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United Nations Legal Research Resources

UN.jpgOctober 24th is United Nations Day, commemorating the day in 1945 that the UN Charter became effective after being signed by fifty-one countries earlier that year.

The United Nations was formed to promote peace and cooperation among member nations. October 24th officially became United Nations Day in 1947 when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 168 (II). Although the UN is its own entity, it is not a separate government and does not create laws.

The judicial branch of the United Nations is known as the International Court of Justice. This court has jurisdiction over interpretations of international law and treaties and breaches of international obligations between member states. Like U.S. state and federal courts, there are court rules and practice guidelines for cases before this court. The International Court of Justice has the unique ability to provide advisory opinions requested by specific international agencies. You can find information on all cases heard before the court since 1946 online, including orders, objections, and other filings.

The UN has the authority to establish International War Crimes Tribunals under Article 7 of the UN Charter to consider charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide. A war crimes tribunal can be created by resolution. In 1993, for example, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 827 to establish the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in response to war crimes committed during the Kosovo War in the 1990s.

There is a separate International Criminal Court that is not part of the UN, but is rather established as part of a treaty (the Rome Statute) signed by 113 countries. Countries who have signed the treaty or the United Nations Security Council may refer cases to this court. This court has jurisdiction over events on or after July 1, 2002.

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