The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice
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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.
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Chapter 11: Advisory proceedings

Robert Kolb


Advisory proceedings are something of a peculiarity for a court of justice. The power is given to certain organs of the United Nations (UN) and affiliated agencies to request legal advice from the Court on a question that arises within the scope of their activities or competencies. This legal advice is certainly authoritative, but is not binding or executory. A court of justice that not only decides cases but also gives advice is not unique in the various municipal law systems. However, it is certainly a very particular function to which a judge is not necessarily accustomed. There were essentially two reasons for instituting the system of advisory proceedings in 1920. First, the Court (at that time the PCIJ) was called upon to assist the League Council and Assembly in the context of their dispute settlement objective. The League was essentially a system for the peaceful settlement of disputes, which it was believed would naturally prevent war. Hence, in the League Covenant of 1919, the provisions relating to dispute settlement (articles 12–15) were strong, whereas the provisions on sanctions and military enforcement were weak (article 16). The organs of the League called upon to settle political disputes were the Council and the Assembly, the PCIJ or arbitration for legal disputes. It was acknowledged that a political dispute is never devoid of legal aspects, and that each legal dispute also has its political elements.

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