International Court of Justice

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The International Court of Justice (French: Cour internationale de justice; commonly referred to as the World Court or ICJ) 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 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 potentially also has global jurisdiction.



Established in 1945 by the UN Charter, the Court began work in 1946 as the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Statute of the International Court of Justice, similar to that of its predecessor, is the main constitutional document constituting and regulating the Court.[1]

The Court's workload covers a wide range of judicial activity. The ICJ has dealt with relatively few cases in its history, but there has clearly been an increased willingness to use the Court since the 1980s, especially among developing countries. The United States withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986, after the court ruled that its covert war against Nicaragua was in violation of international law. The US now only accepts the court's jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis[2]. Chapter XIV of the United Nations Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to enforce World Court rulings, but such enforcement is subject to the veto power of the five permanent members of the Council. Presently there are twelve cases on the World Court's docket.

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