Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France)
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Overview of the case
On 13 June 2016, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea instituted proceedings against the French Republic with regard to a dispute concerning “the immunity from criminal jurisdiction of the Second Vice-President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in charge of Defence and State Security [Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue], and the legal status of the building which houses the Embassy of Equatorial Guinea in France”.
As basis for the Court’s jurisdiction, Equatorial Guinea invoked the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes of 18 April 1961 and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 15 November 2000.
On 29 September 2016, Equatorial Guinea filed a Request for the indication of provisional measures and also requested the President of the Court to exercise his power under Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court. By a letter of 3 October 2016, in accordance with that provision, the Vice-President of the Court, acting as President in the case, drew the attention of France “to the need to act in such a way as will enable any order the Court may make on the request for provisional measures to have its appropriate effects”.
By an Order of 7 December 2016, the Court, having heard the Parties, ordered France, pending a final decision in the case, to take all measures at its disposal to ensure that the premises presented as housing the diplomatic mission of Equatorial Guinea at 42 avenue Foch in Paris enjoy treatment equivalent to that required by Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, in order to ensure their inviolability. However, regarding Equatorial Guinea’s claim relating to the immunity of Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the Court considered that, prima facie, a dispute capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime did not exist between the Parties, and the Court thus did not have prima facie jurisdiction under that instrument to entertain Equatorial Guinea’s Request for provisional measures.
On 31 March 2017, France filed preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the Application, and the proceedings on the merits were suspended. Having held public hearings in February 2018, on 6 June 2018 the Court delivered its Judgment on the preliminary objections raised by France. In its Judgment, the Court upheld the first preliminary objection raised by France, according to which it lacked jurisdiction on the basis of Article 35 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. However, it found that it had jurisdiction, on the basis of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, to entertain the Application of Equatorial Guinea in so far as it concerned the status of the building located at 42 avenue Foch in Paris as premises of the mission, and that this part of the Application was admissible.
After public hearings which were held in February 2020, the Court issued its Judgment on the merits of the case on 11 December 2020. The Court found that the building at 42 avenue Foch in Paris had never acquired the status of “premises of the mission” within the meaning of Article 1 (i) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and that France had not breached its obligations under that Convention.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.