Skip to Main Content

International Court of Justice

The ICJ: Judgments & Advisory Opinions: How to Find a Judgment

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.

Finding Aids and Other Research Resources

This is a mirror site of the ICJ Official Homepage listed above, and it offers the same features.
This two-volume source includes summaries of cases brought before the PCIJ (1922-1939) and of cases brought before the ICJ (1947-1974). The summaries are signed by their contributors, and while their presentation aims to be chronological, the main purpose of this source is to be a digest and thus it presents the covered cases within the context of their international law issues. For example, cases regarding the German interests in Upper Silesia are grouped together as there are the cases regarding the interpretation of the Convention of 1919 regarding the Employment of Women During the Night.
This source is a compilation of today’s students would call case notes. Vol. 1. covers the jurisprudence of the Permanent Court of International Justice (1922-1940) and volume two covers the first two decades of the International Court of Justice case law (1947-1965).
This bi-lingual source (French, and English) is an unsual source for the American student as it is not a mere collection of case law blurbs but a commentary of the sources of international law, an overview of the court’s grounds of jurisdiction and only in its latter part it covers commentaries of the Court’s case law. This is the fifth volume of Max Planck Institute collection Fontes Iuris Gentium, which contains 11 volumes of international-law-related topics.
This tree-volume source continues the Digest of the Decisions of the International Court of Justice, 1976-1985Fontes Iuris Gentium Series A Section I (which we do not carry). Its summaries refer to cases reported in the ICJ Reportsand they are organized by such broad topics, as “the use of force and related problems” or “law of treaties,” etc.
This series contains the reports of the decisions of the ICJ. Each decision is published as soon as it is rendered. The text is printed in both English and French. An analytical index is published each January for the previous years decisions. Coverage begins with 1947 and includes new documents as they are released by the court. The original is printed on the left-hand page and the translation is on the right-hand page. Both pages carry the same number, but on the top outside corner you will find the running number of the annual volume (which you should cite) and on the bottom outside corner, the page number in the fascicle.

This collection is also available from Hein via Pegasus, under the UN/ICJ collection.

International Court of Justice. Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents (1948-).

This is an amazing fountain of information as it contains the written proceedings, the oral proceedings, documents filed after the closure of the written proceedings, and correspondence relating to the case. Pleadings, etc. for some cases are published in more than one volume; they carry volume numbers in addition to the "general list" number. The researcher should note that while there is no "general list" number for the cases covered by this source, as each case name is part of the name of the respective volume(s) a mere catalog search will produce the needed results. For example, if you want to find the pleadings in Nicaragua v. Honduras, a Pegasus search for those words would bring up the correct result.

International Legal Materials (ILM)

The researcher will find that decisions are published much more quickly than they appear in the official sources; however, she will find here only selected decisions. The library covers the collection in print and via HeinOnline.

ILM also available from:ILM - Westlaw.

ILM - Lexis Advance.

ILR has indexes and tables of cases. It provides reports of the ICJ cases. The Library carries almost the entire collection. The first volumes from 1919 through 1932 are also known under the title of The Annual Digest of Public International Law Cases.
This site offers a choice of language, English or French, and provides access to recent press communiqués, important basic documents related to the ICJ, the current court docket and composition. The judgments and orders in all contentious cases and advisory opinions referred to the ICJ since 1946 are available here (while most of these are full-text, some are summaries). They are presented in reverse chronological order and also in alphabetical order by country. There is a Search function that accompanies the page, but it is under construction.