Ad Hoc vs. ICJ

What's the Difference?

Ad Hoc and ICJ are both international judicial bodies that aim to resolve disputes between states. However, Ad Hoc tribunals are established on a case-by-case basis to address specific conflicts, while the ICJ is a permanent court that hears cases brought before it by member states. Ad Hoc tribunals are typically created to address urgent or unique situations, while the ICJ serves as a forum for the peaceful settlement of disputes between states in a more systematic and ongoing manner. Both institutions play a crucial role in promoting international law and justice, but they differ in their structure and scope of jurisdiction.


AttributeAd HocICJ
EstablishmentCreated for a specific purpose or taskPermanent international court
JurisdictionLimited to specific cases or issuesGeneral jurisdiction over international disputes
CompositionMembers appointed on an ad hoc basisJudges elected by UN General Assembly and Security Council
DecisionsDecisions are binding only for the specific caseDecisions are binding on all parties involved

Further Detail


Ad Hoc and ICJ are two different types of judicial bodies that play important roles in the international legal system. While both serve to resolve disputes between states, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will compare the key characteristics of Ad Hoc tribunals and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to better understand their functions and differences.


Ad Hoc tribunals are temporary bodies established to address specific disputes between states. These tribunals are typically composed of judges who are appointed on an ad hoc basis to hear a particular case. In contrast, the ICJ is a permanent judicial body established by the United Nations to settle disputes between states. The ICJ consists of 15 judges who are elected by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council for nine-year terms.


Ad Hoc tribunals have limited jurisdiction and are created to address specific disputes or conflicts between states. These tribunals are often established through special agreements or treaties between the parties involved in the dispute. On the other hand, the ICJ has a broader jurisdiction and can hear cases involving any legal dispute between states that recognize its authority. The ICJ also has the power to issue advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by UN bodies and agencies.

Decision-Making Process

Ad Hoc tribunals typically follow a more informal decision-making process compared to the ICJ. The judges on an Ad Hoc tribunal may come from different legal backgrounds and may not have a consistent approach to interpreting international law. In contrast, the ICJ follows a more formalized decision-making process, with judges applying established principles of international law to reach their decisions. The ICJ also issues written judgments that provide detailed reasoning for its decisions.

Enforcement of Decisions

One of the key differences between Ad Hoc tribunals and the ICJ is the enforcement of their decisions. Ad Hoc tribunals do not have their own enforcement mechanisms and rely on the parties involved in the dispute to comply with their rulings. In some cases, Ad Hoc tribunals may recommend measures for the parties to take to resolve the dispute, but they cannot compel compliance. On the other hand, the ICJ has the backing of the United Nations and its decisions are considered binding on the states involved in the dispute. The ICJ can also refer cases to the UN Security Council for enforcement if a state fails to comply with its rulings.


Transparency is another important factor to consider when comparing Ad Hoc tribunals and the ICJ. Ad Hoc tribunals are often criticized for their lack of transparency, as their proceedings are not always open to the public and their decisions may not be easily accessible. In contrast, the ICJ operates with a high level of transparency, with its hearings and judgments typically open to the public. The ICJ also publishes its decisions and opinions on its website, making them readily available to anyone interested in international law.


In conclusion, Ad Hoc tribunals and the ICJ serve important roles in the international legal system, but they have distinct attributes that set them apart. Ad Hoc tribunals are temporary bodies with limited jurisdiction, while the ICJ is a permanent judicial body with broader authority. The decision-making process, enforcement mechanisms, and transparency of these two judicial bodies also differ significantly. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone interested in international law and the resolution of disputes between states.

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