs as may be found necessary may be established in accordance with the present Charter."
Article 22 provides :
"The General Assembly may establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its functions."
Further, in Article 101, paragraph 1, the General Assembly is given power to regulate staff relations :
"The Staff shall be appointed by the Secretary-General under regulations established by the General Assembly."
Accordingly, the Court finds that the power to establish a tribunal to do justice between the Organization and the staff members may be exercised by the General Assembly.
But that does not dispose of the problem before the Court. Some of the Governments that take the position that there are grounds which would justify the General Assembly in refusing to give effect to awards, agree that the powers of the General Assembly, and particularly its power to establish regulations under Article 101, imply the power to set up an administrative tribunal. They agree that the General Assembly would be able to establish a tribunal competent to hear and decide staff grievances, to prescribe its jurisdiction, and to authorize it to give a final decision, in the sense that no appeal could be taken as of right. They nevertheless contend that the implied power does not enable the General Assembly to establish a tribunal with authority to make decisions binding on the General Assembly itself.
In the first place, it is contended that there was no need to go so far, and that an implied power can only be exercised to the extent that the particular measure under consideration can be regarded as absolutely essential. There can be no doubt that the General Assembly in the exercise of its power could have set up a tribunal without giving finality to its judgments. In fact, however, it decided, after long deliberation, to invest the Tribunal with power to render judgments which would be "final and without appeal", and which would be binding on the United Nations. The precise nature and scope of the measures by which the power of creating a tribunal was to be exercised, was a matter for determination by the General Assembly alone.
It has been contended that the General Assembly cannot, by establishing the Administrative Tribunal, divest itself of the power conferred by paragraph (1) of Article 17 of the Charter, which reads :
"The General Assembly shall consider and approve the budget of the Organization."
This provision confers a power on the General Assembly, for the exercise of which Article 18 requires the vote of a two-thirds majority. Accordingly, the establishment of a tribunal competent to make an award of compensation to which the General Assembly was bound to give effect would, it has been argued, contravene the provisions relating to the budgetary power. The Court is unable to accept this contention.
The Court notes that Article 17 of the Charter appears in a section of Chapter IV relating to the General Assembly, which is entitled "Functions and Powers". This Article deals with a function of the General Assembly and provides for the consideration and approval by it of the budget of the Organization. Consideration of the budget is thus an act which must be performed and the same is true of its approval, for without such approval there can be no budget.
But the function of approving the budget does not mean that the General Assembly has an absolute power to approve or disapprove the expenditure proposed to it; for some part of that expenditure arises out of obligations already incurred by the Organization, and to this extent the General Assembly has no alternative but to honour these engagements. The question, therefore, to be decided by the Court is whether these obligations comprise the awards of compensation made by the Administrative Tribunal in favour of staff members. The reply to this question must be in the affirmative. The obligatory character of these awards has been established by the considerations set out above relating to the authority of res judicata and the binding effect of the judgments of this Tribunal upon the United Nations Organization.
The Court therefore considers that the assignment of the budgetary function to the General Assembly cannot be regarded as conferring upon it the right to refuse to give effect to the obligation arising out of an award of the Administrative Tribunal.
The General Assembly could at all times limit or control the powers of the Secretary-General in staff matters, by virtue of the provisions of Article 101. Acting under powers conferred by the Charter, the General Assembly authorized the intervention of the Tribunal to the extent that such intervention might result from the exercise of jurisdiction conferred upon the Tribunal by its Statute. Accordingly, when the Tribunal decides that particular action by the Secretary-General involves a breach of the contract of service, it is in no sense intervening in a Charter power of the Secretary-General, because the Secretary-General’s legal powers in staff matters have already been limited in this respect by the General Assembly.
A similar problem is involved in the contention that the General Assembly cannot authorize and the Secretary-General cannot enter into contracts of service which are not in conformity with the Charter. The Staff Regulations are made a part of the contracts of service and No. 11.2 reads as follows :
"The United Nations Administrative Tribunal shall, under conditions prescribed in its Statute, hear and pass judgment upon applications from staff members alleging non-observance of their terms of appointment, including all pertinent regulations and rules."
It is contended that the incorporation, in the contracts of service, of the right to rely on the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal would conflict with the powers conferred on the General Assembly and on the Secretary-General by the Charter. In view of the foregoing considerations, the Court cannot accept this contention. There can be no doubt that, by virtue of the terms thus incorporated in the contracts of service, and so long as the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal in its present form is in force, the staff members are entitled to resort to the Tribunal and rely on its judgments.
In the third place, the view has been put forward that the Administrative Tribunal is a subsidiary, subordinate, or secondary organ ; and that, accordingly, the Tribunal’s judgments cannot bind the General Assembly which established it.
It has been argued that an authority exercising a power to make regulations is inherently incapable of creating a subordinate body competent to make decisions binding its creator. There can be no doubt that the Administrative Tribunal is subordinate in the sense that the General Assembly can abolish the Tribunal by repealing the Statute, that it can amend the Statute and provide for review of the-future decisions of the Tribunal and that it can amend the Staff Regulations and make new ones. There is no lack of power to deal effectively with any problem that may arise. But the contention that the General Assembly is inherently incapable of creating a tribunal competent to make decisions binding on itself cannot be accepted. It cannot be justified by analogy to national laws, for it is common practice in national legislatures to create courts with the capacity to render decisions legally binding on the legislatures which brought them into being.
The question cannot be determined on the basis of the description of the relationship between the General Assembly and the Tribunal, that is, by considering whether the Tribunal is to be regarded as a subsidiary, a subordinate, or a secondary organ, or on the basis of the fact that it was established by the General Assembly. It depends on the intention of the General Assembly in establishing the Tribunal, and on the nature of the functions conferred upon it by its Statute. An examination of the language of the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal has shown that the General Assembly intended to establish a judicial body ; moreover, it had the legal capacity under the Charter to do so.
In view of the complete lack of identity between the two situations, and of the conclusions already drawn by the Court from the Charter and the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations and other relevant instruments and records, the Court cannot regard the action of the Assembly of the League in 1946 as an applicable precedent or as an indication of the intention of the General Assembly when the Statute of the Administrative Tribunal was adopted in 1949.
The Court has accordingly arrived at the conclusion that the first Question submitted to it must be answered in the negative. The second Question does not therefore call for consideration.
For these reasons,
having regard to the Statute of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and to any other relevant instruments and to the relevant records,
The Court is of opinion, by nine votes to three,
that the General Assembly has not the right on any grounds to refuse to give effect to an award of compensation made by the Administrative Tribunal of the United Nations in favour of a staff member of the United Nations whose contract of service has been terminated without his assent.
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