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World Court Digest

II. Substantive International Law - Second Partv
1.2. Boundaries
1.2.1.Land Boundaries

¤ Case Concerning the Land and Maritime
Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria
(Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guinea Intervening)
Judgment of 10 October 2002

[p. ] 84. The Parties have devoted lengthy arguments to the difference between delimitation and demarcation and to the Court’s power to carry out one or other of these operations. As the Court had occasion to state in the case concerning the Territorial Dispute (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Chad) (I.C.J. Reports 1994, p. 28, para. 56), the delimitation of a boundary consists in its “definition”, whereas the demarcation of a boundary, which presupposes its prior delimitation, consists of operations marking it out on the ground. In the present case, the Parties have acknowledged the existence and validity of the instruments whose purpose was to effect the delimitation between their respective territories; moreover, both Parties have insisted time and again that they are not asking the Court to carry out demarcation operations, for which they themselves will be responsible at a later stage. The Court’s task is thus neither to effect a delimitation de novo of the boundary nor to demarcate it.

85. The task which Cameroon referred to the Court in its Application is “to specify definitively” (emphasis added by the Court) the course of the land boundary as fixed by the relevant instruments of delimitation. Since the land boundary has already been delimited by various legal instruments, it is indeed necessary, in order to specify its course definitively, to confirm that those instruments are binding on the Parties and are applicable. However, contrary to what Cameroon appeared to be arguing at certain stages in the proceedings, the Court cannot fulfil the task entrusted to it in this case by limiting itself to such confirmation. Thus, when the actual content of these instruments is the subject of dispute between the Parties, the Court, in order to specify the course of the boundary in question definitively, is bound to examine them more closely.
The dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over certain points on the land boundary between Lake Chad and Bakassi is in reality simply a dispute over the interpretation or application of particular provisions of the instruments delimiting that boundary. It is this dispute which the Court will now endeavour to settle.