Address at the Opening Ceremony, Jessup Moot Court Competition, Suzhou, China

(17 February 2016, Suzhou, China)

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great honor and privilege to be invited to the Jessup China for the fourth time and to speak to you this morning. I am deeply grateful to the organizers of this great event, and particularly, to Professor Zhu Wenqi, for his kind invitation. We are all delighted to be in this beautiful historic city of Suzhou. I have been told that this city is always connected with romances. I wish you every success in your romantic encounters while in Suzhou.

It is always gratifying to see so many law students coming from all parts of China for Jessup who place the utmost importance to international law. The primary function of international law is to settle disputes among nations by peaceful means.

Some people say it is not good to have disputes for maintaining friendly relations among our nations. On the contrary, I think it is a natural phenomenon that we have more disputes as our nations come closer to each other. I also think it is good to have disputes. Disputes create jobs for law students like you. I make my modest living by giving lectures on disputes. So, let us welcome disputes. What is important is to control these disputes by employing proper procedures for their settlement. International law provides sufficient rules, both substantive and procedural, for such a purpose.

The International Law Commission, or ILC, is a principal organ of the UN for codification and progressive development of international law. I have had the privilege to serve this Commission as its member since 2009, and as its Special Rapporteur since 2013 for the topic on the Protection of the Atmosphere.

The ILC has produced a number of draft articles on important issues of contemporary international law. Many of them are now binding treaties. As a member of the Commission, I am happy to see that the International Court of Justice has referred to ILC’s draft articles as evidence of customary international law, even if they are not yet binding treaties.

There have been proposals that the International Law Commission should take on a new topic of the legal aspects of electronic surveillance and cyber attacks, which is one of the issues of this year’s Jessup Compromis, but it may be a little too sensitive and premature for the ILC to take up this topic at the moment. Besides, most of the 34 members of the Commission are quite old, who were born in the year BC50 or earlier. “BC” here is not “Before Christ” but “Before Computer.” We are too old to handle problems of inter-net technology. If we were to deal with this topic, we would certainly need high school students as members of the Commission.

This year’s Jessup Compromis is in part related to the modern techniques of espionage activities. The affairs of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are merely a tip of the iceberg in our real life. It is a sad reality that activities, such as bugging, wiretapping, electronic surveillance and cyber attacks, are widespread in the contemporary world, which need to be properly regulated by law.

So, we look forward to hearing your arguments on this and on other issues here in the Jessup competition. I wish you all the best in your pleadings. Thank you.

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