Chapter-Five: ICJ are Committees and Council  

Chambers and Committees

Chambers :-

The Court generally discharges its duties as a full Court (a quorum of nine judges, excluding judges ad hoc, being sufficient). But it may also form permanent temporary chambers.

High Court three types of chamber:

the Chamber of Summary Procedure, comprising five judges, including the President and Vice-President, and two substitutes, which the Court is required by Article 29 of the Statute to form annually with a view to the speedy dispatch of business;

  • any chamber, comprising at least three judges, that the Court may form pursuant
    to Article 26, paragraph 1, of the Statute to deal with certain categories of cases, such as labor or communications;
  • any chamber that the Court may form pursuant to Article 26, paragraph 2, of the Statute to deal with a particular case, after formally  consulting the parties regarding the number of its members – and informally regarding their name- who will then sit in ail phases of the case until its final conclusion, even if in the meantime they cease to be Members of the Court.

In the Chamber’s 13 years of existence, however, no State ever requested that a case be dealt with by it. The Court consequently dceided in 2006 not to hold elections for a Bench for the said Chamber.

Despite the advantages that chambers can offer in certain cases, under the terms of the Statute their use remains exceptional. Their formation requires the consent of the parties. While, to date, no case has been heard by either of the first two types of chamber, by contrast there have been six cases dealt with by ad hoc chambers.

Chamber of Summary Procedure

The current composition of this Chamber which, at the request of the parties, may hear and determine cases by summary procedure is as follows:



  • Hisashi Ovvada
  • Vice-President
  • Peter Tomka
  • Judges
  • Abdul G. Koroma
  • Bruno Simma Substitute members:
  • Judges
  • Bernardo Sepulveda-Amor
  • Leonid Skotnikov

Rules Committee

In 1979, the Court established a standing Rules Committee. This committee advises the Court on procedural issues and working methods.

The present composition of the Committee is as follows:


Awn Shawkal Al-Khasawnch

Ronny Abraham

Kenneth Keith

Leonid Skotnikov

Antonio A. Cancado Trindade

Christopher Greenwood

Judges ad hoc

Under Article 3 1, paragraphs 2 and 3, of the Statute of the Court, a State party to a case before the International Court of Justice which does not have ajudge of its nationality on the Bench may choose a person to sit as judge ad hoc in that specific case under the conditions laid down in Articles 35 to 37 of the Rules of Court.

A judge ad hoc takes part in any decision concerning the case on terms of complete equality with his/her colleagues and receives a fee for every day on which he/she discharges his/her duties, that is to say, every day spent in The Hague in order to take part in the Court’s work, plus each day devoted to consideration of the case outside The 1 lague.

It follows from the foregoing that the composition of the International Court of Justice will vary from one case to another and that the number of judges sitting in a given case will not necessarily be 15. There may be fewer, where one or more elected judges do not sit, or as many as 16 or 17 where there are judges ad hoc; in theory there may even be more than 17 judges on the Bench if there are several parties to a case who are not in the same interest. The composition of the Court may also sometimes vary from one phase of a case to another: in other words, the composition need not necessarily be the same with respect to provisional measures, preliminary objections and the merits. Nevertheless, once the Court has been finally constituted for a given phase of a case, i.e., from the opening of the oral proceedings on that phase until the delivery of judgment with respect thereto, its composition will not change.

The right of an elected judge having the nationality of one of the parties in a case to sit in the case has not been seriously questioned by legal scholars. It is clear simply from the result of the votes taken by the Court and from the separate and dissenting opinions submitted that such judges have often voted in disaccord with the submissions of their own country. on the role of the Court, “that the institution, which was a survival of the old arbitral procedures, was justified only by the novel character of the international judicial jurisdiction and would no doubt disappear as such jurisdiction became more firmly established”. Nevertheless, numerous writers take the view that it is useful for the Court to have participating in its deliberations a person more familiar with the views of one of the parties than the elected judges may sometimes be.

How the Court works

The Court may entertain two types of cases: legal disputes between States submitted to it bv them (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies (advisory proceedings). 

Contentious cases

Only Suucs (States Members of the United Nations and other States which have become parties lo the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions) may be parties to contentious cases.

The Court is competent to entertain a dispute only if the States concerned have accepted its jurisdiction in one or more of the following ways;

  • by entering into a special agreement to submit the dispute to the Court;
  • by virtue of a jurisdictional clause, i.e., typically, when they are parties to a treaty containing a provision whereby, in the event of a dispute of a given type or disagreement over the interpretation or application of the treaty, one of them may refer the dispute to the Court; through the reciprocal effect of declarations made by them under the Statute whereby each has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory in the event of a dispute with another State having made a similar declaration. A number of these declarations, which must be deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General, contain reservations excluding certain categories of dispute.

States have no permanent representatives accredited to the Court. They normally communicate with the Registrar through the medium of their Minister for Foreign Affairs or their ambassador accredited to the Netherlands, Where they are parties to a case before the Court they are represented by an agent. In general, whenever a formal act is to be done by the government represented, it is done by the agent. Agents are sometimes assisted by co-agents, deputy agents or assistant agents and always have counsel or advocates, whose work they co-ordinate, to assist them in the preparation of pleadings and delivery of oral argument. Since there is no special International Court of Justice Bar, there are no conditions that nave to fulfilled for counsel or advocates to enjoy the right of arguing before it except only that they must have been appointed by a government to do so.

Proceedings may be instituted in one of two ways:

Through the notification of a special agreement:

this document, which is of  bilateral nature, can be lodged with the Court by either of the States parties to proceedings or by both of them. A special agreement must indicate the subject the dispute and the parties thereto. Since there is neither an “applicant” State nor a “respondent” State, in the Court’s publications their names are separated by an oblique stroke at the end of the official title of the case, e.g., Benin/Niger; by means of an application: the application, which is of a unilateral nature, is submitted by an applicant State against a respondent State, It is intended for communication to the latter Stale and the Rules of Court contain stricter requirements with respect to its content. At the end of the official title of the case the names of the two parties are separated by the abbreviation “v. ” (For the Latin versus), e.g., Nicaragua v. Colombia.

The date of the institution of proceedings, which is that of the receipt by the Registrar of the special agreement or application, marks the opening of proceedings before the Court. Contentious proceedings include a written phase, in which the parties file and exchange pleadings containing a detailed statement of the points of fact and of law on which each party relies, and an oral phase consisting of public hearings at which agents and counsel address the Court.

By signing the Charter, a State Member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with any decision of the Court in a case to which it is a party. Since, furthermore, a case can only be submitted to the Court and decided by it if the parties have in one way or another consented to its jurisdiction over the case; it is rare for a decision not to be implemented. A State which contends that the other side has failed to perform the obligations. Court may lay the matter before the Security Council, which is empowered to recommend or decide upon the measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment.

The Court discharges its duties as a full court but, at the request of the parties, it may also establish ad hoc chambers to examine specific eases. A Chamber of Summary Procedure is elected every year by the Court in accordance with its Statute.

The Registry

The Registry is the permanent administrative organ of the Court. It is accountable to the Court alone. It is headed by a Registrar, assisted by

The -Registrar.

Those officials take an oath of loyalty and discretion on entering upon their duties. In general they enjoy the same privileges and immunities _as members of diplomatic missions at The Hague of comparable rank. They are subject to Staff Regulations, which are virtually identical with the United Nations, Staff Regulations, and to Instructions for the Registry. Their conditions of employment, alaries and pension rights correspond to Ihosfe of United equivalent category and grade; the costs are borne by the United Nations.

The Registrar

The Conn appoints its Registrar from among candidates proposed by Members of the Court, lie is elected for a term of seven years and may be re-elected. The Court also appoints a Deputy-Registrar to assist him, under the same conditions and in the same way as the Registrar.

The Deputy-Registrar assists the Registrar and acts as Registrar in the latter’s absence. has recently been entrusted with wider administrative responsibilities, including direct supervision  Archives, IT and General Assistance Divisions.

The present Registrar is Mr, Philippe Couvreur. of Belgian nationality, \vh6 was elected on 10 February 2000 for a term of seven years and who was re-elected on 8 February 2007 for a new term of seven years. The present Deputy-Registrar is Ms. Therese de Saint Phalle. of American and French nationality, who was elected on 9 October 2007 for a term of seven years as from 19 February 2008 .


The Court has a twofold role: to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (Contentious cases ) and to give advisory” opinions (Advisory proceedings’) on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

In Contentious proceedings, when a dispute is brought before the Court by a unilateral application filed by one State against another State, the names of parties in the official title of the case are separated by the abbreviation v. for the Latin versus (e.g., Cameroonv. Nigeria). When a dispute is submitted to the Court on the basis of a special agreement between two States, the names of the parties are separated by an oblique stroke (e.g., ndonesia/Mala he first case entered in the General List of the Court (Corfu Channel (United Kingdom v. Albania}} was submitted on 22 May 1947.

List of Advisory Proceedings referred to the Court since 1946 by date of introduction List of Advisory Proceedings 2010

Judgment No.2867 of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization upon a Complaint Filed against the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Request for Advisory Opinion) 2008

Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo (Request for Advisory Opinion) 2003

Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territor 1998

Legality of the Use by a State of Nuclear Weapons in Armed Conflict 1989

Applicability of Article VI, Section 22, of the Convention on the Privileges and

Immunities of the United Nations 1988

Applicability of the Obligation to Arbitrate under Section 21 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement of 26 June 1947

Application for Review of Judgment No, 273 of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal 1980

interpretation of (he Agreement Of 25 March 1951 between the WHO and Egypt 1974

Western Sahara 1972

Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276


Constitution of the Maritime Safety Committee of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization 1955

Admissibility of Hearings of Petitioners by the Committee on South West

Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime Genocide 1949

Reparation for Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations 1947

Conditions of Admission of a State to Membership in the United Nations (Article 4 of the Charter)

Basic Documents

The International Court of Justice was established by the Charter of the United Nations, which provides that aii Member states of the United Nations are ipsofaoio parties to the Court’s Statute. The composition and functioning of the Court are organized by this Statute, and by the Rules of the Court which are drawn up by the Court itself.

Since October 2001, the Court has also issued Practice Directions for use by States appearing before it.