International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice refers to the primary judicial unit of the UN. It is commonly called the ICJ or simply the World Court. This court is situated at the Peace Palace in The Hague in Netherlands. The main functions of this court are to settle legal disputes that are submitted to it by member states and to offer advisory opinions or views on legal issues or questions submitted by the authorized agencies, branches and the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The United Nations’ Charter of 1945 established the International Court of Justice. It started its operations in 1946 when it succeeded the Permanent Court of International Justice. The court is regulated and constituted by a constitutional document that is similar to the one of its predecessor, the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Among the activities that the Court is mandated to perform include a wide range of judicial activities that states are unable to solve using domestic or regional laws. To date, this court has handled relatively fewer cases. Nevertheless, since 1980s the number of countries that are willing to use the International Court of Justice has increased rapidly. Most of these countries are from the developing world.
The US withdrew from the compulsory jurisdiction of the court in 1986 when it ruled that the United States’ covert war with Nicaragua was violating the international law. Since then, the United States accepts the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on case by case basis only.
United Nations Security Council is authorized by chapter XIV of United Nations Charter to enforce the rulings of the court. However, the enforcement is subjected to veto power of five members who are permanent to the council. The United States used this veto power in its case with Nicaragua.
International Court of Justice comprises of fifteen judges. The judges are elected to serve a nine-year’s term by the United Nations Security Council and the United nations General Assembly. The judges are picked from a list of experts that national groups in Permanent Court of Arbitration nominate. Article 4 to 19 of the court’s statute set out the election process.
To ensure continuity in the court, judges are elected after three years. If a judge dies while in office, a special election is held to choose a judge who will complete the remaining period of the term. The court cannot have two judges who are nationals of one country.
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