The fallibility of human beings is one of the fundamental constraints of every form of human decision-making. This also holds true for international adjudication. Every adjudicator – be it an arbitrator of an international tribunal, a commissioner of a claims commission or a judge of an international court – faces the dilemma that the administration of justice is not a mechanical exercise, but a challenging task that requires acumen and fine judgment. Despite most sophisticated rules of procedure and highest levels of education, international adjudicators are not immune from errors and the outcome of adjudication proceedings may well turn out to be incorrect.
While there is consensus among the relevant stakeholders that such errors can be corrected in appeals, annulment or similar proceedings that are foreseen in the applicable procedural framework, things look different when there is no explicit legal basis for such remedies. Are adjudicators in these situations prevented from reconsidering and revising their decisions so that finality trumps accuracy? Or do they possess inherent powers to correct errors so that accuracy prevails over finality?
This chapter will show that these questions are as relevant today as they have been in the history of international adjudication. The first part contains an empirical overview of key cases on inherent powers of reconsideration and revision (see II.). The second part offers a normative assessment of the conditions under which international adjudicators may exercise inherent powers of reconsideration and revision.