The World's Most Powerful International Court? The Centrual American Court of Justice and the Quest for De Facto Authority (1907-2020)
The original Central American Court of Justice (CACJ) is often referenced as the world’s first international court (IC). Functioning from 1907 to 1918, and commonly known as the Cartago Court, this court was the first-ever IC and a precursor to the Permanent Court of Justice, or “World Court”, established in 1922 in The Hague. The CACJ does, however, hold another record. The current incarnation of the court – established in 1994, in Managua, Nicaragua as the judicial arm of the Central American System of Economic Integration (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA) – which is the world’s most powerful international court, formally speaking. The 1991 Protocol of Tegucigalpa (the Protocol)and the 1992 Statute of the CACJ (the Statute)6 provide the Court with remarkably extensive powers. The CACJ is competent to rule as an inter-state IC, as a European Union (E.U.)-style regional economic court, as a supranational constitutional court, and as an arbitral tribunal. Access to the Court is also broad and, in fact, broader than that of the Court of Justice of the European Union (C.J.E.U.) and similar regional economic ICs. In addition to states, individuals, national judges, and other private entities have standing before the Court, making it par excellence a “new style” IC; that is to say, an IC with compulsory jurisdiction and access for non-state actors to initiate litigation.