international-court-of-justice

Background

  • Article 33 of the United Nations Charter lists the negotiation, enquiry, mediation etc. methods for the pacific settlement of disputes between States. Some of these methods involve the services of third parties.
  • With respect to arbitration, the 1899 Convention provided for the creation of permanent machinery, known as the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established in 1900 and began operating in 1902. 
  • Various plans and proposals submitted between 1911 and 1919, both by national and international bodies and by governments, for the establishment of an international judicial tribunal, which culminated in the creation of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) as an integral part of the new international system set up after the end of the First World War.
  • The PCIJ met for the last time in October 1945 and resolved to transfer its archives and effects to the new International Court of Justice, which, like its predecessor, was to have its seat at the Peace Palace.
  • In April 1946, the PCIJ was formally dissolved, and the International Court of Justice, meeting for the first time, elected as its President Judge José Gustavo Guerrero (El Salvador), the last President of the PCIJ.

More about ICJ:

  • The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The ICJ is the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was established by the League of Nations in 1920.
  • The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
  • The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
  • Unlike other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. 
  • Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously

Structure of ICJ: The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for a term of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

  • In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies.
  • In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years and Judges are eligible for re-election.
  • The 15 judges of the Court are distributed in following regions:
  • Three from Africa.
  • Two from Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Three from Asia.
  • Five from Western Europe and other states.
  • Two from Eastern Europe.

Functioning of ICJ:

  • ICJ acts as a world court with two fold jurisdiction i.e. legal disputes between States submitted to it by them (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies (advisory proceedings).
  • Only States which are members of the United Nations and which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions, are parties to contentious cases.
  • States have no permanent representatives accredited to the Court. They normally communicate with the Registrar through their Minister for Foreign Affairs or their ambassador accredited to the Netherlands.
  • When they are parties to a case before the Court they are represented by an agent. Since international relations are at stake, the agent is also as it were the head of a special diplomatic mission with powers to commit a sovereign State.
  • The judgment is final, binding on the parties to a case and without appeal (at the most it may be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision).
  • By signing the Charter, a Member State of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of the Court in any case to which it is a party.
  • A State which considers that the other side has failed to perform the obligations incumbent UNSC, which is empowered to recommend or decide upon measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment.
  • The procedure described above is the normal procedure. However, the course of the proceedings may be modified by incidental proceedings.
  • ICJ discharges its duties as a full court but, at the request of the parties, it may also establish ad hoc chambers to examine specific cases.
  • Advisory proceedings before the Court are only open to five organs of the United Nations and 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations family or affiliated organizations.
    • Opinions provided by the court in advisory proceedings are essentially advisory and not binding.