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World Court Digest

III. The International Court of Justice
1.4. Political Questions/
Determination of the Existence of a Dispute

¤ Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000
(Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Belgium)
Judgment of 14 February 2002

[pp. 47 D.O. Oda] 3. ... the Congo’s Application provides no basis on which to infer that the Congo ever thought that a dispute existed between it and Belgium regarding the arrest warrant issued by a Belgian investigating judge on 11 April 2000 against Mr. Yerodia, the Minister for Affairs of the Congo. The word “dispute” appears in the Application only at its very end, under the heading “V. Admissibility of the Present Application”, in which the Congo stated that: “As to the existence of a dispute on that question [namely, the question that the Court is called upon to decide], this is established ab initio by the very fact that it is the non-conformity with international law of the Law of the Belgian State on which the investigating judge founds his warrant which is the subject of the legal grounds which [the Congo] has submitted to the Court.” (Emphasis added.) Without giving any further explanation as to the alleged dispute, the Congo simply asserted that Belgium’s 1993 Law, as amended in 1999, concerning the Punishment of Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law contravened international law.

4. The Congo’s mere belief that the Belgian law violated international law is not evidence, let alone proof, that a dispute existed between it and Belgium. It shows at most that the Congo held a different legal view, one opposed to the action taken by Belgium. It is clear that the Congo did not think that it was referring a dispute to the Court. The Congo, furthermore, never thought of this as a legal dispute, the existence of which is a requirement for unilateral applications to the Court under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Court’s Statute. The Congo’s mere opposition to the Belgian Law and certain acts taken by Belgium pursuant to it cannot be regarded as a dispute or a legal dispute between the Congo and Belgium. In fact, there existed no such legal dispute in this case.