The primary United Nations organ for the settlement of disputes is theInternational Court of Justice. Also known as the World Court, it was founded in 1946. Since its founding, the Court has considered over 160 cases, issued numerous judgments on disputes brought to it by states and issued advisory opinions in response to requests by UN organizations. Most cases have been dealt with by the full Court, but since 1981 six cases have been referred to special chambers at the request of the parties.
In its judgments, the Court has addressed international disputes involving economic rights, rights of passage, the non-use of force, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, diplomatic relations, hostage-taking, the right of asylum and nationality. States bring such disputes before the Court in search of an impartial solution to their differences on the basis of law. By achieving peaceful settlement on such questions as land frontiers, maritime boundaries and territorial sovereignty, the Court has often helped to prevent the escalation of disputes.
The idea of a permanent international court to prosecute crimes against humanity was first considered at the United Nations in the context of the adoption of the Genocide Convention of 1948. For many years, differences of opinions forestalled further developments. In 1992, the General Assembly directed the International Law Commission to prepare a draft statute for such a court. The massacres in Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda made the need for it even more urgent.
The International Criminal Court (ICC)has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It will also have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression when agreement is reached on the definition of such a crime. The ICC is legally and functionally independent from the United Nations, and is not a part of the UN system.
The cooperation between the UN and the ICC is governed by a Negotiated Relationship Agreement. The Security Council can initiate proceedings before the ICC, and can refer to the ICC situations that would not otherwise fall under the Court’s jurisdiction. The Court has 18 judges, elected by the states parties for a term limited to nine years, except that a judge shall remain in office to complete any trial or appeal which has already begun. No two judges can be from the same country.