The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (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 of America).

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

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Aim & Objectives

The ICJ is the primary judicial organ of the UN.

The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.


These are described in the Chapter II - Competence of the Court, of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, which is an Annex to the Charter of the United Nations.

Jurisdiction: The International Court of Justice acts as a world court. The Court has a dual jurisdiction : it decides, in accordance with international law, disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by States (jurisdiction in contentious cases); and it gives advisory opinions on legal questions at the request of the organs of the United Nations or specialized agencies authorized to make such a request (advisory jurisdiction).

Basis of Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of the Court in contentious proceedings is based on the consent of the States to which it is open. The form in which this consent is expressed determines the manner in which a case may be brought before the Court.[1]

(a) Special agreement
(b) Cases provided for in treaties and conventions
(c) Compulsory jurisdiction in legal disputes
(d) Forum prorogatum
(e) The Court itself decides any questions as to its jurisdiction
(f) Interpretation of a judgment
(g) Revision of a judgment


Only 66 countries declare that they recognize as compulsory (…) the jurisdiction of the Court.

In his speech [2]to the Sixth Committe of the General Assembly, H.E. Judge Hisashi Owada, President of the ICJ, lists these issues:

I. The implication of the expansion in the number and the field of issues relating to the cases that come before the Court
II. The issue of jurisdictional basis of the cases brought before the Court
III. The issue of fragmentation of international law

2. Owada, H.. 2009, Speech to the Sixth Committe of the General Assembly,

Jurisdictional clauses and contentious proceedings

The composition and functioning of the Court are organized by the Statute, and by the Rules of the Court which are drawn up by the Court itself.
Since October 2001, the Court has also issued Practice Directions for use by States appearing before it.

Some treaties or conventions in force confer jurisdiction on the Court. It has become a general international practice to include international agreements - both bilateral and multilateral - provisions, known as jurisdictional clauses, providing that disputes of a given class shall or may be submitted to one or more methods for the pacific settlement of disputes. Numerous clauses of this kind provide for recourse to conciliation, mediation or arbitration too; others provide for recourse to the Court, either immediately or after the failure of other means of pacific settlement.

The ICJ maintains a chronological list of treaties and other instruments which contain clauses relating to the jurisdiction of the Court in contentious proceedings. This list can be accessed here:


The States parties to the Statute of the Court may "at any time declare that they recognize as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any other State accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the Court" (Art 36, para. 2 of the Statute).

The declarations, deposited by a total of 66 States, are given in English at:

The Fringes

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