In the exercise of its jurisdiction in contentious cases, the International Court of Justice has to decide, in accordance with international law, disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by States. An international legal dispute can be defined as a disagreement on a question of law or fact, a conflict, a clash of legal views or of interests.
Only States may apply to and appear before the International Court of Justice. International organizations, other collectivities and private persons are not entitled to institute proceedings before the Court.
Article 35 of the Statute defines the conditions of access for States to the Court. While paragraph 1 of that Article opens it to the State parties to the Statute, paragraph 2 is intended to regulate access to the Court by States which are not parties to the Statute. The conditions of access of such States are, subject to the special provisions contained in treaties in force at the date of the entry into force of the Statute, to be determined by the Security Council, with the proviso that in no case shall such conditions place the parties in a position of inequality before the Court.
The Court can only deal with a dispute when the States concerned have recognized its jurisdiction. No State can therefore be a party to proceedings before the Court unless it has in some manner or other consented thereto.