International courts are formed by treaties between nations or under the authority of an international organization such as the United Nations and include ad hoc tribunals and permanent institutions but exclude any courts arising purely under national authority.

What is International Court of Justice (ICJ ) ?

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).

 It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and it commenced its functions April 1946.

For India this year is very important as it was preparing to Draft its Constitution and formed Constituent Assembly  in December,1946.

The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).

Out of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America). Early examples of international courts include the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals established in the aftermath of World War II.

 Two such courts are presently located at The Hague in the Netherlands are “the International Court of Justice (ICJ)” , and “the International Criminal Court (ICC)”. Further international courts exist elsewhere, usually with their jurisdiction restricted to a particular country or issue, such as the one dealing with the genocide in Rwanda. In addition to international tribunals created to address crimes committed during genocides and civil war, ad hoc courts combining international and domestic strategies have also been established on a situational basis. Examples of these “hybrid tribunals” are found in Sierra Leone, Lebanon, East Timor, and Cambodia.

Role of ICJ:

The Court’s role is to settle legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies as per provisions of its law.

Composition of ICJ:

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

List of international courts

NameScopeYears activeSubject matter
African Court of JusticeAfrica2009–presentInterpretation of AU treaties
African Court on Human and Peoples’ RightsAfrica2006–presentHuman rights
Appellate Body of the World Trade OrganizationGlobal1995–presentTrade disputes within the WTO
Benelux Court of JusticeBenelux1975–presentTrade disputes within Benelux
Caribbean Court of JusticeCaribbean2005–presentGeneral disputes
COMESA Court of JusticeAfrica1998–presentTrade disputes within COMESA
Common Court of Justice and Arbitration of the OHADAAfrica1998–presentInterpretation of OHADA treaties and uniform laws
Court of Justice of the Andean CommunitySouth America1983–presentTrade disputes within CAN
Court of the Eurasian Economic UnionFormer USSR2015–presentEconomic disputes and interpretation of treaties within the EAEU
East African Courts of JusticeAfrica2001–presentInterpretation of EAC treaties
Eastern Carrabian Supreme CourtCaribbean1967–presentGeneral disputes
Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent StatesFormer USSR1994–presentEconomic disputes and interpretation of treaties within the CIS
ECOWAS Community Court of JusticeAfrica1996–presentInterpretation of ECOWAS treaties
European Court of Human RightsEurope1959–presentHuman rights
European Court of JusticeEurope1952–presentInterpretation of EU law
European Free Trade Association CourtEurope1994–presentInterpretation of EFTA law
European Nuclear Energy TribunalEurope1960–presentNuclear energy disputes
Inter-American Court of Human RightsAmericas1979–presentHuman rights
International Court of JusticeGlobal1945–presentGeneral disputes
International Criminal CourtGlobal2002–presentCriminal prosecutions
International Criminal Tribunal for RwandaRwanda1994−2015Criminal prosecutions
International Criminal Tribunal for the former YugoslaviaFormer Yugoslavia1993−2017Criminal prosecutions
International Military TribunalEurope1945–1946Criminal prosecutions
International Military Tribunal for the Far EastPacific1946−1948Criminal prosecutions
International Residual Mechanism for Criminal TribunalsGlobal2012−presentCriminal prosecutions
International Tribunal for the Law of the SeaGlobal1994–presentMaritime disputes
Permanent Court of International JusticeGlobal1922–1946General disputes
Residual Special Court for Sierra LeoneSierra Leone2013−presentCriminal prosecutions
SADC TribunalAfrica2005–2012Interpretation of SADC treaties
Special Court for Sierra LeoneSierra Leone2002−2013Criminal prosecutions
Special Tribunal for LebanonLebanon2009−presentCriminal prosecutions

List of hybrid tribunals

NameScopeYears activeSubject matter
Extraordinary African ChambersChad2013–presentCriminal prosecutions
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of CambodiaCambodia2006–presentCriminal prosecutions
Residual Special Court for Sierra LeoneSierra Leone2013−presentCriminal prosecutions
Special Court for Sierra LeoneSierra Leone2002–2013Criminal prosecutions
Special Panels of the Dili District CourtEast Timor2000–2006Criminal prosecutions
Special Tribunal for LebanonLebanon2009−presentCriminal prosecutions

Short Comings:

As we saw that International Courts do not have executing machinery. It does not have police hence it’s a system which is accepted and agreed by the member states. And compliance of Judgments and or Orders depend upon accountability and acceptance by the States.

With respect to India:

In past we saw that Kashmiri Pandits genocides did not get due justice. Many times we saw that Human Right Activists trying to save terrorist. Upon his execution  then UN  Secretary General on  execution of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon while emphasising that he stands against the death penalty said “We have taken note of what happened. The Secretary General stands against the death penalty and the case remains the same”.

However without prejudice one has to see that in 1993 many lost lives and many became orphan, many became widow and struggled.

NGOs :

It plays sometimes very crucial role and sometimes it becomes critical for nation to control them and their role. It was also noticed about the misuse of funds to create disturbances within the state.

Future of ICJ:

It is certainly a vital and most important body. But it needs to be more neutral and futuristic. For example its one wing of World Health Organisation miserably failed and Chief apologized publicly for their failure on Corona Virus. What is accountability in such case? None.

The system needs to be more just and equitable, not only that it must be accountable. Human Rights of civilians must get priority over terrorist and criminal.

Human Right and NGOs must be regulated by treaty or resolutions.


23rd August,2020