International Court of Justice
Expected Council Action
In October, the president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Hisashi Owada (Japan), is expected to brief the Council in a private meeting. This briefing, which has been held annually since the practice was first established in 2000, normally coincides with a presentation of the annual report of the Court to the General Assembly.
Judge Owada is likely to brief on the overall activities of the ICJ and discuss the relationship between the Council and the Court. No Council decision is expected.
At press time, the ICJ annual report covering the period from August 2010 through July 2011 had yet to be released.
In November, the Council and the General Assembly will elect five judges to the Court.
Background on the ICJ
The ICJ, one of the UN’s six principal organs, is located in The Hague. All UN member states are parties to the ICJ Statute, which is an annex to the UN Charter. The Court is composed of 15 judges selected for terms of nine years in separate but simultaneous elections by the General Assembly and the Council. (Two such elections were held in 2010 to fill vacancies on the Court.)
The ICJ is the only international court of a universal character with general jurisdiction in terms of subject matter. Only states have standing to appear before it. To date, 66 states have submitted a declaration of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (acceptance of jurisdiction in advance). States may also accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction through special agreement on an ad-hoc basis. In addition, some 300 bilateral and multilateral treaties provide for the Court’s jurisdiction in resolving 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 a Court 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, and some specialised agencies, may request the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on any legal issue.
The Council has requested an advisory opinion on one occasion, on 29 July 1970, regarding the legal consequences of South Africa’s continued presence in Namibia. On 21 June 1971, the ICJ issued its advisory opinion, concluding that South Africa was under an obligation to withdraw from Namibia and that UN member states were obligated to recognise the illegality of South Africa’s presence. The Council “took note with appreciation” of the opinion and agreed with the ICJ’s legal findings in resolution 301 (1971).
Security Council Resolutions