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International Court of Justice

International Court of Justice, principal judicial organ of the United Nations, established 1946 by chapter 14 of the UN Charter. It superseded the Permanent Court of International Justice (see World Court), and its statute for the most part repeats that of the former tribunal. The court consists of 15 judges chosen for nine-year terms by the General Assembly and the Security Council, voting independently, from a list of candidates nominated by government-appointed national groups of international-law experts. No two judges may be from the same country. Nine judges constitute a quorum, and questions are decided by a majority of the judges present. The permanent seat of the court is in the Peace Palace at The Hague, the Netherlands, but it may hold hearings elsewhere. All members of the United Nations are ipso facto members of the court; other states may adhere to the statute. If a member of the United Nations fails to comply with a judgment of the court, an appeal for assistance may be made to the Security Council. The court may render judgment in certain disputes between states, and with the authorization of the General Assembly, it may deliver advisory opinions to any organ of the United Nations and its agencies.

A dispute may be brought before the court by consent of the parties in the particular case or by virtue of an advance formal declaration of acceptance of the court's jurisdiction. States making such declarations, however, sometimes impose restrictive conditions on their acceptance. The United States excludes all disputes concerning domestic matters from the court's jurisdiction, reserving the right to determine what it regards as domestic. The court's competence between states is limited to disputes concerning the interpretation of treaties, questions of international law, breaches of international obligation, and reparations due. Concern has been expressed at the small number of cases nations have submitted to it. Major opinions of the court have ruled that the General Assembly may not admit a state to the United Nations if the application is vetoed by one of the permanent members of the Security Council; that the United Nations is to be considered as an international legal person; that special United Nations assessments, such as those for the Congo and Middle East operations, are regular expenses of the United Nations and are binding on all members; and that South Africa must withdraw from Namibia (accomplished with Namibia's independence in 1990).

See S. Rosenne, The Law and Practice of the International Court (2 vol. 1965); R. Falk, Reviving the World Court (1986); M. Dunne, The United States and the World Court, 1920–1935 (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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