Quick facts about ICJ

The International Court of Justice, located at the city of The Hague in the Netherlands, was established in 1945 by the United Nations Charter as the primary judicial arm of the United Nations.

The Statute of the ICJ, containing 70 Articles, is the main document constituting and regulating the Court’s organization, competence, procedure, advisory opinions, and amendments to the Statute.

The ICJ is comprised of 15 Judges versed in International Law who serve for nine years and who are elected by the United Nations General Assembly. Nominations are made on a geographical basis to ensure global representation.

Current serving Judges come from the following countries: The United Kingdom, Jordan, China, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Brazil, United States, Japan, Germany, Slovakia, France, New Zealand, Mexico, Morocco, Russia.

There is a geographical distribution of seats which allocate two to Asia, three to Africa, two to Latin America and the Caribbean, five to Western Europe and other countries, and two to Eastern Europe. The Statute of the ICJ provides for ad hoc Judges to be appointed to sit on contentious cases before the Court, one each for the disputing parties.

The former President of the Court is Dame Rosalyn Higgins of the United Kingdom who retired one year early (October 2008) from the three year tenure of the post. A new President will be elected by the Judges of the Court in February 2009 and will serve for the remainder of the term of the retired President. Rulings of the Court are by majority decision and are binding.

The main functions of the ICJ are to settle legal disputes (Contentious Cases) submitted to it by Member States, and to give legal opinions (Advisory Opinions) on cases submitted to it by duly authorized international organizations, agencies and the United Nations General Assembly.

All 192 Member States of the UN have access to the ICJ. Some States have formally acceded to the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ in relation to other States that have similarly acceded. Those States that have not, may access the judicial procedure of the ICJ by submission of a Special Agreement or Compromis in accordance with the Statute of the Court. The Compromis specifies the issue to be adjudicated and conditions relating thereto.

Cases heard are of two types: those adjudicated in accordance with international law; and those adjudicated ex aequeo et bono (‘in justice and fairness’). No case of this latter type has been submitted for ICJ adjudication to date.

The Court has judged 140 cases, 33 of which involved territorial disputes three of which are pending.
The Court relies on the following sources of law and on precedents:

• International conventions (Treaties)
• Customary international law
• The general principles of law recognized by civilized nations
• Judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations as
subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law
Observation: “Territorial claims before the ICJ usually fall within one of the above four categories. Treaty
claims are easiest to assert, because the existence of a treaty is easier to prove than the existence of
customary international law”.

If the National Referendum approves that the dispute is referred to the ICJ, Belize would argue before the
Court that its title to and sovereignty over its territory as defined in the Belize Constitution is based on:

• Treaties 1859 and 1931
• Customary International Law
• The Right to Self Determination as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

It is the duty of all UN Members to comply with decisions of the Court involving them. If parties do not comply, the issue can be taken for action to the supreme body of the United Nations organization, the United