The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice
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The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

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.
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Chapter 9: The contentious jurisdiction of the Court and admissibility of claims

Robert Kolb


When and by whom can the Court be seized? What cases can it hear and decide? According to what conditions can it hear and decide those cases? These are issues of jurisdiction and admissibility of claims. Before elaborating upon them, it is useful to emphasize the fact that a court of justice in this regard is in a very different position from that of a political body. The jurisdiction of a political body is loosely defined. The competence of the General Assembly of the United Nations is an example of this: generally, it can discuss and issue recommendations on any matter of international concern (see article 10 of the UN Charter (UNC)). The same is true for a national parliament; there is no reason to limit its power to discuss any matter which it thinks arouses public interest and its members will judge for themselves if and when this is the case. This open-endedness allows a political organ to seize any question or problem affecting society which in its eyes requires attention. There is no law to constrain the political organ in this area: the legislator is entitled to change the law and, provided any special procedures are complied with, this is true even for the constitution. For a court of justice the position is quite different. It states the rights and obligations of those subject to the law by applying the legal rules in force in a society.

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