Materials and Publications

Research Matrix version 1.0 / © 2000 PICT

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The PICT Research Matrix is the first comprehensive, systematic and holistic mapping of the international judicial system. It encompasses 18 international judicial bodies, grouped in six clusters according to their geographical scope and/or subject-matter jurisdiction. For each institution, 29 issues, grouped in five categories, have been mapped, for a total of 522 individual entries.

International judicial bodies are generally treated as self-standing entities, possessing barely any links with one another. Their staggering diversity tends to deter comparison across institutions. To begin with, they differ in the number of member States, ranging from universal scope to extremely narrow membership (as in the case of the Benelux Court of Justice). Some bodies give standing only to States, whereas others are, to varying degrees, open to other entities. Likewise, the kind of jurisdiction they exercise is extremely diverse. In this Matrix criminal jurisdictions are studied through the same lens of all other kinds of jurisdictions, and this requires some degree of adjustment in the parameters chosen. Furthermore, differences in size of the staff, budget and caseload are enormous. Some bodies, like the ECJ, adjudicate perhaps 100 cases each year; others barely hear one each per decade. Finally, most are active, some are dormant (e.g., the Court of Justice of the Arab Maghreb Union) and others are emerging (e.g., the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights or the International Criminal Court).

Nevertheless, this stupefying variety can itself be the object of research. To date, the international judicial process and organization has not been considered as a field of study in itself. Scholars and practitioners of one forum are rarely familiar with the law and procedure of another. Moreover, international courts and tribunals are not only judicial bodies - and as such a worthwhile object of research only for legal scholars - but also international organizations. They have bureaucratic and administrative aspects that can be compared. Comparison allows cross-fertilization and sheds new light on the functioning of each body, contributing to a more efficient, equitable and effective delivery of justice.

Any Matrix is by its very nature an extremely condensed representation of a complex world. The PICT Research Matrix is no exception, and it resorts to new computer technologies to overcome the baffling complexity of this domain. In some instances, knotty issues, such as whether interim measures indicated by the ICJ are binding, have been converted into a straightforward "yes" or "no" answer. Yet, by clicking on each cell, the user will find further discussion of the entry.

A further contribution of the Matrix to the domain of international law is the introduction of visual representations. There are few domains as hostile as law to visual description. Yet, visual representations help the user to synthesize information provided - an essential feature when the amount of data provided is very large - and can be interpreted in different ways according to the observer. Indeed, the 18 tables presented in the Matrix are just a few of the many ways in which the data can be read. Users of the Matrix are encouraged to explore and interpret data in other possible ways. It is intended to raise issues, not to provide prepackaged answers.

Most of the data has been provided by the registrars of the various bodies. It was often difficult to independently verify the information provided. There are no real standards to determine, for instance, who is to be considered as part of the personnel of a tribunal and who is not. We had to rely on each officer's best judgment to decide the issue. By clicking on each cell, the user will find the source of the information.

This Matrix is the central piece of a much larger mapping effort. It depicts only international judicial bodies, defined as bodies which are permanent, composed of judges not selected by the parties, who adjudicate disputes between two or more entities on the basis of predetermined rules of procedure. At least one of the entities must be a State or an international organization. Decisions are binding and are made on the basis of international law. All other bodies which meet some but not all of these criteria (e.g., the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the NAFTA Dispute Settlement Panels, the ICSID, or the various UN human rights bodies) will be incorporated into this picture in the future, adding further levels of analysis and raising new questions.

Finally, the investigation criteria and the data contained stress certain elements over others that are equally worthy of research. However, the value of this Matrix is not the information contained in the cells themselves. Of course, data will be updated regularly to maintain the Matrix as a faithful portrayal of the international judiciary (unless specified otherwise, all data contained in this Matrix should be considered valid as of January 1, 1999). The rationale of this exercise is rather to suggest a new technique to investigate a crucial sector of international society.

Cesare P.R. Romano
New York, November 1999