The International Court of Justice (ICJ) regulates disputes concerning human issues that are not related to just one country (humanitarian law and war crimes) as well as international disputes about things like borders and pollution.

The Court has two functions:

  • To settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted by States, and
  • To give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.

The Court sits in the Peace Palace, along with other institutions concerned with international law, including the Peace Palace Library. The Peace Palace Library is not a UN body.  It provides excellent research guides on a variety of international law topics.


The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.

The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).

The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

Examples of contentious cases

In contentious cases (adversarial proceedings seeking to settle a dispute), the ICJ produces a binding ruling between states that agree to submit to the ruling of the court. Only states may be parties in contentious cases. Individuals, corporations, parts of a federal state, NGOs, UN organs and self-determination groups are excluded from direct participation in cases although the Court may receive information from public international organizations.

  • A complaint by the United States in 1980 that Iran was detaining American diplomats in Tehran in violation of international law.
  • A dispute between Tunisia and Libya over the delimitation of the continental shelf between them.
  • A complaint by Iran after the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser.
  • A dispute over the course of the maritime boundary dividing the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine area.
  • A complaint by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization regarding their actions in the Kosovo War. This was denied on 15 December 2004 because of lack of jurisdiction, the FRY not being a party to the ICJ statute at the time it made the application.
  • A complaint by the Republic of Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) that Greece is, by vetoing its accession to NATO, in violation of the Interim Accord of 13 September 1995 between the two countries. The complaint was decided in favor of Macedonia on 5 December 2011.
  • A complaint by the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the DRC’s sovereignty had been violated by Uganda and that DRC had lost billions of dollars worth of resources, was decided in favor of the DRC.

Information Source:

  • www.un.org
  • wikipedia