The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN) and has a twofold role.
First, it settles, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States. Such disputes may concern, in particular, land frontiers, maritime boundaries, territorial sovereignty, the non use of force, violation of international humanitarian law, non interference in the internal affairs of States, diplomatic relations, hostage taking, the right of asylum, nationality, guardianship, rights of passage and economic rights.
Second, the ICJ gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and agencies. These opinions can clarify the ways in which such organizations may lawfully function, or strengthen their authority in relation to their member States.
The ICJ consists of 15 judges, all from different countries, who are elected for a period of nine years and can be re-elected. One third of the composition of the Court is renewed every three years. The President of the Court is elected by his peers every three years; the current President is Judge Joan E. Donoghue from the United States of America. The hearings of the ICJ are always public. French and English are the official languages of the Court.