The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (The Netherlands).

It began work in 1946, when it replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice which had functioned in the Peace Palace since 1922. It operates under its Statute, which is an integral part of the Charter of the United Nations.

The task of the Court is twofold:

  1. to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (contentious function);
  2. to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized UN organs and agencies (advisory function).

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected to nine -year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council sitting independently of each other. Judges may be re-elected. Elections are held every three years for onethird of the seats. The Members of the Court do not represent their governments but are independent magistrates. The Court is assisted by an international Secretariat (the Registry).