Seated in Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, the principal judicial organisation of the UN is the only organisation to not to have its seat in New York.
The world's highest international court is the successor of The Permanent Court of International Justice established in 1922. The court functioned from 1922-1940. It was dissolved after World War II.
The ICJ came into existence in 1946 succeeded the Permanent Court of International Justice.
The two official language of the court is English and French.
The court consists of 50 judges. They are elected for a period of nine years by the General Assembly(GA) and the UN Security Council(UNSC).
The members of the court must all be from different countries. However, they do not represent their countries. They are independent judges.
Three seats on the bench are occupied by African judges, two from Latin America and the Carribean, three from Asia, five from western Europe and the other western nations including two from eastern Europe.
Although no country is entitled to a seat, the court has always included a judge from each of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
The International Court of Justice has two important roles.
The first is to resolve contentious cases, which primarily includes disputes between states, border disputes, diplomatic protections maritime delimitation, humanitarian law, use of armed force.These contentious cases account for over 80 per cent of its work.
All UN members are entitled to bring any proceedings in front of the court. Other non-member states can also access the court subject to certain conditions.
Once the court is seized the proceedings take place in two phases. The court submits their arguments, evidence and submissions in writings. Then their representatives, lawyers deliver oral arguments before the court hearing.
The court then begins its deliberations, which is confidential. Its questions are decided by the majority of judges present. On an average, these deliberations last between 4-6 months. Each deliberation is delivered in two languages. It is reproduced in several sealed copies. One of these copies is sent to each of the states involved in the deliberations.
The judgement of the court is final and without any appeal. By accessing the court on their own will, the states assume a commitment to comply with its decision. If a state refuses to abide by a decision of the court the opposition state may seek the intervention of the Security Council. The Security Council can take a decision to give an effect of the judgement under article 94 of the charter of the UN.
The second role of the ICJ is to respond to legal questions submitted to it by General Assembly, Security Council and other UN organs or agencies. The is known as Advisory Opinions. Unlike judgement in contentious cases, the Advisory Opinions are not binding on the United Nations.
The budget of the International Court of Justice accounts for less than one per cent of the regular budget of the United Nations.
Since its establishment, the court has dealt with 161 cases. It is not a criminal court. It does not take up cases related to individuals.