ICJ: Judgment and Role

Established in 1946, The Hague, in Netherlands is the seat of the The International Court of Justice which is the foremost body of justice in the United Nations. The guiding principles of the ICJ are covered in the Statute of the Court in the United Nations Charter (Bailey 1998). The ICJ comprises of 15 permanent members (9 year tenures) duly elected by the General Assembly of the UN (Bailey 437). The member judges represent the widest possible scope of nations, cultures and legal systems of the world: “main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world.

(Article 9 of ICJ Statute)”. Additionally, there is provision for ad hoc judges who may participate fully in a case at the behest of any parties thus allowing for a possibility of 17 judges. The ICJ besides catering to the dual requirements of settling legal disputes or contentious issues filed by states; not including NGOs, committees and organizations also renders advisory opinions intended to help UN agencies in deciding complex legal issues submitted by international agencies.

Although the court has gained considerable influence since the 1980’s, controversy over compliance with the decisions of the ICJ exists. All member nations of the UN are bound to comply with the decisions of the ICJ and the Security Council is responsible for the enforcement of the ICJ’s verdict. (Malanczuk 1997). However, the problem occurs when one of the parties is a member of the Security Council or any of its closest allies. In that case the enforcement of the verdict can be vetoed. The problem also arises due to the interpretation of the issue of jurisdiction of the ICJ as laid out in the Statute.

During the course of this paper, I will carry out a detailed assessment on the implications of the ICJ’s judgment in the Nicaragua VS USA case and thereafter briefly asses the possible contribution of the ICJ in developing international law. In Apr 84, Nicaragua initiated proceedings with the ICJ, against the United States of America regarding American military and para-military action within the territory of Nicaragua against Nicaragua. Nicaragua relied upon Article 36 of the Statute and The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation signed by the Parties in 1956 to arrive at the jurisdiction of the court.

The issue of jurisdiction was contested by the US who contended that the ICJ had no jurisdiction to try the case. An application by the US  for removal of the case was rejected by the court on 10 May 84, and it further decided to resolve on priority the issue of jurisdiction of the court regarding admissibility and entertaining  the dispute  before commencing proceedings of the case. The Court deliberated on the issue of jurisdiction in October 94 and on the basis of Article 36, paragraphs 2 and 5, of the Statute; concluded on 26 November that it had jurisdiction for the case to be admissible and entertained.

The findings were contested by the US which did not agree with the definition of jurisdiction and admissibility of the Nicaraguan application. (Morisson160-166). Hence, the US claimed the right to not participate in further proceedings of the court. Thereafter, the US did not pariticpate in the proceedings of the case. Invoking Article 53 of the statute, Nicaragua urged the court to decide the case despite the respondent’s absence. The court held public hearings on the case in the second week of September 1985. While Nicaragua was well represented, The US did not appoint anyone for the hearing.

One of the Nicaraguan witnesses even testified that the CIA and its operatives were directly involved in the mining operations in Nicaraguan territorial waters (Gill 1989). Subsequent to the oral proceedings, during the course of the written proceedings, the Government of Nicaragua made the submission regarding violation of territorial integrity by the US and attacks launched in and against Nicaraguan nationals and interests. Nicaragua also asked for compensation the sum of 370,200,000 United States dollars. No submissions on the merits were presented by the United States of America.

The Court’s Ruling. In a detailed and elaborate ruling on 27 Jul 1986, the Court held that the US by supporting the Contras with material, financial and other assistance the US had violated agreement under International Law regarding: intervention in the internal affairs of another State and use of force against another state, had violated the sovereignty of another State and was guilty of interrupting peaceful maritime commerce. The Court declared that the US had to pay reparations for the damage and casualties caused to Nicaragua.