The World Court is located in the Netherlands, and is a court that is sometimes used to settle disputes between nations. In addition to disputes, the World Court is sometimes used for criminal cases, though this is less common. The court was established in 1946, replacing a previous, similar court called the Permanent Court of International Justice. Legal entities of any groups or countries may petition the World Court, but generally, it is only used by nations that are members of the United Nations, a peace council formed in 1945 by a group of allied nations.
The World Court has settled a wide range of cases, including cases involving international treaties, environmental law, and war crimes. Most all of the cases involve members of the United Nations, but member nations are not necessarily bound by court decisions. In fact, member nations can even decline to appear before the World Court. In this way, the court is typically thought of as a tool of peace, rather than a true arm of law or legal authority. Member nations who fail to respond to a charge brought against them may run the risk of United Nations sanctions.
A panel of 15 judges makes up the judiciary of the court, and these judges are appointed by an election process that takes place within the United Nations, by the Security Council and the General Assembly. The judges must all come from different nations, and 10 of the members serve for a period of nine years, while the remaining five serve for only a three-year term. During their service on the World Court, the judges are paid a salary and are not allowed to work for any other outside organizations. These restrictions are placed in the hopes that the judges can maintain neutrality. Ironically, even though the United States (US) does not recognize the World Court as a judicial entity, the panel of judges usually includes a judge from the US.
The actual seat of the World Court is located in the Peace Palace inside The Hague. The Hague is a city in the Netherlands that has a long history of involvement in international legal battles, as it was also the location of the earlier Permanent Court of International Justice. The Peace Palace was built with funds donated by wealthy American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The Peace Palace opened its doors in 1913, and first served as the seat of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.