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The International Court of Justice and International Organisations

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This vignette deals with the position of international intergovernmental organisations as non-state actors. In the case law of the ICJ the independent identity of international organisations is addressed in the formal terms of international legal personality. Such personality is undisputed in international practice: for example, international organisations not only have the capacity to conclude treaties but also, although the legal framework is not entirely settled yet, to bear international responsibility for violations of international law. The ICJ arguably has had a central role in the conceptualisation of organisations as independent actors in international law: with the 1949 Reparation Opinion intergovernmental organisations essentially received at one stroke the paraphernalia required by an international legal actor. The framework proposed by the Court was widely adopted to match developing practice and, although organisations figure in the majority of cases subsequently brought before the ICJ, it was considered and to some extent refined only in the 1996 Legality of the Use by a State of Nuclear Weapons in Armed Conflict Opinion.

Affiliations: 1: Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam


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