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Britain loses seat on International Court of Justice for first time since 1946

United Nations Security Council members cast their vote during a meeting on the election of five members of the International Court of Justice, at the UN headquarters in New York, on Nov. 13, 2017.

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Britain lost a seat on the International Court of Justice on Monday for the first time since the tribunal started work in 1946, a setback seen by some diplomats and commentators as the result of waning international influence following its vote to leave the European Union.

Based at The Hague, Netherlands, the 15-member world court is the UN's top judicial organ and its job is to settle disputes between countries.

Five judges are elected every three years and serve for nine years.

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After four rounds of voting, Ronny Abraham of France, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil and Nawaf Salam of Lebanon were elected Thursday by required majorities in both the General Assembly and Security Council.

Britain's Christopher Greenwood and India's Dalveer Bhandari, both running for re-election to the court, were forced into a runoff for the fifth seat because Greenwood had the required majority in the 15-member Security Council while Bhandari topped the vote in the 193-member General Assembly.

But Bhandari's support was gaining while Greenwood's was diminishing, apparently leading the British judge to drop out.

Bhandari was then easily elected Monday by both the assembly and the council.

"We are naturally disappointed," Britain's UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said, "but it was a competitive field with six strong candidates."

He said the United Kingdom will continue to support the court's work "in line with our commitment to the importance of the rule of law."

Before the vote, Britain's Guardian newspaper said that "losing a British presence on the court would be an international political embarrassment."

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A Greenwood loss "will be interpreted as a blow to the U.K.'s international standing post-Brexit," the paper said. It will also demonstrate "the increasingly limited diplomatic influence wielded by the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, at the UN"

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