The International Court of
Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by
the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs
vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must
receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. This sometimes makes
it necessary for a number of rounds of voting to be carried out.
In order to ensure a measure of
continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years. Judges are
eligible for re-election. Should a judge die or resign during his or her
term of office, a special election is held as soon as possible to choose a
judge to fill the unexpired part of the term.
Elections are held in New York
(United States of America) on the occasion of the annual autumn session of the
General Assembly. The judges elected at a triennial election enter upon their
term of office on 6 February of the following year, after which the Court
proceeds to elect by secret ballot a President and a Vice-President to
hold office for three years.
All States parties to the Statute
of the Court have the right to propose candidates. These proposals are made
not by the government of the State concerned, but by a group consisting of the
members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (see History) designated
by that State, i.e. by the four jurists who can be called upon to serve as
members of an arbitral tribunal under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. In
the case of countries not represented on the Permanent Court of Arbitration,
nominations are made by a group constituted in the same way. Each group can
propose up to four candidates, not more than two of whom may be of its own
nationality, whilst the others may be from any country whatsoever, whether a
party to the Statute or not and whether or not it has declared that it accepts
the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ. The names of candidates must be
communicated to the Secretary-General of the United Nations within a time-limit
laid down by him/her.
Judges must be elected from among
persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in
their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or
are jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law.
The Court may not include more
than one national of the same State. Moreover, the Court as a whole must
represent the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the
In practice this principle has
found expression in the distribution of membership of the Court among the
principal regions of the globe. Today this distribution is as follows: Africa
3, Latin America and the Caribbean 2, Asia 3, Western Europe and other
States 5, Eastern Europe 2, which corresponds to that of membership of the
Security Council. Although there is no entitlement to membership on the part
of any country, the Court has always included judges of the nationality of the
permanent members of the Security Council.
Once elected, a Member of the
Court is a delegate neither of the government of his own country nor of that of
any other State. Unlike most other organs of international organizations, the
Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court
are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to
make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers
impartially and conscientiously.
In order to guarantee his or her
independence, no Member of the Court can be dismissed unless, in the unanimous
opinion of the other Members, he/she no longer fulfils the required
conditions. This has in fact never happened.
No Member of the Court may engage
in any other occupation during his/her term. He/she is not allowed to
exercise any political or administrative function, nor to act as agent, counsel
or advocate in any case. Any doubts with regard to this question are settled
by decision of the Court.
A Member of the Court, when
engaged on the business of the Court, enjoys privileges and immunities
comparable with those of the head of a diplomatic mission. In The Hague,
the President takes precedence over the doyen of the diplomatic corps, after
which precedence alternates between judges and ambassadors. Each Member of the Court receives an annual salary consisting of a base salary (which for 2010 amounts to US$166,596) and post adjustment, with a special supplementary allowance of US$15,000 for the President. The post adjustment multiplier changes every month and is dependent on the UN exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Euro. On leaving the Court, they receive annual pensions which, after a nine-year term of office, amount to 50 per cent of the annual base salary.
Although the Court is deemed to
be permanently in session, only its President is obliged to reside in The Hague.
However, the other Members of the Court are required to be permanently at its
disposal except during judicial vacations or leave of absence, or when they are
prevented from attending by illness or other serious reasons. In practice, the
majority of Court Members reside in The Hague and all will normally spend
the greater part of the year there.