The Soviet Union announced Wednesday that it will accept the authority of the World Court over five major human rights treaties, ending 40 years of resistance to the court’s jurisdiction.
State Department officials hailed the move as a step toward an eventual agreement under which Moscow would join Washington in accepting the court’s rulings in all but the most sensitive political and national security cases.
The U.N. legal office released a letter from Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze to U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar informing him of the Soviets’ decision.
In Geneva, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly L. Adamishin told a U.N. meeting that Moscow has dropped previous reservations on optional clauses in the five international human rights accords allowing unresolved disputes to be submitted to the World Court.
These accords, he said, are: a 1948 convention on preventing and punishing genocide; a 1949 convention on suppressing traffic in persons and exploitation of prostitution; a 1952 convention on the political rights of women; a 1965 convention on eliminating all forms of racial discrimination, and a 1984 convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Soviet Union had signed the treaties but added the reservation that it did not accept World Court authority in disputes.
Shevardnadze’s letter suggested the Soviet Union will agree to the court’s authority in all human rights cases.
He noted that Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1988 suggested before the General Assembly that “all states recognize the binding jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with respect to the interpretation and application of human rights agreements.”
The World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice at The Hague, is the main judicial body of the United Nations. It has no powers of enforcement, but its rulings carry a major moral impact on world opinion.
The United States has been suggesting that the Soviets, Britain, France and China join it in agreeing to accept the court’s jurisdiction except in cases involving national security or the use of force.
That would avoid cases like Nicaragua’s 1986 dispute with Washington, in which the Sandinista government contended the United States was illegally mining its harbors and supporting the Contras. The U.S. government refused to honor a World Court ruling that sided with the Sandinistas.