The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations (UN). Seated in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, the court settles legal disputes submitted to it by states and provides advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international branches, agencies, and the UN General Assembly. The International Court Of Justice is also known as the World Court, is the main judicial organ of the UN. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
Composition of ICJ
The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. The Court may not include more than one national of the same State. Moreover, the Court as a whole must represent the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world. These organs vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. This sometimes makes it necessary for a number of rounds of voting to be carried out. In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years. Judges are eligible for re-election. Should a judge die or resign during his or her term of office, a special election is held as soon as possible to choose a judge to fill the unexpired part of the term.
The seat of the ICJ is at the Hague, but sessions may be held elsewhere when the court considers it desirable to do so. The official languages of the court are French and English.
The principal judicial organ of the United Nations is the International Court Of Justice. This main body of the UN settles legal disputes submitted to it by States in accordance with international law. It also gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it from authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.
The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of nine years by the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Jurisdiction of ICJ
The International Court of Justice acts as a world court. The Court’s jurisdiction is twofold: it decides, in accordance with international law, disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by States (jurisdiction in contentious cases); and it gives advisory opinions on legal questions at the request of the organs of the United Nations, specialized agencies or one related organization authorized to make such a request (advisory jurisdiction)
Criticism of ICJ
The International Court has been criticized with respect to its rulings, its procedures, and its authority. As of many critics and opponents of the Court refer to the general authority assigned to the body by member states through its Charter, rather than to specific problems with the composition of judges or their rulings. Major criticisms include the following:
- “Compulsory” jurisdiction is limited to cases where both parties have agreed to submit to its decision, and so instances of aggression tend to be automatically escalated to and adjudicated by the security council. According to the sovereignty principle of international law, no nation is superior or inferior against another. Therefore, there is no entity that could force the states into practice of the law or punish the states in case any violation of international law occurs. Therefore, the absence of binding force means that the 193 member states of the ICJ do not necessarily have to accept the jurisdiction. Moreover, membership in the UN and ICJ does not give the court automatic jurisdiction over the member states, but it is the consent of each state to follow the jurisdiction that matters.
- The International Court of Justice cannot hear the cases of organizations, private enterprises, and individuals. Furthermore, UN agencies are unable to raise a case except in the circumstance of a non-binding advisory opinion. The national states are the only ones who are able to bring cases for and act as defendants for these individuals. As a result, victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and minority groups may not have the support of their national state.
- Other existing international thematic courts, such as the ICC, are not under the umbrella of the International Court. Unlike ICJ, international thematic courts like ICC work independently from United Nations. Such dualistic structure between various international courts sometimes makes it hard for the courts to engage in effective and collective jurisdiction.
- The International Court does not enjoy a full separation of power, with permanent members of the Security Council being able to veto enforcement of cases, even those to which they consented to be bound. Because the jurisdiction does not have binding force itself, in many cases, the instances of aggression are adjudicated by Security Council by adopting a resolution, etc. There is, therefore, a likelihood for the permanent member states of Security Council to avoid the legal responsibility brought up by International Court of Justice,
- The Court has been accused of judicial parsimony, with its rulings tending to dismiss submissions of parties on jurisdictional grounds and not resolving the underlying dispute between them.
As the principal judicial organ of the United Nation, it is an important facet for promoting and maintaining peace. They regularly host visits by heads and dignitaries of states. It settles cases of extreme international complexity in less than five years. The court accounts for less than 1% of the UN’s budget. It is unique to the world. Through its judgment, opinions and orders, ICJ lends its support to the United Nations so that it can achieve its primary purpose which is to maintain and promote international peace and security.
But despite having so much authority, it fails to achieve its purpose. In many cases, we have seen that Countries do not comply with rulings from the International Court of Justice. Thus despite being a giant in the world of International law, it seems to grow increasingly less influential on States and regulating its compliance with international law.