International Court of Justice, the ultimate arbitrator of disputes between States
The International Court of Justice succeeded the League of Nations’ Permanent Court of International Justice and under Chapter XIV of the UN Charter is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its Statute is annexed to the Charter and is an integral part of it.
The Court sits in The Hague and comprises fifteen judges elected by absolute majority of both the General Assembly and the Security Council from jurisconsults and senior magistrates of high moral character. The judges are elected for nine years, one-third every three years, and are re-eligible. Since 6 February 2009, its President has been Hisashi Owada (Japan).
The Court’s competence extends to all cases submitted by those parties which have declared that they recognise its jurisdiction as compulsory. These disputes concern such matters as the interpretation of a treaty, any question of international law, the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation, and the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation.
The Court may also be seized under the arbitration clauses enshrined in various bilateral and multilateral agreements, or by special agreement between the Parties.
Under Article 96 of the UN Charter, the General Assembly or Security Council may also request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice concerning any legal question.
Article 94 of the UN Charter requires each Member of the United Nations to comply with the decision of the International Court of Justice in any case to which it is a party. If any party to a case fails to perform the obligations incumbent upon it under a judgment rendered by the Court, the other party may have recourse to the Security Council, which may, if it deems necessary, make recommendations or decide upon measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment.
From 22 May 1947 to 6 July 2009, 144 cases were entered in the General List. The Court has mainly dealt with land or sea border disputes and cases relating to international crises (such as military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua (1986), the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (2004), disputes between the successor States of the former Yugoslavia (2006) and disputes relating to the application of international conventions in the consular, air travel or legal fields.
Update : July 2010