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World Court Digest

I. Substantive International Law - First Part
5.9. Trusteeship System

¤ Certain Phosphate Lands in
Nauru (Nauru / Australia),
Preliminary Objections, Judgment,
I.C.J. Reports 1992, p. 240

[pp. 250-251] 22. Australia's third objection is that Nauru's claimis

"inadmissible on the ground that termination of the Trusteeship by the United Nations precludes allegations of breaches of the Trusteeship Agreement from now being examined by the Court".

Australia observes that "all the Nauruan allegations of breaches of obligations" relate to "the administration of the territory" placed under Trusteeship. Australia adds that "the competence to determine any alleged breach of the Trusteeship Agreement and Article 76 of the Charter rested exclusively with the Trusteeship Council and General Assembly"; that when the General Assembly terminates a trust, "the whole system of administrative supervision [comes] to an end"; and that

"in the absence of an express reservation recording a breach and an outstanding responsibility on the Administering Authority, termination is conclusive and operates as a complete discharge from all further responsibility".

According to Australia, Nauru therefore cannot now request the Court:

"to undertake the task of exploring again the performance of the Trusteeship in order to overrule and contradict the conclusions and decisions taken by the competent United Nations organs in the exercise of their functions of supervision of the trusteeship system".

23. The Court notes that, by resolution 2347 (XXII) of 19 December 1967, the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved

"in agreement with the Administering Authority, that the Trusteeship Agreement for the Territory of Nauru ... shall cease to be in force upon the accession of Nauru to independence on 31 January 1968".

Such a resolution had "definitive legal effect" (Northern Cameroons, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1963, p. 32). Consequently, the Trusteeship Agreement was "terminated" on that date and "is no longer in force" (ibid., p. 37). In the light of these considerations, it might be possible to question the admissibility of an action brought against the Administering Authority on the basis of the alleged failure by it to comply with its obligations with respect to the administration of the Territory. However, the Court does not consider it necessary to enter into this debate and will confine itself to examining the particular circumstances in which the Trusteeship for Nauru was terminated.

[p. 322 D.O. Oda] 25. All claims arising from the implementation of the Trusteeship could have been settled only under the United Nations mechanism. No legal dispute within the meaning of Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute could possibly have existed at that time with regard to the administration of Nauru under the United Nations Trusteeship on the eve of Nauru's independence, as no sovereign State was in a position to put forward a claim based on a purported breach of the obligations entered into by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as the Administering Authority, during the Trusteeship period. A question, however, might have been raised if there was indeed any dispute outstanding between the independent State of Nauru and Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom at the time of Nauru's accession to independence. However, no claim to the rehabilitation of worked-out phosphate lands addressed to the Administering Authority of the Trusteeship by the people of Nauru was taken over by the State of Nauru at the time of independence in 1968. No United Nations document under which Nauru gained independence showed any evidence of a transfer of the claim or of the creation of a fresh claim for the independent State of Nauru.