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World Court Digest

I. Substantive International Law - First Part
8.9. Consequences of an Internationally Wrongful Act

¤ Gabcíkovo-Nagymaros Project
(Hungary / Slovakia)
Judgment of 25 September 1997
I.C.J. Reports 1997, p. 7

[pp. 239-240 D.O.Skubiszewski] 22. A State that concluded a treaty with another State providing for the execution of a project like Gabèíkovo-Nagymaros cannot, when that project is near completion, simply say that all should be cancelled and the only remaining problem is compensation. This is a situation where, especially under equitable principles, the solution must go beyond mere pecuniary compensation. The Court has found that the refusal by Hungary to implement the Treaty was unlawful. By breaching the Treaty, Hungary could not deprive Czechoslovakia and subsequently Slovakia of all the benefits of the Treaty and reduce their rights to that of compensation. The advanced stage of the work on the Project made some performance imperative in order to avoid harm: Czechoslovakia and Slovakia had the right to expect that certain parts of the Project would become operational.

23. Thus, pecuniary compensation could not, in the present case, wipe out even some, not to speak of all, of the consequences of the abandonment of the Project by Hungary. How could an indemnity compensate for the absence of flood protection, improvement of navigation and production of electricity? The attainment of these objectives of the 1977 Treaty was legitimate not only under the Treaty but also under general law and equity. The benefits could in no way be replaced and compensated by the payment of a sum of money. Certain works had to be established and it was vital that they be made operational. For the question here is not one of damages for loss sustained, but the creation of a new system of use and utilization of the water.