My understanding is that states who are signatories to international court are bound to respond to a lawsuit brought against them by another member state. Is that correct assessment?

Or it’s case by case where a state can refuse to accept international Court intervention in a particular case?

In other words, are BOTH countries’ consent required in each case for international Court to proceed with that case?

  • There is more than one "international court". I think you mean "The International Court of Justice" in The Hague, and not (say) an international criminal tribunal, or a court such as the European court. But perhaps you could edit to make that explicit.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 19:13
  • 1
    The title of this quesiton is overly broad. Could it maybe be adapted to the special question that is actually asked? Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 22:03
  • Each one is different and they differ considerably from each other. Also, some which are de facto courts aren't called "courts" (e.g. international arbitration panels), while others which aren't really courts are called courts.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


A case in the International Court of Justice can be brought by one state. The defendant state does not need to be consulted when the case is brought.

However, all state parties must agree and recognise the jurisdiction of the ICJ in a particular matter. This can happen in three ways:

  1. both parties agree to seek recourse to the Court,
  2. a clause in a treaty states that disputes will be resolved in the Court
  3. a state can agree to be bound only in respect of other states that also have agreed to be bound. This is called an "Optional clause declaration".

For example.

  1. Yabulistan and Tokmania both claim the Mago islands. To avoid war they jointly agree to allow the ICJ to consider the legal case.
  2. Some years ago, Tokmania and Yabulistan signed a treaty which allowed Tokmanian citizens the right to pass through Yabulistan to the Tokmanian enclave of Kingsburgh. In return, Tokmania allows Yabulistan tariff free access to its agricultural markets. The treaty contains a clause which says that any dispute will be resolved by the ICJ. Recently Yabulistan has been requiring Tokmanians to travel on foot. Tokmania believes this is a breach of the treaty and takes Yabulistan to court.
  3. Yabulistan sees a benefit in binding itself to the ICJ. It passes a law which says that it agrees to be bound by decisions of the ICJ in cases brought by other states that also have agreed to this bind. If Tokmania also passes a similar law (called an "optional law declaration") then Tokmania can bring a case against Yabulistan without a special agreement.

The decisions of the court are binding to the extent that the various nations have agreed to this by joining the UN. Article 94 of the charter provides for the power of the court to make binding decisions. A nation that ignores a decision of the Court could be subject to UN sanctions up to a Security Council authorised military action against that nation.

In the particular case of India and Pakistan. Pakistan has made an optional clause declaration (renewed in 2017), as has India (in 1974). Thus both countries recognise the jurisdiction of the ICJ, with some reservations. However one of the reservations is "disputes with the government of any State which is or has been a Member of the Commonwealth of Nations". A list of the declarations is held by the ICJ

See https://www.icj-cij.org/en/frequently-asked-questions

  • So we can presume, most states has joined UN and agreed to article 94. Does this mean any other member state can bring a case against them according to charter of IC in this particular situation? They have to entertain the court because they have signed on article 94 right?
    – zar
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:39
  • It means what I said. In a particular matter, both states must agree to the courts jurisdiction in that matter. This may be because it is a joint referal, or there may be a particular treaty which allows for referral. After the judgement, then enforcement is a matter for the security council.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 20:46
  • I thought courts jurisdiction would be in the charter of IC otherwise any one of the states could easily escape by disagreeing with court jurisdiction which will kind of make the court redundant. For example there is currently a spy capture case between India and Pakistan, in IC which was brought by India. So could Pakistan have just said no? So there would be no trial in IC? Why would any state not do that i they have captured a spy? Its kind of their internal matter.
    – zar
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 21:00
  • I'm not sure what sort of case there could be. Spying is illegal. If India capture a Pakistani spy then he/she will either be prosecuted or be deported. What is the ICJ going to do? The ICJ is to decide on matter of international law and treaty obligations. Spying is ordinary national law.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 21:07
  • Pakistan captured Indian spy and did a trial and awarded him death penalty. India took stay order via IC and case is currently there. Onle analyst was saying Pakistan could have said no to trial but I am not sure if they had a choice, otherwise why would they want IC trial to release him?
    – zar
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 21:58

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