The International Court of Justice
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AbstractThe dispute may be settled at any stage of the proceedings or the Court will render judgment on the merits of the case. The Court deliberates in secret to facilitate unhampered and effective deliberations. Like the Supreme Court of Canada, the ICJ delivers judgment in French and English. The judgment of the ICJ, by a simple majority of judges present, is binding on the parties to the dispute only and there is no appeal. It is a part-time court. Despite the whole world having access to the ICJ (including non-members of the UN), it has rendered only 89 judgments in almost 60 years. The Supreme Court of Canada decides almost that many cases each year with nine judges. The full text of all ICJ judgments is found at http://www.icj-cij.org/icjwww/idecisions.htm The ICJ can decide a dispute ("has jurisdiction") only if the countries involved have consented to it. This consent may be manifested by making a special agreement or declaration to submit an existing dispute to the Court, or by incorporating ICJ jurisdictional clauses into international agreements. Such jurisdictional clauses (similar to arbitration clauses in private contracts) have been incorporated into hundreds of international treaties and conventions. Sixty-five countries, including Canada, have also declared their consent to the Court's compulsory jurisdiction (article 36(2) of the Statute). This means that each one of these countries can bring any other signatory states before the Court. Yet states can still limit their consent to the ICJ. Several of these states have excluded from compulsory jurisdiction all domestic legal matters. In cases where jurisdiction is not clear, the Court determines at the beginning of the case whether or not it has jurisdiction. The Spanish case against Canada in 1995 argued that the ICJ had jurisdiction as both states had accepted its compulsory jurisdiction. Canada said that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction because this was a domestic fisheries matter. Since the Court comprised neither a Spanish nor Canadian judge, each party selected a judge ad hoc to sit on the case. The Court resolved 12-5 that it had no jurisdiction to decide the dispute. Canada had declared compulsory acceptance of the ICJ's jurisdiction, but it had limited its consent with another declaration excluding the jurisdiction of the ICJ in "... disputes arising out of or concerning conservation and management measures taken by Canada with respect to vessels fishing in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Regulatory Area, ... and the enforcement of such measures."
Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow Magazine 06/28/2010.