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At UN court, lawyers finish their oral arguments over jurisdiction

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THE HAGUE, 8 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - After four days of oral arguments at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, lawyers representing Rwanda said they were confident that they had convinced the judges not to go further with the case that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is seeking to bring against Rwanda.

However, lawyers representing the DRC said they were upbeat that they had convinced the judges to the contrary.

"We brought convincing arguments to the court that it has jurisdiction to judge the case and that our application is admissible," Richard Lukunda, assistant to the DRC's lawyers, told IRIN on Friday after the hearings.

Lawyers for the two countries each had two days to present and defend their arguments.

The DRC frequently submitted that it had brought the case to the ICJ because Rwanda had sabotaged its efforts to negotiate bilaterally. However, Rwanda said it had never been invited.

"They never produced any documentary proof of their attempt to negotiate," Martin Ngoga, Rwanda's deputy chief prosecutor, said after the hearings.

The DRC first filed its complaint against Rwanda in May 2002, accusing it of "massive, serious and flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law" during its 1998-2002 occupation of the eastern part of the DRC.

Representing the DRC, Ntumba Luaba Lumu, a professor of law and secretary-general of the DRC government said, "We are demanding the court to preserve the principles of morale and humanity by affirming its jurisdiction."

Rwanda said it had invaded and occupied eastern DRC because of a threat to its own security. Members of the DRC's former government army and thousands of Hutu militiamen, many of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, had fled there.

Still lawyers for the DRC said the invasion was illegal under international law. "The presence of a [foreign] army inside a sovereign state was abnormal," Gentian Zyberi, a researcher in international law at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, who represented the DRC, said.

In further defending Rwanda, lawyer Christopher Greenwood told the judges on Wednesday that they should not hear a case if both parties were unwilling to take part.

"The jurisdiction of the court can be established only on the basis of the consent of the parties to the case", he said "We ask the Court to declare accordingly that it lacks jurisdiction."

The DRC delegation was led by Justice Minister Honorius Kisimba Ngoy and included the DRC's ambassador to the Netherlands, Jacques Massangu. Rwanda was represented by its ambassador to Belgium, Joseph Bonesha.

At the end of the hearings the presiding judge, Justice Shi Jiuyong, said both parties "will be advised in due course on the date on which the court will deliver its statement." The court can take months to render its decision.




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