The court consists of 15 independent judges, known as "members" of the court. They are elected "from among persons of high moral character" without consideration of nationality, except that no two judges of the same nationality may serve concurrently. They must be persons possessing the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices or be jurists of recognized competence in international law. No judge of the International Court of Justice may exercise any political or administrative function or engage in any professional occupation. When engaged in the business of the court, judges enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities. A newly elected judge must "make a solemn declaration in open court that he will exercise his powers impartially and conscientiously." A judge cannot be dismissed except by a unanimous decision of the other judges that "he has ceased to fulfill the required conditions." No such dismissal has ever occurred.
As in any court, a judge may disqualify himself from sitting on a particular case. The statute enumerates certain conditions under which this disqualification is obligatory—for example, if a judge was previously involved in the case as a member of a commission of inquiry.