Written by Dana Neacșu. Updated by Josh Freeman.
The following is a guide to help you start your own research in this area. If you have any research questions email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end of the 19th century, governments met at the First Peace Conference at The Hague and decided to codify international law in treaties. Furthermore, they reached an agreement to establish the first permanent international court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration. However, as arbitration brings with it an air of ad hoc exceptional solutions, the international community soon decided to move towards international adjudication, where a court would implement international law. Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations provided for the creation of a judicial body entrusted with two kinds of jurisdiction: contentious and advisory were clearly envisaged. In 1921, the predecessor of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) materialized. The PCIJ was dissolved in 1946 at the same time as the League of Nations.
The ICJ is an organ of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice forms an integral part of the Charter of the United Nations. The court has functioned since 1945. It does not have compulsory international jurisdiction, and its main function remains to decide in accordance with international law all disputes submitted to it (Article 38).
Of course, the ICJ is not the only international court, there are many regional international courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and there are many specialized international courts, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). Additionally, the ICJ, is not the only court that applies international law. Today, more and more national courts choose to apply international law for crimes that are defined according to the principles of international law. However, the ICJ remains the only court that continues the tradition of the Permanent Court of securing “the pacific settlement of international disputes.” (Guerrero, 1946).
World Court Reports: A Collection of the Judgments, Orders, and Opinions of the Permanent Court of International Justice
(Hudson, Manley and Bacon, Ruth eds)
2nd Fl Microfilm Cabinet 48 -- JX1975.A5 P91
Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice
2nd Floor – JX1976.C5 Am76 2003
Amr, Mohamed Sameh M. The Role of the International Court of Justice as the Principle Judicial Organ of the United Nations. (2003)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established in 1945. It sits at The Hague, in the Netherlands, and acts as a world court in view of the customary international norm which states that all states “shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” Article 2(3) of the Charter of the United Nations.
According to Article 34 of the ICJ Statute, only states may be parties in cases before the court. "The Court has a dual role: to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies." Individuals do not have access to the court. International organizations may seek advisory opinions. Although a state does not need to be a member of the UN to bring a case before the court, if it chooses to bring such a case it must comply with the decision of the Court and accept all the obligations of a member.
The basis of the Court’s jurisdiction in contentious cases is given by the State party’s consent (Art 36 of the Statute. However, in light of declarations made under Article 36 of the Statute, for the parties to the Statute, the ICJ’s jurisdiction has been described as being compulsory. The ICJ jurisdiction ratione materiae is also regulated by its Statute and it covers legal disputes concerning:
The Court’s advisory jurisdiction is governed by Article 65 of its Statute and Article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations.
The ICJ consists of fifteen members. Members of the court serve for nine years. The members are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council. To be elected, a candidate must obtain an absolute majority of votes in both the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Within the limits of its ratione materiae, as mentioned above, the ICJ has both contentious and advisory jurisdictions. For the last sixty years it has had the opportunity to render hundreds of opinions which, due to numerous print and online sources are relatively easy to research.
The judgments of the Court are binding in law, although states do not always comply with the ICJ judgments. However, as statistics show -- see Paulson, Colter, "Compliance with Final Judgments of the International Court of Justice since 1987" 98 Am. J. Int'l. L. 434, 458-459 (2004) -- while the overall percentage of full compliance by states has decreased since 1987 from 80% from 1946 to 1987 to 60% from 1987 to 2004, partial compliance has probably increased. Furthermore, the ICJ continues to be perceived as fulfilling its role a part of the United Nations system of maintaining peace and security.
This collection is also available from Hein via Pegasus, under the UN/ICJ collection.
International Court of Justice. Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents (1948-).
International Legal Materials (ILM)
ILM also available from:ILM - Westlaw Edge.
The Statute of the ICJ contains the relevant rules regarding the procedure before the Court: "Competence of the Court" (Arts. 34-38), "Procedure" (Arts. 39-64), "Advisory Opinions" (Arts. 65-68).