What’s the ICJ for, and the way does it work?
The ICJ, which is located within the Peace Palace in The Hague, a metropolis in The Netherlands, was established in 1945 as a manner of settling disputes between international locations. The Court docket additionally offers advisory opinions on authorized questions which were referred to it by different approved UN organs.
Broadly generally known as the ‘World Court docket’, the ICJ is among the six “principal organs” of the United Nations, on the identical footing because the Normal Meeting, the Security Council, the Financial and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Trusteeship Council and the Secretariat, and the one one that’s not situated in New York.
In contrast to the Court docket of Justice of the European Union, the ICJ is just not a supreme courtroom to which nationwide courts can flip: it may possibly solely hear a dispute when requested to take action by a number of States.
The Court docket consists of 15 judges, all of whom are elected to nine-year phrases of workplace by the UN Normal Meeting and Safety Council. Elections are held each three years for one-third of the seats, and retiring judges could also be re-elected. The Members of the Court docket don’t signify their governments however are unbiased magistrates, and there’s solely ever one decide of any nationality on the Court docket.
Instances open with the events submitting and exchanging pleadings containing an in depth assertion of the factors of reality and of regulation on which every social gathering depends, and an oral part consisting of public hearings at which brokers and counsel deal with the Court docket.
The international locations concerned appoint an agent to plead their case, somebody who has the identical rights and obligations as a solicitor in a nationwide courtroom. Often, a number one politician might defend their nation, as within the 2020 Gambia/ Myanmar case (see beneath).
After this stage, the judges deliberate in digital camera (in non-public, behind closed doorways), after which the Court docket delivers its verdict. The size of time this takes will be something from a couple of weeks, to a number of years.
Why is the ICJ essential?
The ICJ is the one worldwide courtroom that settles disputes between the 193 UN Member States. Which means it makes an essential contribution to international peace and safety, offering a manner for international locations to resolve points with out resorting to battle.
What sort of circumstances are introduced earlier than the Court docket?
The Court docket can rule on two varieties of case: “contentious circumstances” are authorized disputes between States; and “advisory proceedings” are requests for advisory opinions on authorized questions referred to it by United Nations organs and sure specialised companies.
The case introduced by South Africa towards Israel on 29 December final yr is the primary time a contentious case has been introduced towards Israel on the ICJ (a 2004 advisory opinion discovered that the development of the wall constructed by Israel within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, together with in and round East Jerusalem, and its related regime, is opposite to worldwide regulation).
South Africa contends that “acts and omissions by Israel…are genocidal in character, as they’re dedicated with the requisite particular intent…to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as part of the broader Palestinian nationwide, racial and ethnical group”.
South Africa seeks to discovered the Court docket’s jurisdiction on the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, to which each international locations are signatories. Israel rejects the allegations.
One other relatively recent case that gained worldwide consideration concerned a ruling towards Myanmar in January 2020, ordering the nation to guard its minority Rohingya inhabitants and the destruction of proof associated to genocide allegations. That case, which was introduced by The Gambia, was notable for the looks of Aung San Suu Kyi, then the de facto chief of Myanmar, making an look at The Hague to defend her nation.
As for “advisory proceedings”, On 20 January 2023, the Normal Meeting requested an advisory opinion from the Court docket on “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian individuals within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, together with East Jerusalem”.
In March 2023, the UN Normal Meeting adopted a decision to ask the court to ship an advisory opinion on the obligations of States in respect of local weather change, with most audio system within the ensuing debate hailing the transfer as a milestone of their decades-long wrestle for local weather justice. Each advisory proceedings are ongoing.
Who can carry a case to the Court docket?
Any Member State can carry a case towards every other Member State, whether or not or not they’re immediately in battle, when the widespread curiosity of the worldwide group is at stake.
Within the case of The Gambia v Myanmar for instance, The Gambia was circuitously involved by the genocide allegations levelled towards Myanmar, however that didn’t preclude the nation from bringing the motion, on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
What are the results of a Court docket ruling?
The rulings of the ICJ are remaining and there’s no risk of attraction.
It’s as much as the States involved to use the choices of the Court docket of their nationwide jurisdictions, and, typically,they honour their obligations beneath worldwide regulation and comply.
If a rustic fails to carry out the obligations incumbent upon it beneath a judgment, the one remaining recourse is to show to the Safety Council which might vote on a decision, per the UN Charter. This occurred in a case introduced by Nicaragua against the United States in 1984, demanding reparations for the US help for Contra rebels.
The ICJ dominated in Nicaragua’s favour, however the US refused to just accept the discovering. Nicaragua then took the matter to the Safety Council, the place a related decision was vetoed by the USA.
How is the ICJ totally different from the ICC?
There’s frequent confusion between the Worldwide Legal Court docket (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The only approach to clarify the distinction is that ICJ circumstances contain international locations, and the ICC is a felony courtroom, which brings circumstances towards people for struggle crimes or crimes towards humanity.
Additionally, while the ICJ is an organ of the United Nations, the ICC is legally unbiased of the UN, (though it’s endorsed by the Normal Meeting).
Whereas not all 193 UN Member States are events to the ICC, it may possibly launch investigations and open circumstances associated to alleged crimes dedicated on the territory or by a nationwide of a State social gathering to the ICC or of a State that has accepted its jurisdiction.
Instances have been heard and choices rendered on a variety of violations, from utilizing rape as a weapon of struggle to conscripting kids as combatants.
For a look back at the birth of the ICJ and the essential function it performs within the work of the United Nations, take a look at our newly printed UN Video piece in the present day, a part of our weekly Tales from the UN Archive collection.