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World Court Digest

I. Substantive International Law - First Part
7.7. Suspension and Termination

¤ Territorial Dispute
(Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Chad),
Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1994, p. 6

[p. 37] 72. Article 11 of the 1955 Treaty provides that:

"The present Treaty is concluded for a period of 20 years.
The High Contracting Parties shall be able at all times to enter into consultations with a view to its revision.
Such consultations shall be compulsory at the end of the ten-year period following its entry into force.
The present Treaty can be terminated by either Party 20 years after its entry into force, or at any later time, provided that one year's notice is given to the other Party."

These provisions notwithstanding, the Treaty must, in the view of the Court, be taken to have determined a permanent frontier. There is nothing in the 1955 Treaty to indicate that the boundary agreed was to be provisional or temporary; on the contrary it bears all the hallmarks of finality. The establishment of this boundary is a fact which, from the outset, has had a legal life of its own, independently of the fate of the 1955 Treaty. Once agreed, the boundary stands, for any other approach would vitiate the fundamental principle of the stability of boundaries, the importance of which has been repeatedly emphasized by the Court (Temple of Preah Vihear, I.C.J. Reports 1962, p. 34; Aegean Sea Continental Shelf, I.C.J. Reports 1978, p. 36).
73. A boundary established by treaty thus achieves a permanence which the treaty itself does not necessarily enjoy. The treaty can cease to be in force without in any way affecting the continuance of the boundary. In this instance the Parties have not exercised their option to terminate the Treaty, but whether or not the option be exercised, the boundary remains. This is not to say that two States may not by mutual agreement vary the border between them; such a result can of course be achieved by mutual consent, but when a boundary has been the subject of agreement, the continued existence of that boundary is not dependent upon the continuing life of the treaty under which the boundary is agreed.

[p. 98 S.O. Sette-Camara] As to the 1955 Treaty, it had an agreed duration of 20 years, a duration which was explicitly established by the parties for each of the concessions made to France. Now, Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides, inter alia, that the termination of a treaty takes place in conformity with the provisions of the treaty. Therefore the 1955 Treaty lapsed in 1975. The Parties were discreet in discussing its Article 11. But the Chadian Counter-Memorial dealt with it, accepting the fact that the Treaty lapsed in 1975, though only to contend that the provisions of Article 3 and Annex I survive the Treaty because the latter contains boundary agreements and consequently benefits from the exception to the tabula rasa rule reserved for dispositive and territorial treaties. But the character of those provisions cannot be taken for granted, and their role in providing an internationally recognized frontier remains to be proved.