The International Court of Justice Research Guide
Last Updated December 3, 2012
At the end of the 19th century, governments met at the First Peace Conference at The Hague and decided to codify international law in treaties. Furthermore, they reached an agreement to establish the first permanent international court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration. However, as arbitration brings with it an air of ad hoc exceptional solutions, the international community soon decided to move towards international adjudication, where a court would implement international law. Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations provided for the creation of a judicial body entrusted with two kinds of jurisdiction: contentious and advisory were clearly envisaged. In 1921, the predecessor of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) materialized. The PCIJ was dissolved in 1946 at the same time as the League of Nations.
The ICJ is an organ of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice forms an integral part of the Charter of the United Nations. The court has functioned since 1945. It does not have compulsory international jurisdiction, and its main function remains to decide in accordance with international law all disputes submitted to it (Article 38).
Of course, the ICJ is not the only international court, there are many regional international courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and there are many specialized international courts, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). Additionally, the ICJ, is not the only court that applies international law. Today, more and more national courts choose to apply international law for crimes that are defined according to the principles of international law. However, the ICJ remains the only court that continues the tradition of the Permanent Court of securing “the pacific settlement of international disputes.” (Guerrero, 1946).
World Court Reports: A Collection of the Judgments, Orders, and Opinions of the Permanent Court of International Justice
(Hudson, Manley and Bacon, Ruth eds)
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Publications of the Permanent Court of International Justice
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Amr, Mohamed Sameh M. The Role of the International Court of Justice as the Principle Judicial Organ of the United Nations. (2003)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established in 1945. It sits at The Hague, in the Netherlands, and acts as a world court in view of the customary international norm which states that all states “shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” Article 2(3) of the Charter of the United Nations.
According to Article 34 of the ICJ Statute, only states may be parties in cases before the court. "The Court has a dual role: to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized international organs and agencies." Individuals do not have access to the court. International organizations may seek advisory opinions. Although a state does not need to be a member of the UN to bring a case before the court, if it chooses to bring such a case it must comply with the decision of the Court and accept all the obligations of a member.
The basis of the Court’s jurisdiction in contentious cases is given by the State party’s consent (Art 36 of the Statute. However, in light of declarations made under Article 36 of the Statute, for the parties to the Statute, the ICJ’s jurisdiction has been described as being compulsory. The ICJ jurisdiction ratione materiae is also regulated by its Statute and it covers legal disputes concerning:
The ICJ consists of fifteen members. Members of the court serve for nine years. The members are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council. To be elected, a candidate must obtain an absolute majority of votes in both the General Assembly and the Security Council.
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Charter of the United Nations, Statute and Rules of Court and Other Documents.
The Court’s Registrar. Bibliography of the International Court of Justice
Online International Court of Justice]. Yearbook
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Osmanczyk, Edmund Jan. Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements
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The International Court of Justice at a Crossroads. (Damrosch Lori Fisler, ed) (1987)
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Eyffinger, Arthur. The International Court of Justice, 1946-1996
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Renata Szafarz Compulsory Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice
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Washington : U.S. G.P.O -- International Court of Justice, Selected Documents Relating to the Drafting of the Statute. (1946)
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Shabtai Rosenne. Rosenne's The World Court: What It Is and How It Works.
Within the limits of its ratione materiae, as mentioned above, the ICJ has both contentious and advisory jurisdictions. For the last sixty years it has had the opportunity to render hundreds of opinions which, due to numerous print and online sources are relatively easy to research.
The judgments of the Court are binding in law, although states do not always comply with the ICJ judgments. However, as statistics show -- see Paulson, Colter, "Compliance with Final Judgments of the International Court of Justice since 1987" 98 Am. J. Int'l. L. 434, 458-459 (2004) -- while the overall percentage of full compliance by states has decreased since 1987 from 80% from 1946 to 1987 to 60% from 1987 to 2004, partial compliance has probably increased. Furthermore, the ICJ continues to be perceived as fulfilling its role a part of the United Nations system of maintaining peace and security.
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Institut universitaire de hautes études internationales, Genève. Précis de la jurisprudence de la Cour internationale. Digest of Decisions of the International Court.
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Verzijl, J. Jurisprudence of the World Court: A Case by Case Commentary.
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Max Planck Institute. Digest of the Decisions of the International Court of Justice. 1947-1958
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World Court digest
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International Court of Justice. Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders. Recueil des arrêts, avis consultatifs et ordonnances (ICJ Reports)
It is also available from HeinOnline.
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International Court of Justice. Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents (1948-).
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International Legal Materials: Current Documents (ILM)
ILM is also available online.
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International Law Reports (ILR) (1919-)
ICJ decisions may be located through two databases: (a) International Law - International Court of Justice (INT-ICJ) and (b) International Legal Materials (ILM). The coverage offered through INT-ICJ begins in 1947. INT-ICJ includes the published Report of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders, as well as new documents as they are released, prior to publication in paper form. Westlaw features available include star paging to the official ICJ publication (when available), FIND command for retrieving cases with a citation (e.g. 1986 I.C.J. 14) as well as Keycite for verification of citations.
The coverage offered by the ILM database begins in 1980 (vol. 19-). Moreover, ILM covers only selected decisions as published by International Legal Materials.
ILM is not available from WestlawNext, yet.
Lexis covers the Court’s case law from 1962 onward, on the selective bases that the International Legal Materials publishes them. You may find their International Legal Materials database by following this path: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Law > Treaties & International Agreements > International Legal Materials
ILM is not available from Lexis Advance, yet.
The Statute of the ICJ contains the relevant rules regarding the procedure before the Court: "Competence of the Court" (Arts. 34-38), "Procedure" (Arts. 39-64), "Advisory Opinions" (Arts. 65-68).
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Shabtai Rosenne. Procedure in the International Court. A Commentary on the 1978 Rules of the International Court of Justice (1983)
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Shabtai Rosenne. The Law and Practice of the International Court, 1920-2005 (2006)
Please send comments regarding this guide to Dana Neacşu, at email@example.com.