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International Court of Justice in The Hague

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, the Netherlands. Its main functions are to settle legal disputes submitted to it by states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international organs, agencies, and the UN General Assembly.

Activities
Peace Palace, seat of the ICJEstablished 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.

The Court's workload covers a wide range of judicial activity. To date, the ICJ has dealt with relatively few cases. However, since the 1980s there has been a clear increase in willingness to use the Court, especially among developing countries. After the court ruled that the U.S.'s covert war against Nicaragua was in violation of international law (Nicaragua v. United States), the United States withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986. The United States accepts the court's jurisdiction only on a case-by-case basis. Chapter XIV of the United Nations Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to enforce World Court rulings. However, such enforcement is subject to the veto power of the five permanent members of the Council, which the United States used in the Nicaragua case.

Composition
The ICJ is composed of fifteen judges elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council from a list of persons nominated by the national groups in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The election process is set out in Articles 4–19 of the ICJ statute. Elections are staggered with five judges elected every three years, in order to ensure continuity within the court.

Public hearing at the ICJ. International Court of JusticeShould a judge die in office, the practice has generally been to elect a judge of the same nationality to complete the term. No two may be nationals of the same country. According to Article 9, the membership of the Court is supposed to represent the "main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world". Essentially, this has meant common law, civil law and socialist law (now post-communist law). Since its creation, four of the five permanent members of the Security Council (France, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have always had a judge on the Court. The exception was China (the Republic of China until 1971, the People's Republic of China from 1971 onwards), which did not have a judge on the Court from 1967–1985, because it did not put forward a candidate. The rule on a geopolitical composition of the bench exists despite the fact that there is no provision for it in the Statute of the ICJ.

Article 6 of the Statute provides that all judges should be "elected regardless of their nationality among persons of high moral character", who are either qualified for the highest judicial office in their home states or known as lawyers with sufficient competence in international law. Judicial independence is dealt with specifically in Articles 16–18. Judges of the ICJ are not able to hold any other post, nor act as counsel. In practice the Members of the Court have their own interpretation of these rules. This allows them to be involved in outside arbitration and hold professional posts as long as there is no conflict of interest. A judge can be dismissed only by a unanimous vote of other members of the Court. Despite these provisions, the independence of ICJ judges has been questioned. For example, during the Nicaragua Case, the USA issued a communiqué suggesting that it could not present sensitive material to the Court because of the presence of judges from Eastern bloc states.

Judges may deliver joint judgments or give their own separate opinions. Decisions and Advisory Opinions are by majority and, in the event of an equal division, the President's vote becomes decisive. Judges may also deliver separate dissenting opinions.

Examples of contentious cases

*   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 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 due to lack of jurisdiction, because the FRY was not 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 their accession to NATO, in violation of the Interim Accord of 13 September 1995 between the two countries, was decided in favor of Macedonia on 5 December 2011.

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