Facts on International Court of Justice (or World Court)

Headquarters: The Hague, Netherlands. Origin: Created in 1945 at the San Francisco conference as an integral part of the United Nations Charter. Direct descendant of the Permanent Court of International Justice, created in 1920 under the Covenant of the League of Nations. Jurisdiction: Jurisdiction in a contentious case depends upon the consent of the disputing states. In other words, states are not required to submit disputes to the court. But those that do may also agree to compulsory arbitration on matters relating to (1) interpretation of treaties; (2) questions of international law; (3) breaches of international obligations; (4) the nature and extent of reparations to be made for such breaches. Structure: 15 judges elected to renewable nine-year terms by separate votes of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. No two judges may be nationals of the same state. If there are no judges of their nationality on the court, parties to a case may choose an additional ad hoc or national judge to sit on that case. (Nicaragua has chosen a French judge to join the court in its present dispute with the US.) Procedure: Litigants present oral and written arguments to the court. In deciding cases, the ICJ applies international conventions; international customs generally accepted as law, general principles of law recognized by nations; judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified experts of various nations; the equitable doctrine (''according to what is fair and good''). Key decisions: These include territorial disputes, law of the sea, treaty interpretation and diplomatic protection, and advisory opinions. Among them: Corfu Channel (United Kingdom-Albania 1949); International status of West Africa (1950); expenses of UN operation in the Congo (1962); North Sea Continental Shelf (Denmark, Netherlands, Federal Republic of Germany 1969); legal consequences for states of the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia ( 1975); US hostages in Iran (1979); Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank fishing dispute (US, Canada 1984). Other: Taslim Olawale Elias is president of the court. He was recently reelected to a three-year term, starting February 1985. Ni Zhengyu, the first representative of the Peking government, was recently elected to the court and will take his seat early next year. The present US representative is Stephen M. Schwebel who was elected in 1981. Judge Schwebel previously served as a legal adviser to the State Department. An expert in international law, he helped argue the case that led to condemnation of Iran's seizure of American hostages.

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