Court of International Justice (PCIJ) was established under
Article XIV of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which
called on the League of Nations Council to formulate plans for
an international court designed to contribute to the peaceful
settlement of international disputes.
The article also provided that the PCIJ might offer an
advisory opinion on any dispute or question referred to the
Court by the League of Nations Council.
The framers of the League of Nations Council did not
incorporate the concept of compulsory settlement of
international disputes in the League of Nations Covenant nor
the Statute of the PCIJ.
At its second session in February 1920, the Council
appointed a committee of ten eminent jurists to submit an
organizational plan for the PCIJ.
The Council forwarded the organizational plan to the
League of Nations Assembly, which adopted the Statute of the
Permanent Court of International Justice on December 16, 1920.
By September 1921, a majority of the member states had
ratified the statute and the first election of judges took
place. The PCIJ
began its preliminary session in the Hague in January 1922 and
heard its first case, an advisory opinion, in May 1922.
speaking, the PCIJ was not an organ of the League of Nations,
although the Court's existence was closely connected to the
League. A member
state of the League of Nations had to ratify the Statute of
the PCIJ before it became a party to Court decisions (all
League member states could participate in the election of
judges and had to share in the Court's expenses) and
non-League members could sign the Statute of the PCIJ and
participate in the proceedings.
For example, the United States, never a member of the
League of Nations, signed the Statute of the Court in December
1935, but the Senate refused to ratify the statute.
Despite the lack of official recognition of the Court,
the PCIJ always had an American judge as a member of the Court
thirty-three year history of the PCIJ, the Court heard a total
of 66 cases, the vast majority (50) between 1922-1932 during
the heyday of the League of Nations.
The Court rendered a total of 27 advisory opinions and
32 judgments. Governments
withdrew another ten cases from consideration before the Court
issue a final decision. The
concept of international litigation as a means to promote the
pacific resolution of issues between states relied on the
existence of a stable and relaxed international system.
With the rise of the revisionist powers in 1933, only
sixteen new cases came before the PCIJ.
underwent a number of important revisions during its tenure.
The rules of the Court underwent their first major
revision in 1926. The
structure and composition of the Court experienced a major
change again in 1931, when the PCIJ held its second general
election of judges. A
second significant overhaul of the rules of the Court followed
in 1936. These
revisions included the establishment of judicial years in
place of the ordinary and extraordinary sessions of the Court.
World War II
marked the end of the Permanent Court of International
Justice. The Court held its last wartime session in the Hague in
February 1940, before the German invasion of the Netherlands. With the search for a new post-war international order,
delegates at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, DC
(August-October 1944) discussed the development of a new
International Court of Justice, which would work in
association with the new United Nations Organization.
Delegates at the San Francisco Conference approved the
new International Court of Justice (June 1945) as one of the
principal organs of the United Nations (Article VII) and as
the UN's chief judicial organization (Article XCII).
In October 1945, the members of the PCIJ held their
last session in the Hague and on January 31, 1946, the judges
of the Permanent Court of International Justice resigned.