The International Court of Justice is one of three principal organs of the United Nations together with the General Assembly and the Security Council. It is located in the city of The Hague, Netherlands, and sits within the Peace Palace along with the Permanent Court of Arbitration. According to its website, “The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The Court is composed of 15 judges who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.”
Only States, which are independent countries, can initiate legal proceedings against other States for violations of international law. The ICJ, however, is also open for States which are not members of the United Nations. Switzerland did not become a member of the United Nations until 2002 but initiated legal proceedings with the ICJ in 1957 as a non-Member State against the United States of America. The case lasted for 2 years and final judgment was entered on March 21, 1959 in favor of the United States, whereby the subject of the international dispute, being a Swiss corporation, has not exhausted its local remedies against the United States, therefore making the complaint against the United States premature.
If a private individual or group attempts to file an Application Instituting Proceedings against a State with the ICJ, the Registrar does not acknowledge receipt of the Application, but rather sends a template letter, either by mail or email, that states:
In reply to your email or mail, I have to inform you that the International Court of Justice is not authorized, in view of its functions strictly defined by its Statute (Article 34) and Rules, to give advice or make observations on questions such as those raised in your communication.
The Court’s activities are limited to rendering judgments in legal disputes between States submitted to it by the States themselves and giving advisory opinions when it is so requested by UN organs or specialized agencies of the UN system.
It follows that neither the Court nor its Members can consider applications from private individual or groups, provide them with legal advice or assist them in their relations with the authorities of any country.
That being so, you will, I am sure, understand that, to my regret, no action can be taken on your communication.
Département de l’information | Information Department – Cour internationale de Justice | International Court of Justice
The Registrar of the ICJ, Philippe Couvreur, serves in similar fashion to a Clerk of a Court that receives and file stamps civil and criminal complaints. The Registrar’s duty is to ensure that the party filing an Application (Complaint) is a State, whether a member or non-member of the United Nations, and that it meets the compliance provided for in the Statute and Rules of the ICJ. Once it meets the requirements and before it is submitted to the Judges, the Application must be translated by the Registrar’s office into both the English and French languages, a bilingual version of the State’s Application must be printed and a copy sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations and other States who have access to the ICJ, the case must be listed on the ICJ General List, and a press release must be sent to the media announcing the filing of the Application.
In order for the Registrar to complete these tasks he has a staff that includes a Deputy Registrar, a Legal Matters Department, a Linguistic Matters Department, an Information Department and 5 Technical Divisions comprised of Finance, Publications, Information and Communications Technology, Archives-Indexing and Distribution, and Text Processing and Reproduction. The funding of the ICJ is a portion drawn from the Regular Budget of the United Nations. The 2013 Regular Budget of the United Nations was $5.2 billion US dollars, and the proportionate budget for the ICJ was $47.7 million US dollars, which pays for these tasks to be completed by the Registrar’s office before the Court can take any action. If the State is a non-Member of the United Nations, it would have to contribute to cover the expenses of the Registrar’s office and Judges before the Court can taken any action. Article 35, paragraph 3 of the Statute of the ICJ states “When a state which is not a Member of the United Nations is a party to a case, the Court shall fix the amount which that party is to contribute towards the expenses of the Court. This provision shall not apply if such state is bearing a share of the expenses of the Court.”
On September 25, 2013, the Hawaiian Kingdom submitted to the Registrar of the International Court of Justice an “Application Instituting Proceedings” against 45 States for treaty violations and violations of international law. In addition, a “Request for the Indication of Provisional Measures of Protection” was also submitted requesting the Court to issue an order compelling the 45 States named in the complaint to no longer recognize the United States presence in Hawai‘i as legal. The Hawaiian Kingdom had previously deposited its declaration accepting jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with the Secretary General of the United Nations on September 6, 2013 in accordance with Article 36 of the Statute of the Court.
The Registrar’s office was very reluctant to acknowledge receipt of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Application because it was under the assumption that the Hawaiian Kingdom was not an independent State but rather a part of the United States of America. In fact, it received the template letter from the ICJ before the Agent for the Hawaiian Kingdom, Dr. David Keanu Sai, departed for the Netherlands to file the Application. While at The Hague, however, events transpired at the Peace Palace whereby the Registrar’s office was unable to deny the Hawaiian Kingdom’s status as a State and the Application was accepted by the personal assistant to the Registrar of the ICJ.
As a non-Member State of the United Nations, the Hawaiian Kingdom is responsible for covering the expenses of the Court as required under Article 35 of the Statute and, without providing its share to cover these costs, the Registrar’s office would not be able translate the Application into the French language and print out a bilingual version of the Application for the other States named in the Application, the Judges of the ICJ and the Secretary General of the United Nations. In other words, the Court cannot take any action on the case until the matter of costs is settled.
In order to address these costs, the Hawaiian Kingdom submitted a formal request on October 16, 2013 to have the President of the International Court of Justice convene the other Judges of the Court to fix the amount, which the Hawaiian Kingdom is to contribute towards the expenses of the Court. The paradox to this request is that for the President to convene the Court in order to determine the amount the Hawaiian Kingdom is to contribute, there would be an expense for the Court to convene which the Hawaiian Kingdom was to pay beforehand.
In a letter to the Hawaiian Kingdom from the International Court of Justice dated October 18, 2013, the Registrar formally acknowledged receipt of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Application and Request for Interim Measures of Protection but stated the Court cannot take action at this time. In the letter, the Registrar alluded to this paradox by stating the Court can take no action and made specific reference to Article 35, which addresses the costs that must be paid by the Hawaiian Kingdom first. The last sentence of Article 35, paragraph 3, states the Court would not have to convene if the Hawaiian Kingdom provided its share to cover the expenses of the Court.
On September 28, 2013, the Hawaiian Kingdom provided a cashier’s check made out to the International Court of Justice to cover the expenses of the Court in the Hawaiian case. The Hawaiian Kingdom arrived at this amount by following the calculations used by the United Nations for member States to contribute their share to the 2013 Regular Budget, which included the proportionate share to the International Court of Justice.
After further thought on the matter, the Hawaiian Kingdom concluded that the United States of America has already paid its share to the Court for 2013. The United Nations measurement of costs incurred by member States is based on the country’s gross national income (GNI), which is also called the gross nation product (GNP). The United States has unlawfully seized control of the Hawaiian GNI and a large portion of the United States revenue derives from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes. In 2012, the IRS collected $2.2 trillion dollars, of which residents and businesses in the Hawaiian Islands paid $5.1 billion dollars. As an occupier, the United States cannot collect taxes in a foreign country for its own benefit, and if it does it is called plundering. Unlawful appropriation of private property is plundering and extensive appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, is a war crime. In other words, the United States’ contribution of $618.5 million made to the United Nations 2013 Regular Budget, of which $5.7 million went to the International Court of Justice, is tainted with stolen property from the residents of an illegally occupied State.
On November 4, 2013, the Hawaiian Kingdom notified the Registrar of the severity of the situation. In its notice to the Registrar, the Hawaiian Kingdom stated that due to the “inability at the moment to have access to verifiable data and sources to arrive at a specific amount it could claim from the United States contribution to the International Court of Justice of its proportionate share pursuant to Article 35, the Hawaiian Kingdom requests Your Excellency to assess from the United States’ contribution of $5,710,018.66, which the Court has already received, and determine with verifiable data the specific amount of illegally appropriated monies derived from the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom and to place that entire amount in an interest bearing account under the International Court of Justice for reparations that the Hawaiian Kingdom seeks as provided in paragraph 4(l) of its Application.” The Hawaiian Kingdom maintained that the contribution it provided to the Court on September 28 should cover the expenses required by Article 35 of the Statute.