The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

Elgar Companions to International Courts and Tribunals series

Robert Kolb

The first in a series of Companions that offer broad coverage of a range of international courts and tribunals, The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice is a one-stop reference for those wishing to understand this highly significant and successful court.

Chapter 3: The institutional background to the Court

Robert Kolb

Subjects: law - academic, public international law, politics and public policy, international politics


The Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) was a creation of the League of Nations and was financed by it, but it had an institutionally independent standing and was not an organ of that institution. This state of affairs was based on the conviction, in 1920, that a judicial body should be completely independent from the political organs of the League. The PCIJ was seen as a natural prolongation of the efforts of The Hague towards arbitration, which had been taking place since 1899, and the Court was intentionally located in this town to be symbolically as well as physically detached from Geneva. However, its ties to the League were in fact strong. The PCIJ was frequently called upon by the Council or the Assembly of the League to deliver advisory opinions. In a series of contentious cases (disputes between states) it was called upon to decide on issues arising out of the closure of the First World War, issues which at the same time were pending before some organs of the League. Moreover, during the Second World War years, the President of the PCIJ worked closely with the remaining organs of the League in order to maintain its asset base (for example, its archives and expertise) unaltered so that it could be revived immediately after the close of hostilities. In 1945, the choice of how to construct the Court institutionally was completely different from that of 1920.

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