Links

Site search
Document search
Contact

The Court

History
Members of the Court
Presidency
Chambers and Committees
Judges ad hoc
How the Court Works
Financial Assistance to Parties
Annual Reports

The Registry

Registrar
Organizational Chart of the Registry
Texts governing the Registry
Library of the Court
Employment
University traineeship program
Internships
Procurement

Cases

List of All Cases
Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders

Basic Documents

Charter of the United Nations
Statute of the Court
Rules of Court
Practice Directions
Other Texts

Jurisdiction

Contentious Jurisdiction
Advisory Jurisdiction

Press Room

Press releases
Calendar
Media Services
Multimedia
Frequently Asked Questions

Practical Information

Directions
Visits
Links
Frequently Asked Questions

Publications

Introduction

Permanent Court of International Justice

Series A: Collection of Judgments (1923-1930)
Series B: Collection of Advisory Opinions (1923-1930)
Series A/B: Collection of Judgments, Orders and Advisory Opinions (from 1931)
Series C: Acts and documents relating to Judgments and Advisory Opinions given by the Court / Pleadings, Oral Arguments and Documents
Series D: Acts and Documents concerning the organization of the Court
Series E: Annual Reports
Series F: General Indexes
Other documents


Français

LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America)

Overview of the case

On 2 March 1999, the Federal Republic of Germany filed in the Registry of the Court an Application instituting proceedings against the United States of America in a dispute concerning alleged violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963. Germany stated that, in 1982, the authorities of the State of Arizona had detained two German nationals, Karl and Walter LaGrand, who were tried and sentenced to death without having been informed of their rights, as is required under Article 36, paragraph 1 (b), of the Vienna Convention. Germany also alleged that the failure to provide the required notification precluded Germany from protecting its nationals’ interest provided for by Articles 5 and 36 of the Vienna Convention at both the trial and the appeal level in the United States courts. Germany asserted that although the two nationals, finally with the assistance of German consular officers, did claim violations of the Vienna Convention before the federal courts, the latter, applying the municipal law doctrine of “procedural default”, decided that, because the individuals in question had not asserted their rights in the previous legal proceedings at State level, they could not assert them in the federal proceedings. In its Application, Germany based the jurisdiction of the Court on Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Statute of the Court and on Article I of the Optional Protocol of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Germany accompanied its Application by an urgent request for the indication of provisional measures, requesting the Court to indicate that the United States should take “all measures at its disposal to ensure that [one of its nationals, whose date of execution had been fixed at 3 March 1999] [was] not executed pending final judgment in the case . . .”. On 3 March 1999, the Court delivered an Order for the indication of provisional measures calling upon the United States of America, among other things, to “take all measures at its disposal to ensure that [the German national] [was] not executed pending the final decision in [the] proceedings”. However, the two German nationals were executed by the United States.

Public hearings in the case were held from 13 to 17 November 2000. In its Judgment of 27 June 2001, the Court began by outlining the history of the dispute and then examined certain objections of the United States of America to the Court’s jurisdiction and to the admissibility of Germany’s submissions. It found that it had jurisdiction to deal with all Germany’s submissions and that they were admissible.

Ruling on the merits of the case, the Court observed that the United States did not deny that, in relation to Germany, it had violated Article 36, paragraph 1 (b), of the Vienna Convention, which required the competent authorities of the United States to inform the LaGrands of their right to have the Consulate of Germany notified of their arrest. It added that, in the case concerned, that breach had led to the violation of paragraph 1 (a) and paragraph 1 (c) of that Article, which dealt respectively with mutual rights of communication and access of consular officers and their nationals, and the right of consular officers to visit their nationals in prison and to arrange for their legal representation. The Court further stated that the United States had not only breached its obligations to Germany as a State party to the Convention, but also that there had been a violation of the individual rights of the LaGrands under Article 36, paragraph 1, which rights could be relied on before the Court by their national State.

The Court then turned to Germany’s submission that the United States, by applying rules of its domestic law, in particular the doctrine of “procedural default”, had violated Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Convention. That provision required the United States to “enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded [under Article 36] [were] intended”. The Court stated that, in itself, the procedural default rule did not violate Article 36. The problem arose, according to the Court, when the rule in question did not allow the detained individual to challenge a conviction and sentence by invoking the failure of the competent national authorities to comply with their obligations under Article 36, paragraph 1. The Court concluded that, in the present case, the procedural default rule had the effect of preventing Germany from assisting the LaGrands in a timely fashion as provided for by the Convention. Under those circumstances, the Court held that in the present case the rule referred to violated Article 36, paragraph 2.

With regard to the alleged violation by the United States of the Court’s Order of 3 March 1999 indicating provisional measures, the Court pointed out that it was the first time it had been called upon to determine the legal effects of such orders made under Article 41 of its Statute — the interpretation of which had been the subject of extensive controversy in the literature. After interpreting Article 41, the Court found that such orders did have binding effect. In the present case, the Court concluded that its Order of 3 March 1999 “was not a mere exhortation” but “created a legal obligation for the United States”. The Court then went on to consider the measures taken by the United States to implement the Order concerned and concluded that it had not complied with it.

With respect to Germany’s request seeking an assurance that the United States would not repeat its unlawful acts, the Court took note of the fact that the latter had repeatedly stated in all phases of those proceedings that it was implementing a vast and detailed programme in order to ensure compliance, by its competent authorities, with Article 36 of the Convention and concluded that such a commitment must be regarded as meeting the request made by Germany. Nevertheless, the Court added that if the United States, notwithstanding that commitment, were to fail again in its obligation of consular notification to the detriment of German nationals, an apology would not suffice in cases where the individuals concerned had been subjected to prolonged detention or convicted and sentenced to severe penalties. In the case of such a conviction and sentence, it would be incumbent upon the United States, by whatever means it chose, to allow the review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence taking account of the violation of the rights set forth in the Convention.


This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.

Institution of proceedings

Written proceedings

Request for the indication of Provisional Measures of Protection

2 March 1999
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
English French

Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany

16 September 1999
Procedure(s): Questions of jurisdiction and/or admissibility
Available in:
English

Counter-Memorial of the United States of America

27 March 2000
Procedure(s): Questions of jurisdiction and/or admissibility
Available in:
English

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 2000/26

Public sitting held on Monday 13 November 2000, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/27

Public sitting held on Monday 13 November 2000, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/28

Public sitting held on Tuesday 14 November 2000, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/29

Public sitting held on Tuesday 14 November 2000, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/30

Public sitting held on Thursday 16 November 2000, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/31

Public sitting held on Friday 17 November 2000, at 2 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Other documents

Orders

Order of 5 March 1999

Fixing of time-limits: Memorial and Counter-Memorial
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Judgments

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 1999/1

Summary of the Order of 5 March 1999
Available in:
English French

Summary 2001/2

Summary of the Judgment of 27 June 2001
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 1999/7

2 March 1999
Germany brings a case against the United States of America and requests the indication of provisional measures
Available in:
English French

Press release 1999/9

3 March 1999
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - Provisional measures - The Court calls on the United States to take measures to prevent the execution of Walter LaGrand pending a final decision
Available in:
English French

Press release 1999/8

3 March 1999
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - Request for the indication of provisional measures - Court to give its decision today, Wednesday 3 March 1999 at 7 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 1999/12

8 March 1999
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - Fixing of time-limits for the filing of written pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 2000/30

27 September 2000
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - The Court will hold public hearings from Monday 13 to Friday 17 November 2000
Available in:
English French

Press release 2000/38

17 November 2000
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - Conclusion of the public hearings on the merits of the dispute - Court ready to consider its Judgment
Available in:
English French

Press release 2001/15

15 June 2001
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - Court to deliver its Judgment on Wednesday 27 June 2001 at 10 a.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 2001/16

27 June 2001
LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America) - The Court finds that the United States has breached its obligations to Germany and to the LaGrand brothers under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations - The Court finds, for the first time in its history, that orders indicating provisional measures are legally binding
Available in:
English French