International Court of Justice

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A group of 16 countries led by Vanuatu - an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, recently launched an effort to fight the problem of climate change at the United Nations (UN), and the group seeks an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the issue of climate change.

About the International Court of Justice (ICJ):

  • The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the principal judicial organ of the UN.
  • It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
  • Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York, United States.
  • The hearings of the ICJ are always public.
  • French and English are the official languages of the Court.
  • Powers and Functions:
    • The Court may entertain two types of cases: legal disputes between States submitted to it by them (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies (advisory proceedings).
    • Only States (which are members of the United Nations and other States which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions) may be parties to contentious cases.
    • Advisory proceedings before the Court are only open to five organs of the United Nations and 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations family or affiliated organizations.
    • The court's judgments in contentious cases are final and binding on the parties to a case and without appeal.
    • Unlike the Court’s judgments, advisory opinions are not binding.
    • The ICJ decides disputes in accordance with international law as reflected in international conventions, international custom, general principles of law recognized by civilized nations, judicial decisions, and writings of the most highly qualified experts on international law.
  • Composition:

    • The Court is composed of 15 judges, all from different countries, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Security Council (UNSC).

    • To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both UNGA and UNSC. 

    • One-third of the composition of the Court is renewed every three years. 

    • Judges are eligible for re-election.  

    • Once elected, a member of the Court is a delegate neither of the government of his own country nor of any other State.

    • Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.


Q1) What is the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. ICC is governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute.

Source: International courts and climate change