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 5: The UN Charter, the ICJ Statute, the Rules of Court and the Practice Directions

Robert Kolb

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


The rules that govern the functioning of the Court are contained in four layers of legal texts: the Charter of the UN; the Statute of the ICJ; the Rules of Court; and the Practice Directions. Each layer has its distinctive functions: the Charter sets out matters of general interest for the UN; the Statute contains the most important rules for the functioning of the Court; the Rules contain the details, especially as to procedure; and the Practice Directions, a new phenomenon, are there to give practical advice to the parties, especially with a view to resolving practical problems and generally to speed up the procedure. The Charter and the Statute are not in a hierarchical relationship, but nor do they contradict one another for the purposes of the Court. In particular, article 103 of the Charter does not refer to any such hierarchy between the Charter and the Statute. This is not simply because, contrary to what is normally understood, article 103 is not in itself a norm of legal hierarchy; it rests also on the fact that article 103 gives priority, in the event of conflict with an obligation under another treaty provision, to the obligations under the Charter. However, the Charter here includes the Statute (see article 93 UNC): the Charter and the Statute are thus placed on a footing of equality.

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