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International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) Overview

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:

a) the interpretation of a treaty;
b) any question of international law;
c) the existence of any fact which, if established would constitute a breach of an international obligation;
d) the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation.

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.

Finding Aids and Other Research Resources

This is a primer for any researcher interested in the ICJ. Each annual volume contains information on the ICJ’s composition, and proceedings. It also covers judgments delivered by the Court and summaries of the judgments delivered by the Grand Chamber in that year.
The library has all the volumes. The most recent one is from 2003. Until 1963 it also published the Court’s bibliographical lists. Every volume contains basic information about the procedure before the Court, its organization, and the cases the Court heard during that year.
This reference source includes the text of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
This is a must-take-first-step for any student of ICJ. Its ten chapters offer an impressive though easy to follow guide to the history, composition, jurisdiction, procedure and decisions of the Court.
An excellent overview of the ICJ’s compulsory, compromis and ratione materiae jurisdiction.
This volume comprises a selection of documents emanating from the meeting of the United Nations Committee of Jurists which was held in Washington from April 9 to April 20, 1945 and which formulated a draft statute for the proposed international court, as well as official comments related to the Statute and the Statute itself.
This work contains an insightful overview of the Court’s role, the Rules, the Statute, a list of parties to the Statute, judicial statistics, and the composition of the Court from 1922 to date.