What is the ICJ and what does it do?

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter and began work in April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, which hosts its fore-runner, The International Permanent Court of Arbitration. The official languages of the Court are English and French only.

The court cannot investigate and intervene with the acts of the sovereign member states of the United Nation. The court can only hear a dispute when this is requested by member states.They thereby agree to  submit their arguments to the Court for its binding adjudrication .

The ICJ has a dual role:

  1. Contentious Cases: settling legal disputes between Member States, or between a Member State and a UN organ, after their request
  2. Advisory Proceedings: giving advisory opinions on legal matters referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies (such as the Security Council).

Are the decisions of the court binding?

The ICJ states that: “Judgments delivered by the Court (or by one of its Chambers) in disputes between Member States are binding upon the parties concerned.  Article 94 of the United Nations Charter lays down that “each Member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of [the Court] in any case to which it is a party”.

As regards advisory opinions, it is usually for the United Nations organs and specialized agencies requesting them to give effect to the ICJ, judgements and advice by whatever means are appropriate for them.

Positions at the ICJ

The President and the Vice-President: They are the chairs of the court. They apply correct procedure, direct discussions and give the members of the court the right to speak.

The Registrar: The Registrar is responsible for the recording of all proceedings, and marks pieces of evidence as moved. He/she is also responsible for bringing witnesses to court and swearing them in. In all other ways, he or she performs the duties of a judge.

The Advocates: The advocates represent parties to the dispute. With the pieces of evidence they submit, they try to persuade the judges. There are two advocate parties: the applicant and the respondent. The applicant party is the party that has brought the case to the court. It takes precedence in all aspects of the trial. It also has the burden of proof, which means that it should convince more than the half of the judges. The respondent party is the party that has agreed to have a dispute submitted by the applicant. They reply to the accusations of the applicant party, and try to refute their claims.

The Judges: The judges hear the claims of the advocates, ask many questions to comprehend the issue thoroughly and at the end, write a verdict, which is the final decision of the court to settle the dispute.

Last notes

The Members of the Court are addressed by their surnames, as “Advocate [Surname]” or “Judge [Surname]”. There is no need to use plural pronouns.

The Members of the Court must wear their gowns at all times.

Since the Court consists of fewer individuals than a normal committee, all the participants can express their ideas more fully than in other MUN fora.