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The Absence of State Consent to Advisory Opinions of the International Court of Justice: Judicial and Political Restraints

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, (UN) and its Statute is an integral part of the UN's Charter. The court's integral role within the UN has largely been misunderstood especially in the way the court has viewed its advisory jurisdiction. The ICJ always asserts that the delivery of an advisory opinion represents its participation in the UN's work and thus, in the absence of compelling reasons, a request for an opinion ought not to be refused. Some commentators note that the principle that the ICJ must participate in the work of the Organisation might sometimes conflict with its judicial character, which might result in not embracing the philosophy of “judicial restraint” in the court's advisory jurisdiction. They also contend that the absence of consent in advisory cases has led the court to overlook its judicial restraint. This article argues that those commentators have overlooked the main role of the ICJ's advisory function in clarifying the law and providing guidance for future action by the UN organs, and has consequently called for applying the principle of consent as a condition for giving an advisory opinion on questions relating to disputes pending between States. In the present article, the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory opinion is analysed to see whether the absence of Israeli consent has undermined the ICJ's judicial character. The author is of the view that the court, as the principal judicial organ of the UN, should, by a cautious judicial policy, provide enlightenment to the UN and participate to achieving its goals while at the same time adhering to its judicial character.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor of International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan;, Email:


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