International Court of Justice

International Court of Justice

News: Recently, The International Court of Justice (ICJ) commenced hearing South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

What is the case before the ICJ?
• South Africa brought a case against Israel to the ICJ, under the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention.
• South Africa argued that Israel, in its ongoing Gaza assault, has transgressed from the provisions of Article 2 of the Convention. This article defines the term “genocide” to mean “acts committed with intent to destroy, wholly or partly, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group”.
• The ICJ will eventually decide whether Israel is committing genocide or not — this may take years. But first, it will decide whether it has jurisdiction on this matter and whether the alleged acts fall under the 1948 Convention.
• South Africa has also sought interim relief for the Palestinians and asked the ICJ to order Israel to immediately suspend all military operations in Gaza, as an interim measure. The court is likely to rule on this in a matter of weeks.
• While the court’s rulings are legally binding, it has no way to enforce them. But, its opinions carry weight with the UN and other international institutions.

About ICJ:
• The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN), established to settle legal disputes between states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by UN organs and specialized agencies.
• The ICJ was established in 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations. It is one of the six principal organs of the UN.
• The Court is composed of 15 judges, each elected for a nine-year term by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council. Judges may be re-elected.
• The ICJ is headquartered at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.

What is ICJ’s Jurisdiction?
• Contentious Cases: States can bring disputes before the ICJ. The Court\'s decisions are binding and without appeal. Both parties must agree to the ICJ\'s jurisdiction.
• Advisory Opinions: The ICJ can provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by UN organs and specialized agencies. These opinions are non-binding but carry significant legal weight.

What are concerns with ICJ?
• ICJ decisions are legally binding, but they lack enforcement mechanism.
• Enforcement often falls victim to the politics of UNSC’s permanent members, as seen in potential vetoes by the US, Israel’s strong ally.
• Powerful states may refuse to participate in ICJ proceedings, making compliance difficult. For instance, Russia declined to submit to the court’s jurisdiction during Ukraine-Russia conflict hearings.
• The ICJ’s slow bureaucratic process leads to years-long trials and judgments, making justice delayed justice denied.

Why ICJ matters?
• The ICJ now handles diverse international law areas, including human rights and environmental violations, furthering the participation of states through dispute settlement clauses.
• The court’s rulings on reparations, such as Uganda’s payment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, demonstrate its impact.
• The ICJ’s advisory opinions contribute to peaceful conflict resolution, as seen in its opinions on nuclear weapons and the Israeli-Palestinian wall.
• Despite the emergence of new international courts and tribunals, the ICJ maintains a unique place in international judicial adjudication.
• It the Guardian of world order and is seen as last resort when all options have dried up. 

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