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Public International Law Research

A guide that highlights resources and recommended strategies for conducting research on international law topics.

General Overview of International Courts

Overview of International Courts

International Courts

International courts are formed by treaties between nations or under the authority of an international organization like the United Nations. Those subject to the court will typically include signatory states (and, in some cases, private citizens of those states). The authorizing statute or treaty for an international court will outlines its jurisdiction, usually including the following:

  • Length of time (temporary or permanent)
  • Types of disputes handled
  • Who may sue (nations states or individual persons)

Examples of International Courts

The following table highlights some of the major international courts and provides links to additional resources for each. This Research Guide provides detailed overviews of researching the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and ad hoc criminal tribunals.

Court Name Scope of Authority Subject Matter
International Court of Justice United Nations member states and UN organs Primary judicial body for the United Nations. Adjudicates disputes amongst member states.
International Criminal Court Rome Statute signatory states Prosecutes state-members' citizens for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea UN Convention on the Law of the Sea signatory states Adjudicates disputes amongst signatory states dealing with the law of all ocean space, its uses and resources.
European Court of Human Rights Member states of the Council of Europe Established by the European Convention of Human Rights and hears applications from individuals alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights in the Convention.
European Court of Justice Member states of the European Union Highest court of the European Union. Tasked with interpreting EU law and ensuring its equal application across all EU member states.

Overview of International Criminal Courts