The International Court of Justice amends its Rules

On 21 October 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) amended Articles 22, 23, 29, 76 and 79 of its Rules of Court (Rules).  The amendments concern provisional measures (Article 76), preliminary objections (Article 79) and the procedure for appointing and removing the Court’s Registrar and Deputy-Registrar (Articles 22, 23 and 29).


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Article 76, paragraph 1, has been amended to clarify that provisional measures can be revoked or modified not only at the request of a party, but also on the Court’s own initiative (“proprio motu”).  The provision is now in line with Article 75 of the Rules, pursuant to which the Court may examine proprio motu whether the circumstances of the case require the adoption of provisional measures, regardless of any request from the parties.  To date, the Court has rarely needed to amend or remove provisional measures, with the only case being Costa Rica’s 2013 request in Certain Activities Carried Out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua).


In order to distinguish “preliminary questions” identified by the Court from “preliminary objections” raised by a party to the case, the Court has reorganised Article 79 into three separate articles: Article 79, Article 79bis and Article 79ter.  Amended Article 79 addresses preliminary questions identified by the Court.  Article 79bis deals with preliminary objections filed by the respondent or any other party.  Article 79ter contains procedural rules applicable to both.  Furthermore, Article 79bis states that preliminary objections may now be filed by the parties “when the Court has not taken any decision under Article 79” – that is to say, when the Court has not raised proprio motu any preliminary questions.


Articles 22, 23 and 29 of the Rules, which concern the Registry, have been amended to make them gender neutral.  In addition, under Article 22, the Court will now give public notice of a vacancy for the post of Registrar.  Under Article 23, the Court will elect a Deputy-Registrar.  Finally, Article 29 states that a two-thirds majority of Members of the Court is required to remove the Registrar from office.


The ICJ’s Rules initially entered into force on 1 July 1978 and were last updated in April and September 2005.


The text of the latest version of the ICJ’s Rules can be found here.