International Court of Justice

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Practice Directions

The Court first adopted in October 2001 Practice Directions for use by States appearing before it.  Practice Directions involve no alteration to the Rules of Court, but are additional hereto.  They are the result of the Court's ongoing review of its working methods.  Any amendments to the Practice Directions, following their adoption by the Court, are now posted on the Court's website and published in the Court's Yearbook, with a note of any temporal reservations relating to their applicability. 


(As amended on 20 January 2009 and 21 March 2013.)

Practice Direction I

The Court wishes to discourage the practice of simultaneous deposit of pleadings in cases brought by special agreement.

The Court would expect future special agreements to contain provisions as to the number and order of pleadings, in accordance with Article 46, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Court.  Such provisions shall be without prejudice to any issue in the case, including the issue of burden of proof.

If the special agreement contains no provisions on the number and order of pleadings, the Court will expect the parties to reach agreement to that effect, in accordance with Article 46, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Court.

Practice Direction II

Each of the parties is, in drawing up its written pleadings, to bear in mind the fact that these pleadings are intended not only to reply to the submissions and arguments of the other party, but also, and above all, to present clearly the submissions and arguments of the party which is filing the proceedings. 

In the light of this, at the conclusion of the written pleadings of each party, there is to appear a short summary of its reasoning.

Practice Direction III

The parties are strongly urged to keep the written pleadings as concise as possible, in a manner compatible with the full presentation of their positions.

In view of an excessive tendency towards the proliferation and protraction of annexes to written pleadings, the parties are also urged to append to their pleadings only strictly selected documents.

Practice Direction IV

Where one of the parties has a full or partial translation of its own pleadings or of those of the other party in the other official language of the Court, these translations should as a matter of course be passed to the Registry of the Court.  The same applies to the annexes.

These translations will be examined by the Registry and communicated to the other party. The latter will also be informed of the manner in which they were prepared.

Practice Direction V

With the aim of accelerating proceedings on preliminary objections made by one party under Article 79, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Court, the time‑limit for the presentation by the other party of a written statement of its observations and submissions under Article 79, paragraph 5, shall generally not exceed four months from the date of the filing of the preliminary objections.

Practice Direction VI

The Court requires full compliance with Article 60, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Court and observation of the requisite degree of brevity in oral pleadings. In that context, the Court will find it very helpful if the parties focus in the first round of the oral proceedings on those points which have been raised by one party at the stage of written proceedings but which have not so far been adequately addressed by the other, as well as on those which each party wishes to emphasize by way of winding up its arguments. Where objections of lack of jurisdiction or of inadmissibility are being considered, oral proceedings are to be limited to statements on the objections.

Practice Direction VII*

The Court considers that it is not in the interest of the sound administration of justice that a person sit as judge ad hoc in one case who is also acting or has recently acted as agent, counsel or advocate in another case before the Court.  Accordingly, parties, when choosing a judge ad hoc pursuant to Article 31 of the Statute and Article 35 of the Rules of Court, should refrain from nominating persons who are acting as agent, counsel or advocate in another case before the Court or have acted in that capacity in the three years preceding the date of the nomination.  Furthermore, parties should likewise refrain from designating as agent, counsel or advocate in a case before the Court a person who sits as judge ad hoc in another case before the Court.

Practice Direction VIII*

The Court considers that it is not in the interest of the sound administration of justice that a person who until recently was a Member of the Court, judge ad hoc, Registrar, Deputy‑Registrar or higher official of the Court (principal legal secretary, first secretary or secretary), appear as agent, counsel or advocate in a case before the Court.  Accordingly, parties should refrain from designating as agent, counsel or advocate in a case before the Court a person who in the three years preceding the date of the designation was a Member of the Court, judge ad hoc, Registrar, Deputy‑Registrar or higher official of the Court.

Practice Direction IX

1. The parties to proceedings before the Court should refrain from submitting new documents after the closure of the written proceedings.

2. A party nevertheless desiring to submit a new document after the closure of the written proceedings, including during the oral proceedings, pursuant to Article 56, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Rules, shall explain why it considers it necessary to include the document in the case file and shall indicate the reasons preventing the production of the document at an earlier stage.

3. In the absence of consent of the other party, the Court will authorize the production of the new document only in exceptional circumstances, if it considers it necessary and if the production of the document at this stage of the proceedings appears justified to the Court.

4. If a new document has been added to the case file under Article 56 of the Rules of Court, the other party, when commenting upon it, shall confine the introduction of any further documents to what is strictly necessary and relevant to its comments on what is contained in this new document.

Practice Direction IXbis

1. Any recourse to Article 56, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, is not to be made in such a manner as to undermine the general rule that all documents in support of a party's contentions shall be annexed to its written pleadings or produced in accordance with Article 56, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Rules of Court.

2. While the Court will determine, in the context of a particular case, whether a document referred to under Article 56, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, can be considered “part of a publication readily available”, it wishes to make it clear to the parties that both of the following two criteria must be met whenever that provision is applied.

    (i)  First, the document should form “part of a publication”, i.e. should be available in the public domain.  The publication may be in any format (printed or electronic), form (physical or on‑line, such as posted on the internet) or on any data medium (on paper, on digital or any other media). 

   (ii)  Second, the requirement of a publication being “readily available” shall be assessed by reference to its accessibility to the Court as well as to the other party.  Thus the publication or its relevant parts should be accessible in either of the official languages of the Court, and it should be possible to consult the publication within a reasonably short period of time.  This means that a party wishing to make reference during the oral proceedings to a new document emanating from a publication which is not accessible in one of the official languages of the Court should produce a translation of that document into one of these languages certified as accurate.

3. In order to demonstrate that a document is part of a publication readily available in conformity with paragraph 2 above and to ensure the proper administration of the judicial process, a party when referring to the contents of a document under Article 56, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, should give the necessary reference for the rapid consultation of the document, unless the source of the publication is well known (e.g. United Nations documents, collections of international treaties, major monographs on international law, established reference works, etc.).

4. If during the oral proceedings a party objects to the reference by the other party to a document under Article 56, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, the matter shall be settled by the Court.

5. If during the oral proceedings a party refers to a document which is part of a publication readily available, the other party shall have an opportunity of commenting upon it.

Practice Direction IXter

The Court has noted the practice by the parties of preparing folders of documents for the convenience of the judges during the oral proceedings.  The Court invites parties to exercise restraint in this regard and recalls that the documents included in a judge's folder should be produced in accordance with Article 43 of the Statute or Article 56, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Rules of Court.  No other documents may be included in the folder except for any document which is part of a publication readily available in conformity with Practice Direction IXbis and under the conditions specified therein.  In addition, parties should indicate from which annex to the written pleadings or which document produced under Article 56, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Rules, the documents included in a judge's folder originate.

Practice Direction IXquater

1. Having regard to Article 56 of the Rules of Court, any party wishing to present audio-visual or photographic material at the hearings which was not previously included in the case file of the written proceedings shall submit a request to that effect sufficiently in advance of the date on which that party wishes to present that material to permit the Court to take its decision after having obtained the views of the other party.

2. The party in question shall explain in its request why it wishes to present the audio-visual or photographic material at the hearings.

3. A party¿s request to present audio-visual or photographic material must be accompanied by information as to the source of the material, the circumstances and date of its making and the extent to which it is available to the public. The party in question must also specify, wherever relevant, the geographic co-ordinates at which that material was taken.

4. The audio-visual or photographic material which the party in question is seeking to present shall be filed in the Registry in five copies. The Registrar shall communicate a copy to the other party and inform the Court accordingly.

5. It shall be for the Court to decide on the request, after considering any views expressed by the other party and taking account of any question relating to the sound administration of justice which might be raised by that request.

Practice Direction X

Whenever a decision on a procedural issue needs to be made in a case and the President deems it necessary to call a meeting of the agents to ascertain the views of the parties in this regard pursuant to Article 31 of the Rules of Court, agents are expected to attend that meeting as early as possible.

Practice Direction XI

In the oral pleadings on requests for the indication of provisional measures parties should limit themselves to what is relevant to the criteria for the indication of provisional measures as stipulated in the Statute, Rules and jurisprudence of the Court.  They should not enter into the merits of the case beyond what is strictly necessary for that purpose.

Practice Direction XII

1. Where an international non‑governmental organization submits a written statement and/or document in an advisory opinion case on its own initiative, such statement and/or document is not to be considered as part of the case file.

2. Such statements and/or documents shall be treated as publications readily available and may accordingly be referred to by States and intergovernmental organizations presenting written and oral statements in the case in the same manner as publications in the public domain.

3. Written statements and/or documents submitted by international non‑governmental organizations will be placed in a designated location in the Peace Palace.  All States as well as intergovernmental organizations presenting written or oral statements under Article 66 of the Statute will be informed as to the location where statements and/or documents submitted by international non‑governmental organizations may be consulted.

Practice Direction XIII

The reference in Article 31 of the Rules of Court to ascertaining the views of the parties with regard to questions of procedure is to be understood as follows:

After the initial meeting with the President, and in the context of any further ascertainment of the parties’ views relating to questions of procedure, the parties may, should they agree on the procedure to be followed, inform the President by letter accordingly.

The views of the parties as to the future procedure may also, should they agree, be ascertained by means of a video or telephone conference.


*Practice Directions VII and VIII do not affect a choice or designation made by the parties prior to 7 February 2002, the date of the adoption by the Court of those Directions.