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International Court of Justice

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the main judicial tribunal of the united nations, to which all member states are parties. It is often informally referred to as the World Court. The ICJ was established in 1946 by the United Nations (Statute of the International Court of Justice [ICJ Statute], June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1055, 3 Bevans 1179). It replaced the former Permanent Court of International Justice, which had operated within The Hague, Netherlands, since 1922. Like its predecessor, the headquarters of the ICJ is also located in the Peace Palace at The Hague.

The function of the ICJ is to resolve disputes between sovereign states. Disputes may be placed before the court by parties upon conditions prescribed by the U.N. Security Council. No state, however, may be subject to the jurisdiction of the court without the state's consent. Consent may be given by express agreement at the time the dispute is presented to the court, by prior agreement to accept the jurisdiction of the court in particular categories of cases, or by treaty provisions with respect to disputes arising from matters covered by the treaty.

Article 36(2) of the court's statute, known as the Optional Clause, allows states to make a unilateral declaration recognizing "as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any other state accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the Court in all legal disputes."

Many states have accepted the court's jurisdiction under the Optional Clause. A few states have done so with certain restrictions. The United States, for instance, has invoked the so called self-judging reservation, or Connally Reservation. This reservation allows states to avoid the court's jurisdiction previously accepted under the Optional Clause if they decide not to respond to a particular suit. It is commonly exercised when a state determines that a particular dispute is of domestic rather than international character, and thus domestic jurisdiction applies. If a state invokes the self-judging reservation, another state may also invoke this reservation against that state, and thus a suit against the second state would be dismissed. This is called the rule of reciprocity, and stands for the principle that a state has to respond to a suit brought against it before the ICJ only if the state bringing the suit has also accepted the court's jurisdiction.

Under the ICJ Statute, the ICJ must decide cases in accordance with international law. This means that the ICJ must apply (1) any international conventions and treaties; (2) international custom; (3) general principles recognized as law by civilized nations; and (4) judicial decisions and the teachings of highly qualified publicists of the various nations.

One common type of conflict presented to the ICJ is treaty interpretation. In these cases the ICJ is asked to resolve disagreements over the meaning and application of terms in treaties formed between two or more countries. Other cases range from nuclear testing and water boundary disputes to conflicts over the military presence of a foreign country.

The ICJ is made up of 15 jurists from different countries. No two judges at any given time may be from the same country. The court's composition is static but generally includes jurists from a variety of cultures.

Despite this diversity in structure, the ICJ has been criticized for favoring established powers. Under articles 3 and 9 of the ICJ Statute, the judges on the ICJ should represent "the main forms of civilization and … principal legal systems of the world." This definition suggests that the ICJ does not represent the interests of developing countries. Indeed, few Latin American countries have acquiesced to the jurisdiction of the ICJ. Conversely, most developed countries accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ.

The judgment of the ICJ is binding and (technically) cannot be appealed (arts. 59, 60) once the parties have consented to its jurisdiction and the court has rendered a decision. However, a state's failure to comply with the judgment violates the U.N. Charter, article 94(2). Noncompliance can be appealed to the U.N. Security Council, which may either make recommendations or authorize other measures by which the judgment shall be enforced. A decision by the Security Council to enforce compliance with a judgment rendered by the court is subject to the veto power of permanent members, and thus depends on the members' willingness not only to resort to enforcement measures but also to support the original judgment.

The ICJ also may render advisory opinions on legal questions when requested to do so by the General Assembly, the Security Council, or other U.N. organs or agencies. For example, the World Health Organization and the General Assembly requested advisory opinions on the legality of nuclear weapons under international law. The World Court held hearings, in which 45 nations testified. It issued an advisory opinion in July 1996, which held that it was illegal for a nation to threaten nuclear war. The court is used infrequently, which suggests that most states prefer to handle their disputes by political means or by recourse to tribunals where the outcome may be more predictable or better controlled by the parties.

Since 2000, some of the contentious cases before the ICJ included a property dispute between Liechtenstein and Germany; a territorial and maritime dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia; a land, island, and frontier dispute between El Salvador and the Honduras (Nicaragua intervening); and a 2003 case by Mexico against the United States over alleged violations of consular communications with—and access to—several Mexican nationals sentenced to death in various U.S. states for crimes committed within. A 1993 case filed by Bosnia against the former Yugoslavia for violating the Genocide Convention was still pending in 2003, as was a matter between the Republic of Congo and France over alleged crimes against humanity. Trials against individuals for alleged war crimes against humanity or genocides involving Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, and the former Yugoslavia were being handled by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a separate U.N. tribunal.

The ICJ has been maligned for the inconsistency of its decisions and its lack of real enforcement power. But its ambitious mission to resolve disputes between sovereign nations makes it a valuable source of support for many countries in their political interaction with other countries.

further readings

International Court of Justice. Available online at <www.icjcij.org> (accessed June 3, 2003).

Kelly, Barbara. 1992. "The International Court of Justice: Its Role in a New World Legal Order." Touro Journal of Transnational Law 3.

Lelewer, Joanne K. 1989."International Commercial Arbitration as a Model for Resolving Treaty Disputes." New York University Journal of International Law and Policy 21.

Levarda, Daniela. 1995. "A Comparative Study of U.S. and British Approaches to Discovery Conflicts: Achieving a Uniform System of Extraterritorial Discovery." Fordham International Law Journal 18.

cross-references

International Law; Ipso Facto; United Nations.

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International Court of Justice

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE

INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE (ICJ), sometimes known as the "World Court." The principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN) since 1946, its statute is a multilateral agreement annexed to the charter of the United Nations.

The court serves as a principal vehicle for furthering the UN's mandate to facilitate the peaceful resolution of international disputes, acting as a permanent, neutral, third-party dispute settlement mechanism rendering binding judgments in "contentious" cases initiated by one state against another. Parties to dispute before the court must consent to the exercise of the court's jurisdiction. This may be demonstrated in one of three ways: (1) by special agreement or compris, in the context of a particular case; (2) by treaty, such as a multilateral agreement that specifies reference of disputes arising under it to the court; or (3) by advance consent to the so-called "compulsory" jurisdiction court on terms specified by the state concerned. The court also has the power to render advisory opinions at the request of international institutions such as the UN General Assembly.

Located in The Hague, the ICJ is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice, an organ of the League of Nations, which itself was the culmination of earlier international movements to promote international arbitration as an alternative to armed conflict. After World War II, the United States became party to the statute and accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the court on terms specified by the Senate, including the famous Connally amendment, in which the United States declined to give its consent to "disputes with regard to matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the United States of America, as determined by the United States of America." Over the subsequent decade and a half the United States unsuccessfully initiated a series of cases against the USSR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria concerning aerial incidents in Europe. The court as a whole had relatively few cases on its docket during the 1960s, but the United States successfully appealed to the ICJ to vindicate its position as a matter of legal right during the Iranian hostage crisis.

A case initiated by Nicaragua in 1984 challenging U.S. support of the Contra militias and the mining of Nicaraguan ports proved to be a watershed in U.S. dealings with the court. After vigorously and unsuccessfully contesting the court's jurisdiction in a preliminary phase, the United States declined to appear on the merits and subsequently withdrew its consent to the compulsory jurisdiction of the court in 1985.However, the United States continues to be party to cases relying on other jurisdictional grounds.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rosenne, Shabtai. The Law and Practice of the International Court, 1920–1996. The Hague and Boston: Nijhoff, 1997.

Eyffinger, Arthur. The International Court of Justice 1946–1996. The Hague and Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1996.

Pomerance, Michla. The United States and the World Court as a "Supreme Court of the Nations": Dreams, Illusions, and Disillusion. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Nijhoff, 1996.

David A.Wirth

See alsoLeague of Nations ; United Nations .

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International Court of Justice

International Court of Justice, principal judicial organ of the United Nations, established 1946 by chapter 14 of the UN Charter. It superseded the Permanent Court of International Justice (see World Court), and its statute for the most part repeats that of the former tribunal. The court consists of 15 judges chosen for nine-year terms by the General Assembly and the Security Council, voting independently, from a list of candidates nominated by government-appointed national groups of international-law experts. No two judges may be from the same country. Nine judges constitute a quorum, and questions are decided by a majority of the judges present. The permanent seat of the court is in the Peace Palace at The Hague, the Netherlands, but it may hold hearings elsewhere. All members of the United Nations are ipso facto members of the court; other states may adhere to the statute. If a member of the United Nations fails to comply with a judgment of the court, an appeal for assistance may be made to the Security Council. The court may render judgment in certain disputes between states, and with the authorization of the General Assembly, it may deliver advisory opinions to any organ of the United Nations and its agencies.

A dispute may be brought before the court by consent of the parties in the particular case or by virtue of an advance formal declaration of acceptance of the court's jurisdiction. States making such declarations, however, sometimes impose restrictive conditions on their acceptance. The United States excludes all disputes concerning domestic matters from the court's jurisdiction, reserving the right to determine what it regards as domestic. The court's competence between states is limited to disputes concerning the interpretation of treaties, questions of international law, breaches of international obligation, and reparations due. Concern has been expressed at the small number of cases nations have submitted to it. Major opinions of the court have ruled that the General Assembly may not admit a state to the United Nations if the application is vetoed by one of the permanent members of the Security Council; that the United Nations is to be considered as an international legal person; that special United Nations assessments, such as those for the Congo and Middle East operations, are regular expenses of the United Nations and are binding on all members; and that South Africa must withdraw from Namibia (accomplished with Namibia's independence in 1990).

See S. Rosenne, The Law and Practice of the International Court (2 vol. 1965); R. Falk, Reviving the World Court (1986); M. Dunne, The United States and the World Court, 1920–1935 (1989).

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International Court of Justice

International Court of Justice Supreme judicial body of the United Nations (UN) for hearing disputes between countries involving treaties and international law. It replaced the League of Nations' Permanent Court of Justice in 1947. Its 15 judges are chosen by the UN, each coming from a different state and serving for nine years. The court sits at The Hague.

http://www.icj-cij.org

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