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Lecturrete Topic 108 - International Court Of Justice


The International Court of Justice (ICJ), sometimes known as the World Court,is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN). It settles disputes between states in accordance with international law and gives advisory opinions on international legal issues. The ICJ is the only international court that adjudicates general disputes between countries, with its rulings and opinions serving as primary sources of international law.

The ICJ is the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was established in 1920 by the League of Nations. Following the Second World War, both the League and the PCIJ were replaced by the United Nations and ICJ, respectively. The Statute of the ICJ, which sets forth its purposes draws heavily from that of its predecessor, whose decisions remain valid. All member states of the UN are party to the ICJ Statute and may initiate contentious cases; however, advisory proceedings may only be submitted by certain UN organs and agencies.

The ICJ is a panel of 15 judges elected by the General Assembly and Security Council for nine-year terms. No more than one judge of a given nationality may serve on the court at the same time, and judges as a whole must represent the principal civilizations and legal systems of the world. Seated in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, the ICJ is the only principal UN organ not located in New York City. Its official working languages are English and French.


The first permanent institution established for the purpose of settling international disputes was the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which was created by the Hague Peace Conference of 1899. Initiated by Russian Czar Nicholas II, the conference involved all the world's major powers, as well as several smaller states, and resulted in the first multilateral treaties concerned with the conduct of warfare. Among these was the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which set forth the institutional and procedural framework for arbitral proceedings, which would take place in The Hague, Netherlands. Although the proceedings would be supported by a permanent bureau—whose functions would be equivalent to that of a secretariat or court registry—the arbitrators would be appointed by the disputing states from a larger pool provided by each member of the convention. The PCA was established in 1900 and began proceedings in 1902.


The ICJ is composed of fifteen judges elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council from a list of people nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The election process is set out in Articles 4–19 of the ICJ Statute. Elections are staggered, with five judges elected every three years to ensure continuity within the court. Should a judge die in office, the practice has generally been to elect a judge in a special election to complete the term. Judges of the International Court of Justice are entitled to the style of His/Her Excellency.No two judges may be nationals of the same country. According to Article 9, the membership of the court is supposed to represent the "main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world". That has meant common law, civil law and socialist law (now post-communist law).

There is an informal understanding that the seats will be distributed by geographic regions so that there are five seats for Western countries, three for African states (including one judge of francophone civil law, one of Anglophone common law and one Arab), two for Eastern European states, three for Asian states and two for Latin American and Caribbean states. For most of the court's history, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (France, USSR, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have always had a judge serving, thereby occupying three of the Western seats, one of the Asian seats and one of the Eastern European seats. Exceptions have been China not having a judge on the court from 1967 to 1985, during which time it did not put forward a candidate, and British judge Sir Christopher Greenwood being withdrawn as a candidate for election for a second nine-year term on the bench in 2017, leaving no judges from the United Kingdom on the court.Greenwood had been supported by the UN Security Council but failed to get a majority in the UN General Assembly. Indian judge Dalveer Bhandari instead took the seat.

Examples of some Cases

  • A complaint by the United States in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law.

  • A dispute between Tunisia and Libya over the delimitation of the continental shelf between them.

  • A complaint by Iran after the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by a United States Navy guided missile cruiser.

  • A dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area.

  • A complaint by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization regarding their actions in the Kosovo War. This was denied on 15 December 2004 because of lack of jurisdiction, the FRY not being a party to the ICJ statute at the time it made the application.

  • A complaint by the Republic of North Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) that Greece's vetoing of its accession to NATO violates the Interim Accord of 13 September 1995 between the two countries. The complaint was decided in favour of North Macedonia on 5 December 2011.

  • A complaint by the Democratic Republic of the Congo that its sovereignty had been violated by Uganda and that the DRC had lost billions of dollars worth of resources was decided in favour of the DRC.

  • A complaint by the Republic of India regarding a death penalty verdict against an Indian citizen, Kulbhushan Jadhav, by a Pakistani military court (based alleged espionage and subversive activities).

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