1. ICJ: Structure Functions
  2. Marshal Islands case against India @ICJ
  3. Marshall Island’s Arguments:
  4. What next for nuclear states?

ICJ Structure Functions

Mock Q. Write a note on the structure and functions of ICJ. Why has Marshall Islands filled a case against India in ICJ? (200 words)


  1. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the main judicial organ of the United Nations.
  2. Setup under UN Charter of 1945.
  3. Permanent seat at Hague, Netherlands
  4. Has its own international secretariat, outside UN Secretariat.
  5. Official court languages: French and English.


  • Total 15
  • elected for nine year term
  • By UN General Assembly + UNSC. Must get absolute majority at both bodies.
  • eligible for re-election


  1. Settle legal disputes submitted by States.
  2. As such, its Judgment is final. No mechanism for further appeal. But ultimately judgment has to be enforced by UNSC, therefore it is possible to veto ICJ judgments.
  3. Advices UN and its special agencies on legal questions referred to it.

Marshall Islands case

  • After WW2, USA had setup a military base in Marshall Islands in Pacific to test nuclear and hydrogen bombs.
  • This led to ecological destruction, and radiation contamination on the islands and its residents.
  • 2014: Marshall Island government filed a case in ICJ against the nine nuclear weapon states alleging they’ve continued nuclear race and did not begin nuclear disarmament despite obligations under NPT.
  • Though India, Pakistan, Israel & N.Korea are not parties to NPT, they’re also included in the case, on the argument that disarmament provision of NPT apply to all nations as a customary international law.

~210 words

Side notes

  • ICJ = World court. Do not confuse it with ICC– International criminal court. We’ve already seen ICC structure functions two years ago click me
  • Do not confuse between official languages of ICJ vs UN.
Official language
  • French
  • English
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • Russian
  • Spanish
Working language Same as above
  • French
  • English

ICJ is the only principle organ of UN that is not @New York.

Marshall Islands case against India @ICJ

(Interview Q.) Why has Marshall Island filled a case against India and other countries @International court of justice?
Marshall Islands Located @Micronesia group of Islands in Pacific Ocean.
Map Marshall Islands

Timeline Marshal Islands
Capital Majuro.
Before WW1 German Colony
After WW1 Japanese Colony
After WW2 USA Military Base. Later ran under “Trusteeship of UN”
1991 Finally joined UN as a free country.

What is their problem?

  • From 1946 to 1958, USA conducted 67 nuclear tests on these islands
  • Even destroyed one of the islands by testing a hydrogen bomb.
  • Consequently, Marshall Islands became one of the most contaminated sites in the world
  • April 2014: filed a case in International Court of Justice (ICJ) against nine nuclear weapon states viz.
Parties to NPT Non-parties to NPT
  1. USA
  2. Russia
  3. UK
  4. France
  5. China
  1. India
  2. Israel
  3. Pakistan
  4. North Korea

Collectively these nine nations have >17000 nuclear warheads.

Marshall Island’s Arguments:

  • 1970: NPT came into force. It provides
    • Non-nuclear states will not acquire nuclear weapons
    • Nuclear states will aim for disarmament.
  • But those who signed NPT, haven’t stopped nuclear arms race or started nuclear disarmament. Thus, they’ve breached NPT Article 6.
  • Yes, India, Pakistan, Israel and N.Korea have not signed NPT, but still, the “disarmament” provision of NPT also apply to them as a customary international law. Yet, by continuing nuclear arms race, they too have breached the international law.
  • Besides, India, Pakistan and UK have accepted compulsory jurisdiction of ICJ. Hence they’re answerable in this court irrespective of whether they’re party of NPT or not.
  • We don’t want any compensation.
  • We only want the ICJ court to order those 9 nation to begin nuclear disarmament.

What next for nuclear states?

  1. Those 9 countries will have to prove in court they’re committed towards nuclear disarmament, otherwise ICJ might pronounce a legally binding verdict on disarmament.
  2. But, Israel already stated we are not party to NPT, this case has no “legs”. India/ Pak may take the same line.
  3. India has accepted ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction. But only with respect to multilateral treaties. But since we are not party to NPT, ICJ cannot exercise jurisdiction over us.
  4. North Korea may not even bother sending lawyer to defend themselves @ICJ.
  5. China may even say NPT has been extended to infinite time, there is no ‘deadline’ to begin disarmament.
  6. USA and Russia might argue in the court, “we’re sincerely taking steps for nuclear disarmament viz.
    • Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) of 1970s
    • Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) from 2010