India has abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on a resolution that asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s “prolonged occupation” and annexation of the Palestinian territory.

 

What is the resolution?

  • The draft resolution “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” was adopted with 87 votes in favour, 26 against and 53 abstentions, including by India.
  • The resolution decided to request the ICJ to “render an advisory opinion” on “what are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory that was occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”
  • It also asked the Assembly “how do the policies and practices of Israel… affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?
  • The U.S. and Israel voted against the resolution while Brazil, Japan, Myanmar and France were among those that abstained.

 

About the ‘International Court of Justice’

  • The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The court is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was brought into being through, and by, the League of Nations, and which held its inaugural sitting at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, in February 1922.
  • The first case, which was brought by the UK against Albania and concerned incidents in the Corfu channel — the narrow strait of the Ionian Sea between the Greek island of Corfu and Albania on the European mainland — was submitted in May 1947.

 

Seat and role

  • The ICJ is based at the Peace Palace in The Hague. It is the only one of the six principal organs of the UN that is not located in New York City. (The other five organs are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the Secretariat.)
  • According to the ICJ’s own description, its role is “to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorised United Nations organs and specialised agencies”. The court “as a whole must represent the main forms of civilisation and the principal legal systems of the world”.
  • The judges of the court are assisted by a Registry, the administrative organ of the ICJ. English and French are the ICJ’s official languages.
  • All members of the UN are automatically parties to the ICJ statute, but this does not automatically give the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes involving them. The ICJ gets jurisdiction only if both parties consent to it.
  • The judgment of the ICJ is final and technically binding on the parties to a case. There is no provision of appeal; it can at the most, be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision.
  • However, the ICJ has no way to ensure compliance of its orders, and its authority is derived from the willingness of countries to abide by them.

 

Judges of the court

  • The ICJ has 15 judges who are elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, which vote simultaneously but separately.
  • To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes in both bodies, a requirement that sometimes necessitates multiple rounds of voting. Elections are held at the UNHQ in New York during the annual UNGA meeting.
  • A third of the court is elected every three years. The judges elected at the triennial election commence their term of office on February 6 of the following year. The president and vice-president of the court are elected for three-year terms by secret ballot. Judges are eligible for re-election.