Judgment No.2867 of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization upon a Complaint Filed against the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Request for Advisory Opinion)
Overview of the case
In April 2010, the Court received a request for an advisory opinion from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (“IFAD”), a specialized agency of the United Nations, concerning a judgment of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (“ILOAT”) rendered on 3 February 2010. In its judgment, the Tribunal had ordered IFAD to pay a former staff member of the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification — which is housed by IFAD — monetary compensation equivalent to two years’ salary, as well as moral damages and costs, on account of the abolishment of her post and refusal to renew her contract.
In its Advisory Opinion rendered on 1 February 2012, the Court first considered whether it had jurisdiction to reply to the request and whether or not it should exercise that jurisdiction in the case in question. With respect to its jurisdiction, the Court, citing its earlier opinions, recalled that its power to review a judgment of the ILOAT by reference to Article XII of the Annex to the Statute of the ILOAT was limited to two grounds : either the Tribunal had wrongly confirmed its jurisdiction or the decision was vitiated by a fundamental fault in the procedure followed. As for whether or not it should reply to the request for an opinion, the Court drew attention to the difficulties arising from the review process in respect of ILOAT judgments, both in terms of equality of access to the Court and equality in the proceedings before the Court, since only the body employing the staff member has access to the Court. It found, in particular, that the principle of equality, which follows from the requirements of good administration of justice, should now be understood as including access on an equal basis to available appellate or similar remedies unless an exception may be justified on objective and reasonable grounds. Although the review system in place at the time did not appear effectively to satisfy the modern principle of equality of access to courts and tribunals, the Court, which is not in a position to reform this system, concluded that it need not refuse to reply to the request on such grounds. Furthermore, in accordance with the practice followed in previous review requests, the Court sought to alleviate the unequal position before it of the employing institution and its official arising from provisions of the Court’s Statute by deciding that the President of the Fund was to transmit to it any statement setting forth the views of Ms Saez García which she might wish to bring to the attention of the Court, and by deciding that no oral proceedings would be held (since the Court’s Statute does not allow individuals to appear in hearings in such cases). The Court thus ruled on these various points, maintaining its concern regarding the inequality of access to the Court but considering nevertheless that, taking account of the circumstances of the case as a whole, and in particular the steps it had taken to reduce the inequality in the proceedings before it, that the reasons that could have led it to decline to give an advisory opinion were not sufficiently compelling as to require it to do so.
As regards the merits of the request, the Court examined and confirmed the validity of the judgment rendered by ILOAT relating to Ms Saez García’s contract of employment. In particular, the Court was asked to give its opinion on the competence of the ILOAT to hear the complaint brought against the Fund by Ms Saez García. The former argued that Ms Saez García was a staff member of the Global Mechanism, which was not an organ of the Fund, and consequently that its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal did not extend to the applicant’s complaint. On this point, the Court ruled that Ms Saez García was an official of the Fund and that the Tribunal was therefore competent ratione personae to consider her complaint. Moreover, it considered that Ms Saez García’s complaints fell within the category of allegations of non-observance of her terms of appointment or of the provisions of the staff regulations and rules of the Fund, as prescribed by Article II, paragraph 5, of the Statute of the Tribunal. Having concluded that the Tribunal was justified in confirming its jurisdiction ratione personae and ratione materiae, the Court considered that it need not reply to the other questions raised by the Fund, either because they sought to ascertain the Court’s opinion on the reasoning of the Tribunal or on its judgment on the merits, in respect of which the Court has no power of review, or because they constituted nothing more than a repetition of the question on jurisdiction, which the Court had already answered.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.