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The World’s Most Powerful International Court? The Central American Court of Justice and the Quest for De Facto Authority (1907-2020)

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The Central American Court of Justice (CACJ) is the oldest and formally most powerful international court (IC) in the world. In its present institutional form, the Court is empowered to rule as an EU-style community law court, as an inter-state IC, and as a supranational constitutional court. Notwithstanding its broad jurisdiction, the CACJ has largely failed to leave a significant mark on its many operational contexts. Using the theory of de facto authority, the article explores the trajectory of the CACJ through its many re-structurings as well as its struggles to become an authoritative institution. In so doing, it identifies a set of factors that help to explain the status of the Court in terms of its de facto authority. The first factors relate to the professional interests of the Court’s agency. The second factors are of an institutional and political nature and concern the intra-institutional frictions between the CACJ and other organs of the SICA system, as well as the particularly politicized operational contexts of the Court in its Member States. These factors have contributed to relegating the CACJ to the margins of the Central American legal field. However, as the article also shows, developments are currently occurring at the Court which suggest that the CACJ is finally having a break-through, notably as a community law court. The article concludes by generalizing the findings relative to other international courts and providing normative suggestions for international courts to overcome the challenges of operating in complex political contexts
TidsskriftAmerican University International Law Review
StatusAccepteret/In press - 2022

ID: 271679282