The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial body of UN Charter. It was established in the year 1946, a year after the Principal Court of International justice (PCIJ) was dissolved. The ICJ is currently headed by Abdulqawi Yusuf, who was elected as the president in the year 2018.
The statute of PCIJ was first established in the year 1920 after Article 14 League’s covenant called for it during the 1919 Paris Peace Convention. It’s duties involved- adjudicating any international dispute submitted to it by the contesting parties and to provide an advisory opinion upon any dispute or question referred to it by the League of Nations.
Unlike the International Court of Justice, the PCIJ was not part of the League, nor were members of the League automatically a party to its Statute. But PCIJ was also the first of its kind in many ways, for eg: It’s proceedings were largely public, it could be declared by states to have permanent jurisdiction and it had accessibility to all states, etc. Between the years 1922(first case) and 1940, the PCIJ dealt with 29 interstate disputes and issued 27 advisory opinions.
The PCIJ was effectively put to an end in the year 1940 after the Second World War and in the year 1944, following the Allied conference at Dumbarton Oaks, in the United States, published a proposal for an intergovernmental organization including an international court to deal with any issues arising between states in order to bring about international peace and security. Hence giving birth to the International Court of Justice which was to be established as a principal organ of the new United Nations. The statute of this court would form an integral part of the United Nations Charter.
Organization and Jurisdiction of the court:
The organization of the court is stated in the Articles 2-33 of the statute of ICJ. The court consists of 15 members, no two of whom shall be members from the same country. The members of the Court shall be elected by the General Assembly and by the Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in accordance with the provisions laid down in the Article 4 of the statute of ICJ. The Secretary-General’s job is to prepare a list in alphabetical order of all the persons nominated by their respective jurists and states. The representatives with the highest votes are considered elected. The members of the Court are to be elected for nine years and may be re-elected; provided, however, that of the judges elected at the first election, the terms of five judges shall expire at the end of three years and the terms of five more judges shall expire at the end of six years.
The ICJ’s jurisdiction is explained in the Articles 34-38 of the Statute of ICJ, it is basically divided into categories, namely: Contentious jurisdiction, incidental jurisdiction and advisory jurisdiction. Contentious jurisdiction is wherein the ICJ has a direct authority to address the cases, only states can be parties to suit i.e., organizations, individuals, corporations, NGOs, etc. cannot be parties to suit under ICJ. Article 36(1) of the statute states that the jurisdiction of the Court comprises all cases which the parties refer to it and all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations or in treaties and conventions in force. The court also has jurisdiction over any legal issues concerning question of law, interpretation of treaties and in matters of breach of international obligation. The declarations can be either unconditional or conditional on basis of reciprocation by other states who are a part of the statute. Such declarations are submitted to the secretary-general of the UN Charter and to be complied by all the states. The court shall apply the international customs, conventions, general principles laid down by civilized nations subject to Article 59 and judicial teachings by renowned publicists.
The UN Charter grants power to the ICJ under the Articles 65-68 of the statute of ICJ to answer any legal questions and give advisory opinions in cases where interpretation of law or its procedure is questioned by either or both parties i.e., states to any contract or any case affecting international peace and security whatsoever.
Preliminary objection is when one of the parties refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the court. In such cases, it is the decision of the court to declare whether it has jurisdiction over the case or not.
Provisions and Procedure of the court:
The proceedings of the court are specified from the Articles 39-64 of the Statute of ICJ. The proceedings are held in either of the two languages- English and French, if the parties fail to provide their preference, the court decides which language to give the verdict in on the basis of the proceedings of the parties.
The cases brought before the court are either by the notification of the special agreement or by a written application addressed to the Registrar. In either case the subject of the dispute and the parties shall be indicated. It’s the duty of the registrar to inform all the parties involved in the suit and keep them updated regarding the proceedings of court. The Article 43 states that the proceedings shall be both written and oral. The written proceedings shall consist of the communication to the Court and to the parties of memorials, counter-memorials and, if necessary, replies; also all papers and documents in support and the oral proceedings shall consist of the hearing by the Court of witnesses, experts, agents, counsel, and advocates. The judgments are decided on the basis of the decisions declared by the majority of the judges and it is final and without appeal. An application for revision of a judgment may be made only when it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the Court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence.
In conclusion, it can be stated that the ICJ plays a major role in solving disputes between states and is very essential to maintain international peace and security among countries.