The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today rejected a request by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for provisional measures against Rwanda over what Kinshasa alleged was Kigali's aggression on its territory.
In a 14 to 2 decision, the Court concluded that it lacked the "jurisdiction necessary to indicate" those steps, which were requested by the DRC when the case was submitted in May. At that time, the DRC called for provisional measures "pending the Court's decision on the merits to prevent irreparable harm being caused to its lawful rights and to those of its population by reason of the occupation of part of its territory by Rwandan forces."
In its decision today, the Court also found, by 15 votes to 1, that it could not grant a request by Rwanda to reject the DRC's entire case, which was brought over "massive, serious and flagrant violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law" alleged to have been committed in breach of relevant international instruments and UN resolutions.
In explaining its decision, the ICJ emphasized its deep concern over the "deplorable human tragedy, loss of life, and enormous suffering" in the east of the DRC resulting from the continued fighting there. At the same time, the Court pointed out that it "does not automatically have jurisdiction over legal disputes between States" and it cannot indicate provisional measures without its jurisdiction in the case being established prima facie, meaning at first sight.
These findings, however, "in no way prejudge the question of the jurisdiction of the Court to deal with the merits of the case" brought by the DRC against Rwanda. Those countries still have the right to submit arguments in the case.