International Court of Justice (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the main judicial tribunal of the UNITED NATIONS, to which all member states are parties. It is often informally referred to as the World Court. The ICJ was established in 1946 by the United Nations (Statute of the International Court of Justice [ICJ Statute], June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1055, 3 Bevans 1179). It replaced the former Permanent Court of International Justice, which had operated within The Hague, Netherlands, since 1922. Like its predecessor, the headquarters of the ICJ is also located in the Peace Palace at The Hague.
The function of the ICJ is to resolve disputes between sovereign states. Disputes may be placed before the court by parties upon conditions prescribed by the U.N. Security Council. No state, however, may be subject to the jurisdiction of the court without the state's consent. Consent may be given by express agreement at the time the dispute is presented to the court, by prior agreement to accept the jurisdiction of the court in particular categories of cases, or by treaty provisions with respect to disputes arising from matters covered by the treaty.
Article 36(2) of the court's statute, known as the Optional Clause, allows states to make a unilateral declaration recognizing "as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in...
(The entire section is 1148 words.)
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International Court of Justice (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN), functioning according to its statute, which forms an integral part of the UN Charter. Member states must comply with the decisions of the ICJ, in cases to which they are parties. The ICJ may offer advisory opinions on any legal questions posed by the General Assembly and the Security Council or other organs of the UN and specialized agencies so authorized by the General Assembly on issues arising within the scope of their activities.
Structure and JurisdictionThe ICJ is composed of fifteen independent members, who posses the qualifications required in their countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices or are jurisconsults of recognized competence in the field of international law. The General Assembly and Security Council elect all members of the ICJ; no two judges
Only states may be parties before the ICJ. Its jurisdiction comprises all disputes referred to it by such parties and all matters provided for in treaties and conventions in force. The states who are parties to the present ICJ Statute may recognize as compulsory, and without special agreement in relation to other states accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the ICJ in all legal disputes concerning (1) the interpretation of a treaty; (2) any question of international law; (3) the existence of any fact, which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation; and (4) the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of that obligation.
The ICJ in deciding international disputes submitted to it applies (1) international conventions, (2) international custom, (3) general principles of law, and (4) the judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified jurists from the states party to such disputes (as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law). If the parties involved agree, the ICJ can decide a case on the basis of equity. According to Article 41 of the ICJ Statute, the Court may mandate provisional measures to preserve the respective rights of parties to a dispute. A request for such measures takes priority over all other cases.
Decisions of the ICJ on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
In November 1950 the General Assembly questioned the ICJ concerning the position of a state that had included reservations in its signature of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as some signatories of the Convention objected to these reservations. In its advisory opinion of May 28, 1951, the ICJ determined that even if a convention contains no specific rule on reservations, it does not follow that they are automatically prohibited. In the case of the Genocide Convention, the ICJ found that the drafters had two competing concerns: universal acceptance (which could require permitting reservations) and preserving the normative basis of the treaty (which would require rejecting crippling reservations). The ICJ announced reservations could be permitted provided they do not undermine the object and purpose of the Genocide Convention. Every state was free to decide such matters for itself, whether or not the state formulating a reservation was party to the convention. The disadvantages of such a situation could be remedied by inserting in the convention an article on the use of reservation.
In a case concerning the application of the Genocide Convention, Bosnia and Herzegovina asked the ICJ to intervene against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro; FRY) for alleged violations of the Convention. Immediately after filing its application, Bosnia and Herzegovina requested that the ICJ approve provisional measures to preserve its rights. For its part, the FRY asked for provisional measures, too. After establishing that it did, in fact, have valid or sufficient jurisdiction, on April 8, 1993, the ICJ indicated that the FRY could take certain provisional measures. It further ruled that the FRY and Bosnia and Herzegovina should not pursue any action (in fact, they must ensure that no action is taken) that might aggravate or extend the existing dispute.
On July 27, 1993, Bosnia and Herzegovina asked the ICJ to indicate additional provisional measures. The FRY petitioned the Court to reject the application for such provisional measures, claiming that the Court had no jurisdiction to authorize them. In its order dated September 13, the ICJ reaffirmed the provisional measures it had previously indicated, calling for their immediate and effective implementation.
The ICJ suspended the proceeding to address the seven preliminary objections presented by the government of the FRY concerning the admissibility of the application of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the case. The FRY claimed that (1) the events in Bosnia and Herzegovina constituted a civil war and not an international dispute according to the terms of Article IX of the Genocide Convention, (2) the authority for initiating proceedings derived from a violation of the rules of domestic law, (3) Bosnia and Herzegovina was not a party to the Genocide Convention, (4) the FRY did not exercise any jurisdiction within the region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and (5) the Convention was not operative between the parties prior to December 14, 1995, and certainly not for events that occurred before March 18, 1993. In sum, the Court lacked jurisdiction.
In its judgment rendered on July 11, 1996, the ICJ rejected the preliminary objections of the FRY, holding that all the conditions necessary for its jurisdiction had been fulfilled. The Court also noted that a legal dispute existed between the parties, and none of the provisions of Article I of the Convention limited the acts contemplated by it to those committed within the framework of a particular type of conflict. The Genocide Convention does not contain any clause, the object or effect of which is, to limit the scope of the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
On July 2, 1999, Croatia presented an application against the FRY for having violated the Genocide Convention.
With its status remaining in some respects uncertain, the FRY was admitted on November 1, 2000, to the UN. In an application submitted April 23, 2001, it asked that the ICJ revise its prior judgment, on the grounds that only with the FRY's admission to the UN was a condition laid down in Article 61 of the ICJ Statute now satisfied. Because it was not a member of the UN before November 1, 2000, Yugoslavia argued, it was not party to the Statute and therefore not a state-party to the Genocide Convention.
The ICJ ruled against the arguments of the FRY. It observed that, under the terms of Article 61, paragraph 1 of its Statute, an application for a revised judgment can be made only when it is based on the discovery of a fact unknown at the time the judgment was rendered. According to the ICJ, "A fact which occurs several years after a judgment has been given is not a 'new' fact within the meaning of Article 61." The admission of the FRY to the UN occured well after the ICJ's 1996 judgment. Thus, the ICJ in its decision of February 3, 2003, found the FRY's application for a revision inadmissible. It follows that the ICJ has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the claims of genocide.
Another important legal issue concerns nuclear weapons: Is their use, or the threat of use, under any circumstances permitted by international law? In its resolution dated December 15, 1994, the General Assembly posed this very question. In its advisory opinion, the ICJ summarized the cardinal principles of humanitarian law and declared with the smallest possible majority the following:
It follows from the above-mentioned requirements that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.
All members of the Court made declarations, with some offering separate opinions, and dissenters explaining the principles behind their votes. Such reflects the complexity of the present state of international legislation in this field.
SEE ALSO Hiroshima; International Law
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Rosenne, S. (1997). The Law and Practice of the International Court, 1920996. Vols. IV. The Hague: Nijhoff.
G. G. Herczegh