International Court of Justice
Expected Council Action
The president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Hisashi Owada of Japan is expected to brief the Council in October. This briefing, which has been held annually since the practice was first established in 2000, normally coincides with the president’s presentation of the Court’s annual report to the General Assembly. (The president is invited to brief the Council under rule 39 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure, which allows the Council to invite a person to provide it with information.)
The briefing normally takes place in a closed meeting and no Council decision is expected. It will be Judge Owada’s first appearance before the Council since succeeding Rosalyn Higgins of the UK on 6 February. He is expected to give a presentation on the overall activities of the ICJ and discuss the relationship between the Council and the Court.
At press time the ICJ annual report covering the period from August 2008 through July 2009 had yet to be released.
Background on the ICJ
The ICJ is one of the UN’s six principal organs. All UN member states are parties to the ICJ Statute, which is an annex to the UN Charter. The ICJ is the only international court of a universal character with general jurisdiction. The Court is composed of 15 judges, elected for terms of office of nine years in separate but simultaneous elections by the General Assembly and the Council. (For more details on the elections, please refer to our November 2008 Forecast.)
As of September, 66 of the 192 states parties to the ICJ Statute had submitted to the Secretary-General a declaration of acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction. States that have not done so may also consent to take a dispute between them to the ICJ through special agreement. In addition, some 300 bilateral and multilateral treaties provide for ICJ jurisdiction in the resolution of disputes arising out of the treaties’ application.
The ICJ and the Council have an important nexus established by the Charter. In the event that a state fails to abide by an ICJ decision, the other party may have recourse to the Council. Under the Charter, the Council may then make recommendations or decide upon measures to give effect to the ICJ’s decision.
The ICJ also exercises advisory jurisdiction through a procedure allowing intergovernmental organisations to request advisory opinions. The Council or the General Assembly may request the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on any legal issue. The General Assembly may also authorise other UN organs or agencies to request advisory opinions from the ICJ.
The most recent advisory case, which is still pending, was the General Assembly’s request in a resolution adopted in October 2008 for an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence of 17 February 2008. The opinion is expected sometime in 2010.
Selected General Assembly Documents
Selected General Assembly Resolution