In the exercise of its jurisdiction in contentious cases, the International Court of Justice settles disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by States in accordance with international law. An international legal dispute can be defined as a disagreement on a question of law or fact, a conflict, or a clash of legal views or interests.
Only States may apply to and appear before the International Court of Justice. International organizations, other authorities and private individuals are not entitled to institute proceedings before the Court.
Article 35 of the Statute defines the conditions under which States may access the Court. While the first paragraph of that article states that the Court is open to States parties to the Statute, the second is intended to regulate access to the Court by States which are not parties to the Statute. The conditions under which such States may access the Court are determined by the Security Council, subject to the special provisions contained in treaties in force at the date of the entry into force of the Statute, with the proviso that under no circumstances shall such conditions place the parties in a position of inequality before the Court.
The Court can only deal with a dispute when the States concerned have recognized its jurisdiction. No State can therefore be a party to proceedings before the Court unless it has in some manner or other consented thereto.