Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application: 2002) (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Rwanda)
OVERVIEW OF THE CASE
On 28 May 2002, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) filed in the Registry of the Court an Application instituting proceedings against Rwanda for “massive, serious and flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” resulting
“from acts of armed aggression perpetrated by Rwanda on the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in flagrant breach of the sovereignty and territorial integrity [of the DRC], as guaranteed by the United Nations Charter and the Charter of the Organization of African Unity”.
The DRC stated in its Application that the Court’s jurisdiction to deal with the dispute between it and Rwanda “deriv[ed] from compromissory clauses” in many international legal instruments, such as the 1979 Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Constitution of UNESCO, the 1984 New York Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation. The DRC added that the jurisdiction of the Court also derived from the supremacy of peremptory norms (jus cogens), as reflected in certain international treaties and conventions, in the area of human rights.
On 28 May 2002, the date of the filing of the Application, the DRC also submitted a request for the indication of provisional measures. Public hearings were held on 13 and 14 June 2002 on that request. By an Order of 10 July 2002, the Court rejected that request, holding that it did not, in this case, have the prima facie jurisdiction necessary to indicate the provisional measures requested by the DRC. Further, “in the absence of a manifest lack of jurisdiction”, it also rejected Rwanda’s request for the case to be removed from the List. The Court also found that its findings in no way prejudged the question of its jurisdiction to deal with the merits of the case or any questions relating to the admissibility of the Application or relating to the merits themselves.
On 18 September 2002, the Court delivered an Order directing that the written pleadings should first be addressed to the questions of the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the Application, and fixed 20 January 2003 and 20 May 2003, respectively, as the time-limits for the filing of the Memorial of Rwanda and Counter-Memorial of the DRC. Those pleadings were filed within the time-limits thus prescribed.
In its Judgment of 3 February 2006, the Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to entertain the Application filed by the DRC. It found that the international instruments invoked by the DRC could not be relied on, either because Rwanda (1) was not a party to them (as in the case of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) or (2) had made reservations to them (as in the case of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), or because (3) other preconditions for the seisin of the Court had not been satisfied (as in the case of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Constitution of the WHO, the Constitution of UNESCO and the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation).
Since the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the Application, it was not required to rule on its admissibility. Mindful that the subject-matter of the dispute was very similar in nature to that in the case between the Congo and Uganda, and that the reasons as to why the Court would not proceed to an examination of the merits in the case between Congo and Rwanda needed to be carefully explained, the Court stated that it was precluded by a number of provisions in its Statute from taking any position on the merits of the claims made by the DRC. It recalled, however, “that there is a fundamental distinction between the acceptance by States of the Court’s jurisdiction and the conformity of their acts with international law”. Thus, “[w]hether or not States have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, they are required to fulfil their obligations under the United Nations Charter and the other rules of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, and they remain responsible for acts attributable to them which are contrary to international law”.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.