05 Jul The ICJ Rolls On (Like Molasses)
The ICJ is hearing oral arguments this week in a long-running case between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo is alleging that Rwanda is responsible for the deaths of some 3.5 million Congolese who have died during Congo’s civil wars because of Rwanda’s intervention in that civil war. Congo is asking for an order from the ICJ requiring Rwanda to desist from its intervention and to pay compensation.
The law and facts here are pretty messy, although Congo’s attempt to fix all of the responsibility for its problems on Rwanda seems dubious. Still, it is remarkable that a case of this sort has been brought to the ICJ. And it is even more remarkable that the ICJ has made no special effort to resolve the case expeditiously. Yes, I’m beating a dead horse here, but the ICJ simply cannot be an effective tribunal if it cannot speed up its consideration of cases. This week, the ICJ is considering only the jurisdiction and admissibility of the case (along with a new request for provisional measures by Congo). The written briefs on this portion of the case were filed in January 2003. No explanation is provided by the ICJ for why it waited two and a half years (July 2005) to hold hearings on those written pleadings. As far as I can tell, neither Congo nor Rwanda asked to suspend the case during that time.
The best case scenario for Congo: In about six months, Congo will win a decision from the ICJ granting them a provisional measures order and a decision to retain jurisdiction over the case. Congo can then go ahead and file their case on the merits, for which it can expect to wait another three years or so (or longer, because the factual issues will take more time to consider next time). So, maybe by July 2008, just in time for the Beijing Olympics?
One hopes the ICJ is simply inefficient and that its justices are lazy. Or it may be that the ICJ simply doesn’t care a whole lot about the Africa cases, which is why it was willing to move faster in cases against the U.S. and Israel. Either way, its (slow) downward spiral into irrelevance continues.