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DRC-RWANDA: Two states begin formal arguments at UN Court

NAIROBI, 4 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Lawyers and experts representing the government of Rwanda began making oral arguments on Monday before the 15 judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, in the first of four days of public hearings concerning armed activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In the application the DRC made on 28 May 2002 for the ICJ to hear the case, the DRC government accused Rwanda of committing "massive, serious and flagrant violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law", according to an ICJ statement issued in May.

Rwandan troops occupied the DRC's territory twice in the last decade which, according to the DRC's written application, was in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity, as guaranteed by the UN and the Organization of African Unity Charters, the forerunner to the African Union.

Lawyers and experts for the DRC are due to begin oral arguments on Tuesday. In a statement issued in June, the ICJ said the current round of hearings, due to end on 8 July, would "deal with issues concerning the jurisdiction of the court" and "the admissibility" of the DRC's application for the ICJ to hear the case.

Following early hearings held on 13 and 14 June 2002, the ICJ's judges decided that at first appearance it seemed they did not have jurisdiction over the case. However they also rejected Rwanda's request that the case be removed from the ICJ's case list and, on 18 September 2002, ordered that the two states make 'written pleadings', which they did in 2003.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Its role includes settling legal disputes submitted by member states.

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