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International Court of Justice

This is a historical case. In accordance with AMUN rules and procedures, please note that the historical timeline for this case will stop on 1 January 2018. Any and all updates to this case after that date will not be relevant to the AMUN simulation nor considered in hearing the case.

In 1964, the United Kingdom conducted an oceanic survey and determined that Diego Garcia, an island located within the Chagos Archipelago, would be an ideal location for the installation of a military base. At this time, Mauritius was not a sovereign state, but instead a non-self-governing territory, having been colonized by the Dutch, the French and ultimately the British. Following the survey, in 1965 the United Kingdom entered into the Lancaster House Agreement with Mauritian ministers (and others) granting the United Kingdom the ability to separate the Chagos Islands from the rest of the territory. 

Mauritius was granted independence through a process that was completed on 12 March 1968. Since gaining independence, the republic has demanded the return of the Chagos Islands to its territory. In 2010, Mauritius attempted to facilitate this return through the institution of proceedings under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This proceeding began in direct response to the United Kingdom’s assertion of a large Marine Protected Area surrounding the Archipelago. Mauritius argues this claim is in direct contradiction to its 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and violates its right to self-determination and sovereign territorial claims to the Chagos Islands after independence. The Tribunal formed to adjudicate this claim was unsuccessful in determining jurisdiction on the issue but determined that the United Kingdom’s creation of this Marine Protected Area had violated UNCLOS. Further attempts by Mauritius to settle this claim bilaterally were unsuccessful, leading to its appeal to the General Assembly.

With the adoption of A/RES/71/292 on 22 June 2017, the General Assembly requested that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) answer the legal questions of whether the process of decolonization of Mauritius was lawfully completed when the country was granted independence in 1968, and what, if any, consequences arise under international law from the continued administration by the United Kingdom of the Chagos Archipelago. This request comes in accordance with Article 65 of the Statute of the Court, which grants the Court the ability to give an advisory opinion on any legal question requested of it by an authorized United Nations body.

Within this resolution, the Assembly recognized that the questions asked of the court regarding self-determination were reflected largely in a series of existing Assembly resolutions, specifically citing Operative Clause 6 of A/RES/1514(XV), which reads: “Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter.” 

To resolve this case, the Court must determine whether the decolonization of Mauritius was lawfully completed when the country was granted independence, and if it was not, what consequences may arise under international law. The Court must first determine it has jurisdiction to answer these legal questions, or whether it should use its discretion and decline jurisdiction. 

If the Court determines it does have jurisdiction in weighing the lawfulness of the decolonization of Mauritius, the Court in this case should consider whether the right to self-determination had emerged as an accepted piece of customary international law (CIL) prior to or after 1965, when the Lancaster House Agreement entered into force. Mauritius argues that the right to self-determination emerged as part of CIL prior to 1965 and, as such, the United Kingdom is obligated to respect Mauritius’ claim to the Chagos Islands. The United Kingdom asserts that the right did not develop as part of customary international law when the Lancaster House Agreement was negotiated and is therefore not applicable to the partitioning of these islands.

Questions to consider

  1. How can the Court determine jurisdiction to issue an opinion on this case without violating the consensual nature of the negotiation of bilateral disputes?
  2. How can existing bilateral agreements be interpreted when confronted with contradictory tenets of international law?
  3. How does the right to self-determination interact with decolonization?
  4. How is sovereignty exercised continually following its initial determination?
  5. If the decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed, what, if any, consequences should arise?

Bibliography

International Court of Justice. Overview of the Case | Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.

International Court of Justice. Statute of the International Court of Justice.

Lancaster House Agreement (1965).

Mauritius Independence Act (1968).

Republic of Madagascar (28 February 2018). Written Statement.

Republic of the Marshall Islands (17 January 2018). Written Statement.

Statement by Dr. the Hon. Navinchandra Ramgoolam Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius at the General Debate of the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (2005).

United Nations, General Assembly (1960). Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples. A/RES/1514(XV).

United Nations, General Assembly (2017). Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. A/RES/71/292.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982).

United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases (22 May 2019). General Assembly Welcomes International Court of Justice Opinion on Chagos Archipelago, Adopts Text Calling for Mauritius’ Complete Decolonization.

Vine, David (2006). Empire’s Footprint: Expulsion and the United States Military Base on Diego Garcia. City University of New York Academic Works.

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Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda)

This is a historical case. In accordance with AMUN rules and procedures, please note that the historical timeline for this case will stop on 1 December 2005. Any and all updates to this case after that date will not be relevant to the AMUN simulation or considered in hearing the case.

On 23 June 1999, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or Congo) filed a grievance with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the Republic of Uganda, the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Burundi’s presence in and armed activities within Congolese sovereign territory. On 15 January 2001, Congo withdrew proceedings against Rwanda and Burundi, leaving only the claims against Uganda.

Included in Congo’s grievance was a call for the immediate cessation of armed activities, as well as a demand that Uganda pay reparations for looting, destruction of state property and acquisition of natural resources as reported by Congo. Later, on 19 June 2000, Congo submitted a request for provisional measures to withdraw all armed forces from any territories relevant to the dispute. Both parties recognized the Compulsory Jurisdiction of the court in Article 36, paragraph 2 of the Statute of the Court, under which Congo recognized jurisdiction of the Court on 8 February 1989 and Uganda recognized jurisdiction on 3 October 1963.

During the First Congo War, Laurent Kabila of the Congo led the Ugandan-backed Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) against Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. Upon his successful overthrow of the government of Zaire in 1997, Kabila renamed the state the Democratic Republic of the Congo and invited forces from Uganda and other neighboring states into Congolese territory as a means of restoring order. After a series of diplomatic breakdowns with these neighboring countries in July 1998, Congo issued a decree that all foreign forces must leave the country, which culminated in the filing of court proceedings in 1999.

While Congo initially invited Ugandan forces and granted consent for their presence within Congolese territory, by August 1998, the Ugandan presence was disputed. Congo claims that Ugandan forces engaged in military action against it by occupying territory in Congo and providing financial and military support to insurgent groups operating within the DRC, all in violation of state sovereignty, as well as against the 1963 Charter of the Organization of African Unity. Uganda claimed its actions were in self-defense. 

Additionally under dispute is whether Ugandan forces made any distinction between civilian and military forces in their actions, including looting and pillaging. Uganda asserts that Congo consented to this action, that this action was required to protect Ugandan sovereignty and that it was carrying out operations against anti-Uganda insurgent groups within Congo’s borders that the DRC was unable to control. Likewise, there is a conflict between the parties as to whether Congo has allowed attacks on various Ugandan diplomatic and other noncombatants within its own territory. Congo also asserted that Uganda exploited many of the natural resources found in Congolese territory. 

As a result of the escalating violence in the region, the parties signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement on 10 July 1999. The terms of the treaty called for an immediate cessation of military activity by all signatories. Following the agreement coming into force, both Uganda and the DRC claim the other side violated the Lusaka Agreement.

Uganda filed a counterclaim with the ICJ, alleging that Congo used unauthorized force in contravention of the UN Charter, allowed attacks on Ugandan diplomatic personnel in Congo and that Congo violated the Lusaka Ceasefire agreement. 

A state’s right to sovereignty is a well-established norm of international law; however, a state’s right to sovereignty is not absolute and may sometimes conflict with the sovereignty of another country. Among the norms established through the principle of sovereignty, a state has a right to defend itself against external threats. 

It is before the Court to consider the extent to which sovereignty applies when it comes to the self-defense of another state. There are three main issues that the Court must consider in making a decision in this case. First, whether or at what time were the Ugandan forces authorized within Congo’s territory or were necessary for the defense of Uganda? Second, do the alleged Ugandan actions rise to the level of violations of human rights and humanitarian law? Third, what, if anything, should be done about the allegation that Uganda exploited the natural resources of Congo? The Court must also sort through conflicting statements and assumptions made by the two states in question while also determining what, if any, reparations are owed.

Questions to Consider

  • To what extent does the right of self defense extend regarding matters of state sovereignty?
  • How should the Court take into consideration potential violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws?
  • How can the Court consider the actions of non-state actors and whether they are attributable to a State?
  • What claim would a state have for violations of territorial sovereignty if external state actors were brought in by a previous leader?

 

Bibliography

American Society of International Law. Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo

Charter of the Organization of African Unity.

International Court of Justice. Statute of the International Court of Justice.

Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement (1999).

United Nations, International Court of Justice. Overview of the Case | Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda)

United Nations, International Court of Justice (1999). Application Instituting Proceedings. 23 June

United Nations, International Court of Justice (2000). Counter-Memorial of Uganda. April.

United Nations, International Court of Justice (2000). Request for Provisional Measures. 19 June.

World Court Digest. Summaries of the Decisions.

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Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile) Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile)

This is a historical case. In accordance with AMUN rules and procedures, please note that the historical timeline for this case will stop on 25 September 2013. Any and all updates to this case after that date will not be relevant to the AMUN simulation nor considered in hearing the case. 

On 24 April 2013, the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia filed an application instituting proceedings against the Republic of Chile asserting Chile has an obligation to negotiate with Bolivia to reach an agreement granting Bolivia sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean. Chile denies such an obligation exists. Bolivia requested the Court to adjudge and declare: (a) Chile has an obligation to negotiate with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia  fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean; (b) Chile has breached the obligation, and (c) Chile must perform this obligation in good faith, promptly, formally, within a reasonable time and, effectively, to grant Bolivia  fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.

Chile gained its independence from Spain in 1818, and Bolivia shortly afterwards in 1825. At the time of independence, Bolivia’s territory included several hundred kilometers of coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia and Chile delimited their mutual border through the Boundary Treaty of 1866. In 1879, Chile declared war on Bolivia and Peru in the War of the Pacific, which officially ended in 1904 with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, leaving Bolivia without any coastal territory. The Treaty was followed by a series of declarations and exchanges between the two parties regarding Bolivia’s access to the Pacific Ocean, but Bolivia remains landlocked.

Bolivia argued the Court has jurisdiction over the dispute under Article XXXI of the American Treaty on the Pacific, also known as the Pact of Bogotá. In relevant part, the Pact grants the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes regarding “b) Any question of international law; c) The existence of any fact, which if established, would constitute a breach of international obligation; d) The nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation.”

On 15 July 2013, Chile entered a preliminary objection, stating the Court did not have jurisdiction in this matter. Chile’s objection quoted Article VI of the Pact of Bogotá, which states that the procedures “may not be applied to matters already settled . . . which are governed by agreements or treaties in force on the date of the conclusion of the present Treaty.” Chile contends the 1904 Peace Treaty settled the dispute regarding Bolivia’s access to the Pacific Ocean and Bolivia’s application to the ICJ is an attempt to renegotiate the Treaty.

On 24 September 2013, the Court dismissed Chile’s preliminary objection against jurisdiction. The Court cited Article XXXII of the Pact of Bogotá, which provides, “If the parties fail to agree as to whether the Court has jurisdiction over the controversy, the Court itself shall first decide that question.” The Court determined the subject matter of the dispute was not whether Bolivia should be granted sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, but whether Chile is obligated to negotiate in good faith with Bolivia, and if such an obligation exists, whether Chile breached the obligation. As the 1904 Peace Treaty does not address if Chile has an obligation to negotiate Bolivia’s sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, Chile’s objection was dismissed, and the Court determined it has jurisdiction.

Chile’s specific obligations to negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, beyond general obligations states have to negotiate in the face of a dispute, arises through a variety of treaties, acts and declarations. Prior to the 1904 Peace Treaty, the parties agreed to the Treaty of Transfer of Territory in 1895, which included several potential solutions to Bolivia’s landlocked state. This commitment by Chile to negotiate access to the Pacific Ocean was confirmed by Bolivia and Chile in the Officially Approved Act of 10 January 1920, through which the States agreed to open meetings to “strengthen and make lasting the bonds between their countries,” and through subsequent memorandums, notes, declarations and exchanges. Resulting requests by Bolivia for the two parties to reach an agreement on access to the Pacific Ocean have been unsuccessful.

Chile argues a willingness to negotiate or discussions preceding or during negotiations does not necessarily create a legal obligation. Similarly, unilateral statements in and of themselves do not necessarily rise to legally binding negotiations. Even if an obligation to negotiate did exist, that obligation would not be of an unlimited scope and duration, and the previously agreed upon treaties resulted in settled negotiations between the two parties. Finally, Chile argues that a failure to reach an agreement or rejecting a proposal that is outside of a nation’s best interest does not equal a breach of the obligation to negotiate in good faith.

Since requests to reach an agreement by Bolivia between the parties have been denied by Chile, the question before the Court is whether Chile has an obligation to negotiate with Bolivia, and if it does, whether Chile has an obligation to grant Bolivia fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.

Questions to Consider

  • What rights do landlocked countries have to access an ocean?
  • On what basis, if any, would Chile have an obligation to negotiate with Bolivia on access to the Pacific Ocean?
  • Is there a mechanism under which the Court could mandate negotiation between Chile and Bolivia?

Bibliography

Boundary Treaty (1866).

Council on Hemispheric Affairs (2011). Bolivia/Chile Pacific Access. 24 June. 

Long, Gideon (2013). Bolivia-Chile Land Dispute Has Deep Roots. BBC News. 24 April. 

Organization of American States, General Assembly (1979). Access by Bolivia to the Pacific Ocean. 31 October. AG/RES. 426. 

Pact of Botogtá (1948).

Rossi, Christopher R. (1 February 2017). A Case Ill Suited for Judgment: Constructing ‘A Sovereign Access to the Sea’ in the Atacama Desert. University of Miami Inter-American Law Review.

Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1905).

Treaty on Transfer of Territories (1895).

United Nations, International Court of Justice. Overview of the Case | Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions (Qatar v. Bahrain)

United Nations, International Court of Justice. Overview of the Case | Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile).

Vienna Convention on the law of treaties (1969).

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