IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

What’s up with the ICJ?

I’ve written a bit about some of the major U.N. bodies, but I have not yet talked about the International Court of Justice. Many are surprised to learn that the ICJ exists, and others are surprised that it seems to play such a limited role in our conflict-ridden world.  In fact, the ICJ has rather specific functions as explained in this Wikipedia article:

“The International Court of Justice (known colloquially as the World Court or ICJ; French: Cour internationale de Justice) is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. Its main functions are to settle legal disputes submitted to it by member states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international organs, agencies and the UN General Assembly. The ICJ should not be confused with the International Criminal Court, which also potentially has “global” jurisdiction.”

The article explains in detail what the Court can and can’t do.  The basic “problem”, if you will, is that the Court has very limited jurisdiction.  The parties (states) to a conflict, have to agree (in most instances) to submit the case to the ICJ, and they can even withdraw from a case being considered, if they think the case is going against them.  It is possible for a state to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court in regard to many issues, but few states have done this.  In fact, what many have done is accept this jurisdiction but then submit a list of exceptions which tends to be very broad.  Another issue, is that the ICJ is an institution of International Law understood as the law among states:  individuals and organizations cannot bring cases to the court.  The article cited above provides a list of the most common criticisms of the Court.

I think the ICJ reflects where humanity is in regard to many issues of peace and world order.  The need for a world court has been recognized, but the steps taken so far have been limited and, therefore, ineffective in many areas.  Still, the Court exists and if/when states begin to realize that lasting peace requires more effective global institutions with broader jurisdiction, it can become more central to the resolution of conflicts among states and peoples.


December 29, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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