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This essay on the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) is the first chapter in a new book on international courts and tribunals. Important constraints on the ICJ’s jurisdiction preclude it from resolving most disputes between States, and, as was the case for the predecessor Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ is not at the apex of an appellate system of international or national courts. Nevertheless, as the judicial wing of the United Nations, the ICJ stands as the most authoritative court for the interpretation of general rules of international law, with its decisions regularly cited by other global, regional, and national courts. Further, despite its limited jurisdiction, the Court has addressed numerous important disputes among States and issued advisory opinions that have greatly shaped and influenced the development of international law across subject matter areas. In short, the Court is a highly respected and authoritative judicial tribunal, lying at the center of the global legal system, with an influence that extends well beyond the legal relations of the Parties that appear before it.

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