ICJ: International Court of Justice


Committee Overview:

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was created by the United Nations (UN) Charter in June 1945 as the UN’s principal judicial organ. The ICJ is currently located at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. The primary intent of the ICJ is to settle international legal disputes between states and to give advisory opinions to the other organs of the UN. Created right after the conclusion of the International Military Tribunal (the Nuremberg Trials) and the International Military Tribunal of the Far East (the Tokyo Trials), the ICJ was created at a time of rising interest and faith in international courts. The ICJ is comprised of fifteen judges serving nine-year terms, rotating five seats every three years. Judges of the Court are elected by an absolute majority in both the General Assembly and the Security Council (SC). Members of the Court may not hold any other position in any capacity, be it legal counsel or advisory, outside of the Court during their term. Members are eligible for re-election and every three years, the President and Vice-President of the Court are elected by secret ballot. The President’s roles include breaking tied votes, attending every session of the ICJ, and residing in The Hague while receiving monetary compensation to do so. Furthermore, parties who are of the same interest and privy to a case that does not have a judge of its nationality on the Court may request an ad-hoc judge. For example, in a two-party case in which both parties are of separate interest and do not have judges sitting on the Court, the parties may request two ad-hoc judges for a grand total of seventeen judges.

Topic A: Palestine v. United States of America

In late 2017, the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declared that the American embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In May 2018, this relocation was complete. The United States has been known to be a “broker” of peace between Israel and Palestine, but this status has now been questioned by the international community in light of this move. Jerusalem is under the de facto jurisdiction of Israel, but it is still a focal point of dispute with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Placing the United States embassy in Jerusalem provides graphic evidence of the USA’s support of Israel’s claims of sovereignty. In 2018, Palestine instituted proceedings against the USA, claiming that relocating the embassy violated international law. The focus point of Palestine’s claim is the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which has been signed and ratified by both the United States and Palestine. The United States, however, does not believe that the Vienna Convention may be applied, as the United States does not recognize Palestine as a state. The court will need to decide how to justly enforce the Vienna Convention and what it means for a state to decline to recognize another.

Topic B: Cyprus v. United Kingdom

Located in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been at the crossroads of trade and conquest for centuries. Cyprus was once held by the Ottoman Empire but was leased to the United Kingdom in the Cyprus Convention of 1878, becoming a colony of the British. In 1960, the Republic of Cyprus was established by the Nicosia Treaty. Except for two British military bases, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, the island was under Cypriot rule. At that moment, it seemed a fair exchange for Cypriot sovereignty over the majority of the island. British military bases remained undisputed for decades, even as Cyprus endured a painful civil war, but the current government of Cyprus is eager to reclaim the British military bases. The recent ICJ decision between Mauritius and the United Kingdom suggested a new means for restoring the Akrotiri and Dhekelia bases to Cyprus. On February 25, 2019, the Court ruled that the decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed, urging the United Kingdom to give up their claim to land in the Chagos Islands. This ruling has encouraged Cyprus to seek full independence from the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, wants to keep two military bases that have historically and strategically proven to be vital in international conflicts and the country’s activities in the Middle East. The Court will need to rule on what constitutes decolonization in these cases and whether or not the case regarding the Chagos Islands constitutes a precedent for Cyprus.