International Court of Justice

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is the International Court of Justice?

The International Court of Justice, also referred to as the ICJ, is the United Nations‘ primary judicial body. The International Court of Justice has the authority to consider two types of cases:

  1. Issues involving states
  2. Cases sought by United Nations specialized agencies

The ICJ was established to settle legal issues brought by governments within the framework of international regulations. It also provides legal advice on issues presented by approved international agencies and organizations.

ICG lawyers are experts in international law. They may attend public hearings of the court or petition before a judge. An ICG lawyer might also research and write memorandums on legal questions, factual aspects of pending cases, and other parts of the court’s work.

Who Presides Over the ICJ?

Court members vote in secret every 3 years to choose the President and Vice President. The election is held on or around the date that the three-year terms of the members of the Court who were elected at the last election start. There must be an absolute majority, and there are no rules about who can be a member. Both the President and the Vice President can run for office again.

The President leads all meetings of the Court and has more power than the head of the diplomatic corps.

In addition to their annual salary, the President gets a special allowance of $15,000 each year.

The Court chose Judge Joan E. Donoghue (USA) as President on 8 February 2021 and Kirill Gevorgian of the Russian Federation as Vice President.

Members of the Court vote in secret every 3 years to choose the President and Vice President. The election is on or around the date that the three-year terms of the court members who were elected at the last election start. There must be a majority, and there aren’t rules about who can be a citizen. Both the Vice President and the President can run for office again.

In addition to their annual salary, the President gets a special allowance of $15,000 each year.

The VP takes over for the President when the President is away or can’t do their job in the Presidency. For doing this, they get a daily expenditure. If the VP isn’t there, this job goes to judge with the most seniority.

The Court chose Joan Donoghue (USA) as President on 8 February, 2021, and Kirill Gevorgian (Russian Federation) as her Vice President.

How Do Cases Between States Arise?

States can file a case in International Court if there is an issue among them. The court can only hear a case if the states have accepted its authority in these ways:

  1. They made a special deal to take their disagreement to court.
  2. Jurisdiction clause (i.e., in conventions or treaties)
  3. Statements they made

If the ICJ has the right to hear the case, the parties exchange and file pleadings and afterward proceed to hearings.

After trial, the court thinks about the case and makes a decision. If a state doesn’t follow the ruling, the other could go to the Security Council to get help.

What Is Needed to File a Case in the International Court of Justice?

The Court can hear:

  1. Legal conflicts between states that are brought to the Court by the states themselves (called “contentious cases”); and
  2. Requests from UN specialized agencies for advice on legal questions (advisory proceedings).

Legal Disputes
Parties to contentious cases can only be states.

The Court can only deal with a dispute if the two or more countries involved have accepted its authority in one or more of these ways:

  1. By making an agreement to send the issue to the Court;
  2. Jurisdictional clauses

Some of these declarations, which must be sent to the UN Secretary-General, have reservations that certain disputes are not covered.

The Court does not have any permanent representatives from the states.

How Does a Case Start?

One of two ways can be used to start a case.

  • By letting the court know: A Special Agreement between two states can be sent to the Court by one or both states involved in the case.
  • By filing a request: This is a unilateral action taken by a state vs. a respondent state. It’s meant to be sent to the second state, and the Rules of Court have stricter rules about what it must include.

Contentious proceedings have both a written and an oral phase.

During the written phase, the parties file and exchange pleadings that give a detailed statement of the facts and the law on which each party relies.

During the oral phase, agents and counsel speak to the Court at hearings.

Since the Court has two official languages (French and English), everything said or written in one language is translated into the next. The public and press don’t get to see the written pleadings until the start of the oral proceedings, and only if no one from either side objects.

After the arguments, the Court makes its decision behind closed doors and then announces it to the public.

The judge’s decision is final and cannot be appealed by either side. Judges who want to can add their own thoughts to the judgment.

Since a case can only be brought to the Court and decided by it if both sides agree in some way, it is rare for a decision not to be carried out.

If a state thinks that the other side hasn’t done what it was supposed to do according to a Court ruling, it can bring the issue to the Security Council, which has the power to decide or recommend the next steps to be taken to make the ruling happen.

The standard way of doing things is as described above. But extraneous proceedings can change the way the main proceedings go.

Most of the time, preliminary objections are brought up to question whether or not the Court has the authority to decide on the case’s merits (the respondent State may contend, for instance, that the application is inadmissible or that the Court lacks jurisdiction. The Court should decide the matter.

Then there are “interim measures.” The applicant state can ask for these if it thinks the rights it is trying to protect are in present danger.

A third option is for a State to ask for permission to get involved in a disagreement between other States if it thinks it has a legal interest in the case that could be affected by the judgment.

Lastly, if the Court finds that different parties in different cases are making similar arguments and claims against the same opponent about the same thing, it may order that the cases be joined.

What Is an Advisory Opinion?

International organizations are the only ones who can get advisory opinions. Only five United Nations organizations and 16 UN specialized agencies are allowed to ask for advisory opinions.

The ICJ will decide which States and organizations might have information that could be useful. Then, it gives them a chance to make written or spoken statements. The ICJ’s advisory opinions are not binding on the bodies that ask for them.

The United Nations Charter contains the Statute of the International Court of Justice. The Statute has 70 articles that are split into five chapters.

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with International Law?

Use LegalMatch to find a government lawyer in your area today. An ICJ lawyer can tell you more about the International Court of Justice and what it does.

Save Time and Money - Speak With a Lawyer Right Away

  • Buy one 30-minute consultation call or subscribe for unlimited calls
  • Subscription includes access to unlimited consultation calls at a reduced price
  • Receive quick expert feedback or review your DIY legal documents
  • Have peace of mind without a long wait or industry standard retainer
  • Get the right guidance - Schedule a call with a lawyer today!

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer