This virtual tour of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) leads the viewers through the rooms of the Peace Palace used by the judges in carrying out their judicial functions.
What is the International Court of Justice?
The Court is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter, which was signed in 1945 in San Francisco (United States), and began work in 1946 in the Peace Palace, The Hague (Netherlands).
The Court, which is composed of 15 judges, has a twofold role: first, to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes between States submitted to it by them and, second, to give advisory opinions on legal matters referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
The Court’s official languages are English and French.
Who may submit cases to the Court? Only States are eligible to appear before the Court in contentious cases. The Court has no jurisdiction to deal with applications from individuals, non-governmental organizations, corporations or any other private entity. It cannot provide them with legal advice or help them in their dealings with national authorities. However, a State may take up the case of one of its nationals and invoke against another State the wrongs which its national claims to have suffered at the hands of the latter; the dispute then becomes one between States.
What differentiates the International Court of Justice from the International Criminal Court and the ad hoc international criminal tribunals?
The International Court of Justice has no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. As it is not a criminal court, it does not have a prosecutor able to initiate proceedings. This task is the preserve of national courts, the ad hoc criminal tribunals established by the United Nations (such as the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), mandated to take over residual functions from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)) or in co-operation with it (such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon), and also of the International Criminal Court, set up under the Rome Statute.