UVA Law Alumnus Elected International Court of Justice Judge

Yuji Iwasawa headshot

UVA Law alumnus Yuji Iwasawa is a law professor at the University of Tokyo and previously chaired the U.N. Human Rights Committee.

Yuji Iwasawa of Japan, who in 1997 earned a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, was elected Friday by the United Nations to serve as a judge on the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s principal judicial body.

The United States and 41 other national groups nominated the University of Tokyo law professor. Elected to fill a seat vacated by resignation, he will complete the term through 2021.

“The International Court of Justice is a very important international court that makes great contributions to the clarification and development of international law,” Iwasawa said. “It is a great honor that I was elected to this august court.”

Iwasawa has served as chair of the U.N. Human Rights Committee, president of the Japanese Society of International Law and vice chair of the London-based International Law Association. He also served as judge and vice president of the Asian Development Bank Administrative Tribunal in Manila, Philippines.

“Professor Iwasawa is an expert on international law who is highly appreciated internationally,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said at a press conference announcing his nomination in February. “He also has extensive practical experience. Japan believes he is the best choice as a candidate for an ICJ judge.”

Iwasawa has also been a visiting fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge. His publications include “Domestic Application of International Law,” “Dispute Settlement in the WTO” and “Third Parties Before International Tribunals: The ICJ and the WTO.”

“The two years I spent at the University of Virginia School of Law for my S.J.D. degree developed my legal mind even further,” Iwasawa said. “The Socratic method used at the Law School fostered critical thinking.”

Professor Paul Stephan taught Iwasawa. Stephan said his student combined a strong interest in international trade law with a budding passion for human rights law.

Stephan has also worked with Iwasawa. While with the Human Rights Committee, Iwasawa served as a foreign adviser for the American Law Institute’s “Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States,” of which Stephan has been a coordinating reporter.

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“He was impressively smart, modest and very interesting,” Stephan said. “It was a privilege to have him as a student, and I am very happy that he is stepping into this new position.”

Iwasawa is the first UVA Law graduate to serve as an ICJ judge since Hardy Cross Dillard, a 1927 graduate who was Law School dean from 1963 to 1968 before his appointment to the court at The Hague in 1970.

The International Court of Justice includes 15 judges elected to nine-year terms by the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Security Council from a list of nominees by national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an intergovernmental organization that functions as an arbitral tribunal for disputes that arise from international agreements.

Before earning his S.J.D, Iwasawa was a law professor at Osaka City University and the University of Tokyo.

He holds an LL.B. from the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law and an LL.M. from Harvard Law School.

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