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Armed Activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v.

Rwanda)

Brief Fact Summary. Rwanda (D) challenged the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice when a suit
was filed against her by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (P).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The International Court of Justice lacks jurisdiction based on a treaty in which one
party to such a treaty excludes dispute settlement obligations under the treaty before becoming a party, and fails
to take formal acts to bring about withdrawal of the reservation.

Facts. In the suit filed by the Republic of the Congo (DRC) (P) against Rwanda (D), the DRC (P) tried to base
the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on nine treaties with dispute settlement clauses that provided
for such jurisdiction. Of the nine treaties, Rwanda (D) excluded dispute settlement obligations in seven of the
treaties while it was not party to the remaining two. Based on the nature of its obligations, Rwanda (D)
challenged the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
Discussions of some of the treaties were omitted by the excerpt. The treaties involved were Convention on
Privileges, Immunities of the Specialized Agencies, Genocide Convention, Article IX, Convention on Racial
Discrimination against Women, Article 29, World Health Organization Constitution, Article 75. Unesco
Convention, Article XIV, Montreal Convention, Article 14, Vienna Convention, Article 66 and Convention
Against Torture. Rwanda (D) was not party to the first two treaties.

Issue. Does the International Court of Justice lacks jurisdiction based on a treaty in which one party to such a
treaty excludes disputes settlement obligations under the treaty before becoming a party and fails to make formal
acts to bring about withdrawal of the reservation?

Held. (Judge not stated in casebook excerpt) Yes. The International Court of Justice lacks jurisdiction based on a
treaty in which one party to such a treaty excludes dispute settlement obligations under the treaty before
becoming a party and fails to take formal acts to bring about withdrawal of the reservation.
Firstly as at the time of a 1993 peace agreement to withdrawing all reservations to human rights treaties, Rwanda
(D) may have committed itself, though this withdrawal was effectuated by the Rwanda (D) minister of justice,
Rwanda (D) never for once take formal acts to bring about withdrawal of reservation. Deciding on whether to
withdraw reservation with a state’s domestic legal order is not the same as implementation of that decision by
the national authorities within the international legal order, which can only come to pass by notification to the
other state parties to the parties in question through the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Secondly, the existence of a dispute that implicates peremptory norms of general international law does not
imply that it is not part of the principles that jurisdiction always relies on the consent of the parties. The treaty
was however held not to form the basis of jurisdiction because the DRC (P) failed to prove beyond reasonable
doubt that it initiated arbitration proceedings against Rwanda (D) under the Convention on Discrimination
against Women.

Discussion. The analysis of the treaties in the casebook excerpt is similar to the Court’s analysis of treaties. The
main principle here is that the I.C.J will not advance the case past the preliminary matter of jurisdiction where a
state has not granted consent to the I.C.J’s jurisdiction, whatever atrocities have in fact been committed by the
non-consenting state. Also, reversal of the position requires an overt act by the state in a situation like this, where
there is evidence of non-consent, in order to convince the Court that after all, consent to the I.C.J’s jurisdiction
was granted