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  • Writer's pictureA Global Classroom

Now is the Opportune Time to Teach about the ICJ

Updated: Apr 11

Until recently, many students were unfamiliar with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Often confused with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the ICJ is gaining global attention due to recent events. Following Hamas' attack on October 7th, "the ICJ has been thrust into the spotlight," with Israel facing two cases before the court.

In the first case, South Africa accused Israel of genocidal acts in Gaza, which Israel denied. The court's Jan. 2024 preliminary ruling indicated that some of South Africa's claims were plausible, and directed Israel to take measures to prevent genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza. The court did not demand an immediate ceasefire.

The second case comes from a request made by the UN General Assembly over a year ago for the ICJ to advise on the legality of Israel's occupation of the West bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. In February 2024, over 50 countries participated in this case, marking the largest involvement in the World Court's history. The ICJ is yet to provide its advisory opinion on this matter.


This no-prep lesson on the ICJ utilizes the cases involving Israel to demonstrate the court's role in resolving disputes between states and upholding international law, while also acknowledging its constraints.

The lesson starts with a warm up discussion on the kinds of disputes among states and the mechanisms available for their resolution.

It then offers a short reading along with two educational videos about the ICJ, followed by comprehension questions to assess understanding.

The third learning activity prompts students to examine three specific cases of Israel brought before the court, including the two recent cases mentioned above, as well as the 2004 judgment declaring the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as unlawful.

These instances involving Israel are used to illustrate the two primary categories of cases presented to the court: contentious and advisory. The first category consists of contentious cases, where one state brings another to court due to a disagreement on an international law issue, such as South Africa's accusation against Israel for violating the Genocide Convention. The second category involves advisory cases, in which any UN entity or specialized agency can request the court's legal opinion on a particular matter, such as the UN General Assembly asking the court to rule on the occupation.

As a final optional learning activity, students can explore another recent case that has come before the ICJ. Options include:

  • 2012: “Senegal Told to Prosecute Ex-President of Chad” (Belgium v. Senegal)

  • 2021: “Top UN court sides with Somalia in sea border dispute with Kenya” (Somalia v. Kenya)

  • 2020: Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar)

  • 2022: “ICJ orders Uganda to pay $325m for DR Congo occupation” (Uganda v. DR Congo)

  • 2023: "Azerbaijan must let ethnic Armenians return to Nagorno-Karabakh" (Armenia v. Azerbaijan)

Finally, the lesson offers diverse perspectives on the court's rulings and cases, drawing insights from various media sources like the New York Times, Aljazeera, Democracy Now!, Reuters, UN News, BBC, the Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz.

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