The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is an international organization that functions as the judicial branch of the United Nations. It is sometimes called the World Court. The ICJ was established in 1945 and has its headquarters at The Hague, Netherlands. ICJ generally discharges its duties as a full Court.
The ICJ is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. A State party to a case before the ICJ that does not have a judge of its nationality on the Bench may choose a person to sit as judge ad hoc in that specific case. Ad hoc means “for the special purpose or end presently under consideration.” In such cases, a party must announce its intention to choose a judge ad hoc. The nationality of an ad hoc judge may not have the nationality of the designating State. However, parties, which are actually acting in the same interest, are restricted to a single judge ad hoc between them.
The composition of the International Court of Justice will vary from one case to another and even from one phase to another. Nevertheless, once the Court has been finally constituted for a given phase of a case, i.e., from the opening of the oral proceedings on that phase until the delivery of judgment with respect thereto, its composition will not change.
Legal scholars rarely question a party to the dispute being represented by an elected judge having the same nationality of the party. This may be because such judges have often voted in disaccord with the submissions of their own country. The institution of the judge ad hoc, on the other hand, has not received unanimous support. Nevertheless, a general view is that it is useful for the Court to have participating in its deliberations a person more familiar with the views of one of the parties than the elected judges may sometimes be.