There were two systems of
1) Voluntary jurisdiction – a system that limited jurisdiction to
particular disputes submitted to the Court by an agreement made ad hoc
after the dispute had already arose.
2) Compulsory jurisdiction – a system whereby a number of States agreed
by means of a convention to confer jurisdiction upon the Court in all
disputes which could potentially arise between them, and to allow
reference of each particular dispute to the Court by unilateral
application of either party to the dispute.
Conditions that should have been satisfied by a dispute in order to be
suitable for inclusion:
1) found impossible to be settled by diplomatic means;
2) not submitted to another court/tribunal;
3) was a case of a "legal nature", i.e. it should have been regarding:
a) interpretation of a treaty;
b) any question of international law;
c) existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a
breach of an international obligation;
d) nature or extent of reparations to be made for the breach of an
e) interpretation of a decision of the Court.
Jurisdiction under treaties could arise from:
1) The Covenant of the League of Nations ;
2) The Peace Treaties (other than #1 or #3);
3) protection of minorities;
5) collective international conventions of a "legislative" character;
6) political treaties (of alliance, commerce, etc.);
7) bilateral conventions concerning transit and communications;
8) treaties of arbitration and conciliation.
The Covenant provided that:
Article 13: the members of the League of Nations were obliged to submit
to arbitration or judicial settlement any dispute that would arise
between them which they recognized to be suitable for such submission
and which could not be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy. The other
party could defeat the jurisdiction by refusing to recognize the
suitability of the dispute for such procedure. In this case, the members
of the League of Nations should have submitted this matter to the
Council, by means of a notice.
Article 14: the Court was given a power to give advisory opinions.
The Statute provided that only States or members of the League of
Nations could be parties in cases before the Court. Hence, private
persons, whether natural or corporate could not appear as parties before
the Court, including sovereign rulers, ex-sovereigns, public bodies and
officials etc. Although it was possible for a government to take up a
claim of its citizen or corporation against another government (e.g. a
nation under protectorate or Mandate, or minorities under special
circumstances). British Dominions and India, and any other fully
self-governing Dominion or Colony which could become a Member of the
League of Nations, were entitled to appear before the Court irrespective
of whether or not they could be described as States. States could not be
refused access to the Court, even if its sovereignty was subject to
limitations, unless the sovereignty was completely in the hands of
another State, in which case the protecting or mandatory State would be
the party before the Court.
The Court was opened to the members of the League of Nations and states
mentioned in the Annex to the Covenant, even if they had not ratified
the Protocol of Signature.
If a member of the League of Nations mentioned in the Annex to the
Covenant were to retire from the League of Nations it would still
continue to enjoy the unconditional right of access under that
paragraph. The Court was open to the states-non-members of the League of
Nations and not mentioned in the Annex to the Covenant only on the
conditions laid down by the Council acting under Article 35 (2) of the
Statute. The conditions referred to in Article 35 (2) were laid down by
a resolution of the Council of May 17, 1922, which provided for the
deposit of a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court in
accordance with the covenant and becoming subject to the conditions of
the Statute and Rules of Procedure of the Court. The declaration could
have been either particular (i.e. in respect of the dispute which had
already arisen) or general (i.e. in respect of all disputes or certain
types of disputes).
The following are the States neither Members of the League nor mentioned
in the Annex to the Covenant, which were entitled to appear before the
Court under Article 35 (2): Afghanistan, Free City of Danzig, Egypt,
Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Russia and San Marino, as well
as Costa Rica, which was not mentioned in the Annex and had retired from
the League of Nations.
Hence, members of the League of nations and states mentioned in the
Annex to the Covenant could come before the Court whether or not they
had signed or ratified the Protocol of Signature of the Statute, while
other states could only come before the Court after having made a
declaration under the above-mentioned resolution, unless the
jurisdiction of the Court was involved by/against them under the Peace
Treaties of 1919-1920 or certain other treaties.