The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN) (International Court of Justice, 2008). It is also referred to as the “World Court” and has a dual jurisdiction. The first is the jurisdiction in contentious cases which is to decide, in accordance with international law, disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by the member states. The second is the advisory jurisdiction which is to give advisory opinions on legal questions at the request of the organs of United Nations (UN) or specialized agencies authorized to make such a request (International Court of Justice, 2008).
Like any other international organ, the function of the International Court of Justice is affected by many factors. One of which is the tension that may arise between member states involved in a particular case. For example, in a case that involves territorial jurisdiction, tension between the two or many member states having a legal claim over a particular area may create tension between states. This tension can affect the functioning of the International Court of Justice in a way that it may review first the legal basis or the laws that gives the state a legal jurisdiction over a disputed area.
The tension will result in the delay of resolution of the case because the International Court of Justice will have to decide on the case after the member states have settled their differences. Tension can also affect the functioning of the International Court of Justice where one or some members of the magistrate is a citizen of the state or states involved. In such a case, the affected judge has to inhibit herself or himself so that the judgment will not be tainted by any unfairness or any controversy.
If the judge does not inhibit herself or himself, the court's decision may be questioned by the losing state as it may claim that the judgment is tainted with personal interest. It is more difficult if the case requires an en banc decision which means that it has to be decided by all the judges.
International Court of Justice. 2008. International Court of Justice: The Court. Retrieved April 21 2008 from http://www.icj-cij.org/court/index.php?p1=1