The International Court Of Justice Overview International Law Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


The International Court of Justice, which is located in The Hague, Netherlands, is commonly called the "World Court". Founded in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International of Justice (PCIJ), which had functioned since 1922 and was dissolved after the Second World War, the ICJ has been considered as a principle judicial organ of the United Nation. Its main function is to settle in accordance with international law the legal dispute submitted to it by the states, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by appropriately authorized international organs and agencies.

The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected for a period of nine years, no more than one national of any state maybe a member of the court. The judges represent the main legal systems of the world. The court elects, for a term of three years, the president and vice-president of the court. The court is assisted by a registry, headed by a registrar. Elections are held every three years for five vacancies of the court each time. Eligible as judges are persons of high moral character and possessing the high qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, recognized in competence with the international law. The election is held simultaneously in the General Assembly and in the Security Council, each voting independently of the others. In order to get elected, a candidate must obtain absolute majority in both forums.

The official languages of the court are English and French. If the parties agree, the case can be conducted and the judgment delivered exclusively in either English or French. The court may also authorize, at the request of a party, a language other than English or French to be used by that party. In such a case, an English or French translation has to be attached to the judgment (Article 39 of the statute). Moreover, in general, each party to a dispute bears its own costs for the procedure. As a consequence, the court may decide that all or part of a party's cost be paid by the other party (Article 64 of the statute and Article 97 of the Rules of the court).

The Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice

As stated in the Article 93 of UN Charter, all 192 UN members are automatically parties to the court's statute. Non- UN members may also become parties to the court's status under the Article 93(2) procedure. The International Court of Justice posses two types of jurisdiction:

1) Contentious Jurisdiction: this involves states that submit the dispute by consent to the court by binding decision. Individuals, corporations, parts of a federal state, NGOs, UN organs, and self-determination group are excluded from direct participation in cases although the court may receive the information from public international organizations. Jurisdiction is often a crucial question for the court in contentious jurisdiction. Article 36 outlines three bases on which the court's jurisdiction may be founded. First of all, 36(1) of the statute provides that jurisdiction of the court compromises all cases that the parties refer to it. Such cases normally come before the court by notification to the registry of an agreement known as special agreement (compromise) and concluded by the parties especially for this purpose. Second, Article 36, paragraph 1, of the statute provides that the jurisdiction of the court also compromises all matter specially provided for in treaties and conventions in force. Most modern treaties will contain a compromiser clause, providing the dispute resolution by the ICJ. Third, Article 36, paragraph 2, allows states to make optional clause declaration accepting the court's jurisdiction. The label compulsory which is sometimes placed on article 36(2) jurisdiction is misleading since declarations by states are voluntary.

2) Advisory Opinion: the court is authorized by the Article 65 of the statute to give advisory opinions on the any legal questions at the requests of whatever body may be authorized by the UN Charter to make such a request. According to the UN Charter Article 96, the General Assembly or the Security Council may request the ICJ to give an advisory opinion of the court on the legal questions arising within the scope of their activities. In principle, the court advisory opinions are only consultative in character though they are influential and widely respected.

The ineffectiveness of the ICJ

Still, the International Court of Justice has been criticized with respect to its ruling, its procedure and its authority. First, in principle, the jurisdiction of the ICJ is not a compulsory one. A case can only be submitted to the court by with the consent of stated concerned. Accordingly, no sovereign state can be made by a party in proceeding before the court unless it has in some manner or other consent thereto. The character of the system itself, founded as it is upon some two hundred sovereign and independent states, is a vital reason that the court adopted the non-compulsory jurisdictional or consent-based jurisdictional principle. The ICJ's neutrality has been maintained as much as possible. As a result, currently the ICJ along with the UN can act only in the role of third party rather than as a superpower. In other words, the ICJ only provides an option for states to settle the disputes peacefully through the third party intervention. Besides these, since the judges are recruited from the national foreign affairs and international relation elites, the permanent members of the ICJ always vote for the national interests of their home-states in case their countries have the dispute with others as in the Article 57 of the statute of the ICJ recognizing that the individual judges are entitled to deliver separate opinion.