International Court of Justice (ICJ) | ICC vs ICJ

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  • Context (TH): South Africa filed a case in ICJ against Israel accusing it of genocide in Palestine.
  • Also known as the World Court, the ICJ was established in June 1945 by the UN Charter and began its operations in April 1946.
  • It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations but independent of UN Secretariat.
  • Headquarters: The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. Of the 6 principal UN organs, ICJ is the only UN body not located in New York.
  • Official languages of ICJ: English and French.
  • The member states of the UN are automatic parties to the Court.
  • Non-UN member states can also become parties to the ICJ by ratifying the ICJ Statute.
  • States have no permanent representatives accredited to the court. They communicate with the Registrar through their Minister for Foreign Affairs or ambassador accredited to the Netherlands.

Composition of ICJ

  • Total number of judges: 15, elected for a term of 9 years.
  • Does not include more than one judge of any nationality to ensure broad representation.
  • The Members of the Court do not represent their governments but are independent magistrates.

Manner of Election

  • Elections are held every three years for 1/3rd of the seats (5 judges).
  • The Judges are elected by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, that vote simultaneously, but separately.
  • Polling happens through a secret ballot.
  • To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies (UNSC and UNGA).
  • Retiring judges are eligible for re-election.

Jurisdiction of ICJ

  • Contentious cases: ICJ settles legal disputes submitted to it by States as per international law (Contentious cases). Only States may be parties to contentious cases.
  • Advisory Opinions: ICJ gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized international organizations. It is open to five UN organs, specialised agencies and related organisations.

Decision making

  • Decisions made at ICJ have two components: Judgements and Advisory Opinions.
    1. Judgements: They have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned.
    2. Advisory Opinions are given on a legal question at the request of the body authorized by the UN Charter.

Limitations on Powers of ICJ

  • The ICJ has no jurisdiction to deal with applications from individuals, NGOs, corporations or any other private entity.
  • It cannot suo moto take up cases. It can only take up cases when requested by the States.
  • It does not have jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Difference between ICJ and ICC

Particulars International Court of Justice (ICJ) International Criminal Court (ICC)
Established in 1946 2002
Authority derived from States that ratify the UN Charter become parties to the ICJ Statute.

Non-UN member states can also become parties to the ICJ by ratifying the ICJ Statute.

Rome Statute (Signed by 139 countries, and 123 have ratified it.)

India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.

Relationship with UN Official Court of UN Independent

UNSC may refer cases to ICC

Headquarters The Hague, Netherlands The Hague, Netherlands
Type of Court Civil court Criminal Court
Jurisdiction UN Member States (i.e. National Governments) Individuals
Scope of Work
  • Legal disputes between parties
  • Provides advisory opinions
Criminal prosecution of individuals
Subject Matter Sovereignty, boundary disputes, maritime disputes, trade, natural resources, human rights, treaty violations, treaty interpretation, etc. Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of aggression.
Funding Funded by UN Contribution from state parties to the Rome Statute,

Voluntary contributions from the UN, governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

Nature of Judgement ICJ decision is binding on member states. ICC rulings are not binding on any state except parties.
Is India a member? Yes No
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