DJIBOUTI v. FRANCE (2006) International Court of Justice
The case between Djibouti and France arose from a dispute where the former accused the latter of failing to honor an international letter rogatory. In the letter, Djibouti requested France to send them records and documentation of the investigation into the murder of a French judge, Borrel. The issues presented in this case are whether France violated its responsibilities stipulated under the Manual Assistance Convention by refusing to execute the letters received from Djibouti, and whether France breached the requirements and obligations relating to cooperation, which are outlined by the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship between Djibouti and France of 1977. The International Court of Justice held that France violated the provisions of both the Mutual Assistance Convention and its responsibilities outlined in the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship between the two states.
Keywords: Djibouti, France, Mutual Assistance Convention, Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship
The dispute between Djibouti and France arose in relation to the death of a French judge named Bernard Borrel who passed away while in Djibouti in 1995. The investigation into this death spurred conflict between the two countries, where Djibouti accused the French judicial authorities and Government of refusing to execute an international letter rogatory to the authorities in the former relating to the case involving Borrel’s murder. Djibouti held that the refusal constituted a breach of France’s international obligation stipulated in the Treaty of Friendship instituted and cosigned by the two nations in 1977. The International Court of Justice in June 2008, held France accountable for failing to meet its international obligation towards Djibouti. The aim of this summary is to present a brief of the case between the two states, following an IRAC format. The Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion (IRAC) format is used in legal frameworks to present a brief for a particular case. The issues are the facts, which forced the parties to seek a legal redress, while the rule stipulates the regulations used to resolve the issues at hand. The application or analysis explains how the rules were incorporated into making a decision about the case while the conclusion answers the questions raised in the issue section.
Issue: In 1995, the body of a French judge named Bernad Borrel was found at the bottom of a cliff located 80 kilometers away from Djibouti city. Judicial investigations were commenced immediately in both France and Djibouti, with the latter upholding a theory of suicide. During the course of the inquiries into Borrel’s murder by the two states, several senior officials in Djibouti’s Government were implicated in the murder, with the French media stating that the judge was killed for uncovering evidence about the involvement of some government officials in the drug trade. During the investigation, the French Republic would request for records concerning the case from the Djiboutian Government, to which the latter responded positively. After years of investigation, two officials from the Djiboutian Government were summoned to appear before a French court, which was conducting the proceedings, in early 2004. The Djiboutian judicial committees and the Government also decided to reopen the case. The officials requested the French Government by way of an international letter rogatory to transmit the record of their investigation. The Djibouti Government later accused the French of failing to honor its requests “Judgment in the Djibouti v. France Case”, 2008). The issues raised with respect to this dispute are whether France violated its responsibilities stipulated under the Manual Assistance Convention by refusing to execute the letters received from Djibouti, and whether France breached the requirements and obligations relating to cooperation, which are outlined by the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship between Djibouti and France of 1977.
Rule:Articles 3,5, and 17 of the Mutual Assistance Convention are the cited rules in this case. “The requested State shall execute and respond to any international letters rogatory, which relate to a criminal issue, with accordance to its law” (Article 3). “The requested State may delay the submission of records or documents requested, if it requires them..” (Article 5). “The requested State shall cite reasons for the refusal of cooperation” (Article 17).
Analysis: In its ruling, the International Court of Justice held that the French Republic violated the general agreement of cooperation between the two nations, as stipulated in the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship. According to Article 1 of this treaty, the two nations shall base their relations on mutual respect and equality. Therefore, by failing to cooperate with the Djiboutian Government, the French Republic violated the responsibilities laid down in the treaty. In addition, it acted in disregard of the principles of equality among states and breached international comity rules. The court also stated that the cooperation obligation stipulated in the treaty was to be reciprocated by both parties. Djibouti on its part, had honored all the international letters rogatory addressed by France in regards to the investigation into Borrel’s murder.
The Mutual Assistance Convention also provides for the rules to be followed between in the request for information concerning a criminal issue. France, therefore, violated the provisions of Articles 3, 5, and 17 of the Mutual Assistance Convention. The French Government did not in any way respond to Djibouti’s request for records of their investigation proceedings. Secondly, France did not provide any reason for its refusal to submit the requested documents to the Djiboutian judicial investigation committees. Although Article 5 Mutual Assistance Convention states that a state may fail to honor a request if the documents or records required by another state are in use, Article 17 adds that the state, therefore, should provide reasons for its refusal (International Court of Justice, 2008). Therefore, the International Court of Justice held that France violated the provisions of these articles in failing to give reasons for its refusal to submit the requested documents.
Conclusion: France violated its responsibilities stipulated under the Manual Assistance Convention and breached the requirements and obligations relating to cooperation, which are outlined by the Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship of 1977 between the two states.
International Court of Justice. (2008). Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France). Retrieved from http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/136/14570.pdf
Judgment in the Djibouti v. France Case. (2008). The Hague Justice Portal. Retrieved from http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/index.php?id=9309