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Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda)

Overview of the case

On 23 June 1999, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) filed in the Registry of the Court Applications instituting proceedings against Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda “for acts of armed aggression committed . . . in flagrant breach of the United Nations Charter and of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity”. In addition to the cessation of the alleged acts, Congo sought reparation for acts of intentional destruction and looting and the restitution of national property and resources appropriated for the benefit of the respective respondent States.

In its Applications instituting proceedings against Burundi and Rwanda, the DRC referred, as bases for the Court’s jurisdiction, to Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Statute, the New York Convention of 10 December 1984 against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Montreal Convention of 23 September 1971 for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and, lastly, Article 38, paragraph 5, of the Rules of Court. However, the Government of the DRC informed the Court on 15 January 2001 that it intended to discontinue the proceedings instituted against Burundi and Rwanda, stating that it reserved the right to invoke subsequently new grounds of jurisdiction of the Court. The two cases were therefore removed from the List on 30 January 2001.

In the case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), the DRC founded the jurisdiction of the Court on the declarations of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court made by the two States. On 19 June 2000, the DRC filed a request for the indication of provisional measures to put a stop to all military activity and violations of human rights and of the sovereignty of the DRC by Uganda. On 1 July 2000, the Court ordered each of the two Parties to prevent and refrain from any armed action which might prejudice the rights of the other Party or aggravate the dispute, to take all measures necessary to comply with all of their obligations under international law and also to ensure full respect for fundamental human rights and for the applicable provisions of humanitarian law.

Uganda subsequently filed a Counter-Memorial containing three counter-claims. By an Order of 29 November 2001, the Court found that two of the counter-claims (acts of aggression allegedly committed by the Congo against Uganda ; and attacks on Ugandan diplomatic premises and personnel in Kinshasa and on Ugandan nationals for which the Congo is alleged to be responsible) were admissible as such and formed part of the proceedings. It also directed the submission of a Reply by the Congo and a Rejoinder by Uganda relating to the claims of both Parties in the proceedings. Those pleadings were filed within the time-limits laid down by the Court.

By an Order of 29 January 2003, the Court authorized the submission by the DRC of an additional pleading relating solely to the counter-claims submitted by Uganda, which was duly filed on 28 February 2003.

Following oral proceedings in April 2005, the Court handed down its Judgment on the merits on 19 December 2005. It began by noting that it was aware of the complex and tragic situation which had long prevailed in the Great Lakes region and of the suffering of the local population. It observed that the instability in the DRC in particular had had negative security implications for Uganda and several other neighbouring States. It recalled, however, that its task was to respond, on the basis of international law, to the particular legal dispute brought before it.

The Court first dealt with the question of the invasion of the DRC by Uganda. After examining the materials submitted to it by the Parties, the Court found that, in the period preceding August 1998, the DRC had not objected to the presence or activities of Ugandan troops in its eastern border area. The two countries had agreed, among other things, that their respective armies would “co-operate in order to insure security and peace along the common border”. However, the Court drew attention to the fact that the consent that had been given to Uganda to place its forces in the DRC, and to engage in military operations, was not an open-ended consent. It was limited, in terms of objectives and geographic location, to actions directed at stopping the rebels who were operating across the common border. It did not constitute a consent to all that was to follow.

The Court carefully examined the various treaties directed to achieving and maintaining a ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign forces and the stabilization of relations between the DRC and Uganda. It concluded that none of those instruments constituted consent by the DRC to the presence of Ugandan troops on its territory (save for the limited exception regarding the border region of the Ruwenzori Mountains contained in the Luanda Agreement). The Court also rejected Uganda’s claim that its use of force, where not covered by consent, was an exercise of self-defence, finding that the preconditions for self-defence did not exist. Indeed, the unlawful military intervention by Uganda was of such magnitude and duration that the Court considered it to be a grave violation of the prohibition on the use of force expressed in Article 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Charter.

The Court also found that, by actively extending military, logistic, economic and financial support to irregular forces operating on the territory of the DRC, the Republic of Uganda had violated the principle of non-use of force in international relations and the principle of non-intervention.

The Court then moved to the question of occupation and of the violations of human rights and humanitarian law. It observed first that, under customary international law, as reflected in Article 42 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, territory is considered to be occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army, and the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

Having concluded that Uganda was the occupying power in Ituri at the relevant time, the Court stated that, as such, it was under an obligation, according to Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Regulations, to take all measures in its power to restore and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety in the occupied area, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the DRC. This had not been done. The Court also considered that it had credible evidence sufficient to conclude that UPDF (Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces) troops had committed violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. It found that these violations were attributable to Uganda.

The third issue that the Court was called upon to examine concerned the alleged exploitation of Congolese natural resources by Uganda. In this regard, the Court considered that it had credible and persuasive evidence to conclude that officers and soldiers of the UPDF, including the most high-ranking officers, had been involved in the looting, plundering and exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources and that the military authorities had not taken any measures to put an end to these acts. Uganda was responsible both for the conduct of the UPDF as a whole and for the conduct of individual soldiers and officers of the UPDF in the DRC. This was so even when UPDF officers and soldiers had acted contrary to instructions given or had exceeded their authority. The Court found, on the other hand, that it did not have at its disposal credible evidence to prove that there was a governmental policy on the part of Uganda directed at the exploitation of natural resources of the DRC or that Uganda’s military intervention was carried out in order to obtain access to Congolese resources.

In respect of the first counter-claim of Uganda, the Court found that Uganda had not produced sufficient evidence to show that the DRC had provided political and military support to anti-Ugandan rebel groups operating in its territory, or even to prove that the DRC had breached its duty of vigilance by tolerating anti-Ugandan rebels on its territory. The Court thus rejected the first counter-claim submitted by Uganda in its entirety.

As for the second counter-claim of Uganda, the Court first declared inadmissible the part of that claim relating to the alleged maltreatment of Ugandan nationals not enjoying diplomatic status at Ndjili International Airport. Regarding the merits of the claim, it found, on the other hand, that there was sufficient evidence to prove that there were attacks against the Embassy and acts of maltreatment against Ugandan diplomats at Ndjili International Airport. Consequently, it found that the DRC had breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The removal of property and archives from the Ugandan Embassy was also in violation of the rules of international law on diplomatic relations.

The Court noted in its Judgment that the nature, form and amount of compensation owed by each Party had been reserved and would only be submitted to the Court should the Parties be unable to reach agreement on the basis of the Judgment just rendered by the Court. Following the delivery of the Judgment, the Parties have regularly informed the Court on the progress of negotiations. On 8 September 2007, the President of the Republic of Uganda and the President of the DRC concluded an Agreement on Bilateral Co-operation, Article 8 of which provided for the establishment of an ad hoc committee, composed of not more than seven members nominated by each Party, to study the Judgment rendered by the Court and to make recommendations concerning reparation. At a meeting on 25 May 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, the two States named their respective members of the ad hoc committee and agreed that that committee would adopt a work plan, rules of procedure and determine timeframes for completing its work. In addition, the DRC presented to the Ugandan delegation a document in which it provided its valuation of the damages it had suffered. In September 2012, the DRC and Uganda concluded an agreement establishing a work plan for the presentation of evidence in support of their respective claims.

On 13 May 2015, deeming that the negotiations with Uganda on this question had failed, the DRC requested the Court to determine the amount of reparation owed by Uganda. While Uganda indicated that this request was premature, the Court, in an Order of 1 July 2015, observed that although the Parties had tried to settle the question directly, they had clearly been unable to reach an agreement. It consequently fixed 6 January 2016 as the time-limit for the Parties to file their written pleadings on the question of reparations. By Orders of 10 December 2015, 11 April 2016 and 6 December 2016, the time-limit was extended to 28 April 2016, 28 September 2016 and 6 February 2018, respectively.


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

Latest developments

Press release 2016/39

12 December 2016
Fixing of the time-limit for the filing of the Parties' Counter-Memorials on reparations
Available in:
English French

Order of 6 December 2016

Fixing of the time-limit: Counter-Memorial on reparations
Available in:
English French

Press release 2015/31

14 December 2015
Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) - Extension of the time-limit for the filing of the Parties’ Memorials on reparations
Available in:
English French

Order of 10 December 2015

Extension of time-limit: Memorials on the question of reparations
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Press release 2015/18

9 July 2015
Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) - The Court decides to resume the proceedings in the case with regard to the question of reparations and fixes the time-limit for the filing of written pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 2005/26

19 December 2005
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court finds that Uganda violated the principles of non-use of force in international relations and of non-intervention; that it violated its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law; and that it violated other obligations owed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo - The Court also finds that the Democratic Republic of the Congo violated obligations owed to Uganda under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961
Available in:
English French

Summary 2005/3

Summary of the Judgment of 19 December 2005
Available in:
English French

Press release 2005/25

12 December 2005
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Court to deliver its Judgment on Monday 19 December 2005 at 10 a.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 2005/11

29 April 2005
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Conclusion of the public hearings - Court ready to begin its deliberation
Available in:
English French

Verbatim record 2005/16

Public sitting held on Friday 29 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/14

Public sitting held on Wednesday 27 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/15

Public sitting held on Wednesday 27 April 2005, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/13

Public sitting held on Monday 25 April 2005, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/12

Public sitting held on Monday 25 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/11

Public sitting held on Friday 22 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/9

Public sitting held on Wednesday 20 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/10

Public sitting held on Wednesday 20 April 2005, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/8

Public sitting held on Tuesday 19 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/7

Public sitting held on Monday 18 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/6

Public sitting held on Friday 15 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/5

Public sitting held on Wednesday 13 April 2005, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/4

Public sitting held on Wednesday 13 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/3

Public sitting held on Tuesday 12 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2005/2

Public sitting held on Monday 11 April 2005, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Shi presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Press release 2005/8

30 March 2005
Armed activities in the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Schedule of public hearings to be held from 11 to 29 April 2005
Available in:
English French

Press release 2004/36

6 December 2004
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court will hold public hearings from 11 to 29 April 2005
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/39

7 November 2003
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The public hearings scheduled to open on Monday 10 November 2003 have been postponed
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/37

5 November 2003
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Programme of the hearings to be held from 10 to 28 November 2003
Available in:
English French

Documents submitted to the Court after the Closure of the Written Proceedings

17 October 2003
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
English French

Press release 2003/24

25 July 2003
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court will hold public hearings from 10 to 28 November 2003
Available in:
English French

Additional Written Observations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Counter-Claims submitted by Uganda
(French version only)

28 February 2003
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
French

Press release 2003/12

10 February 2003
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court authorizes the submission of an additional written pleading by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to be filed by 28 February 2003
Available in:
English French

Order of 29 January 2003

Decision regarding submission of additional pleading on Counter-claims; fixing of time-limit
Procedure(s): Counter-claims | translation missing: en.merits
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Rejoinder of Uganda

6 December 2002
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English

Press release 2002/32

13 November 2002
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court extends by seven days the time-limit for the filing of Uganda's Rejoinder
Available in:
English French

Order of 7 November 2002

Extension of time-limit: Rejoinder
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Reply of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(French version only)

29 May 2002
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
French

Press release 2001/36

13 December 2001
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court holds two of Uganda's counter-claims to be admissible and the third inadmissible and fixes time-limits for the filing of further pleadings
Available in:
English French

Order of 29 November 2001

Finding on Counter-claims; fixing of time-limits: Reply and Rejoinder
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Verbatim record 2001/7

Public sitting held on Tuesday 16 October 2001, at 12.30 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Procedure(s): translation missing: en.merits-and-counter-claims
Available in:
Original Language

Press release 2001/24

10 October 2001
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Solemn declaration by the judges ad hoc - The Court will hold a public sitting on Tuesday 16 October 2001 at 12.30 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Counter-Memorial of Uganda

21 April 2001
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
English

Memorial of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(French version only)

6 July 2000
Procedure(s): Counter-claims
Available in:
French

Press release 2000/24

1 July 2000
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court orders the Parties to refrain forthwith from any armed action and enjoins them to ensure full respect within the zone of conflict for fundamental human rights
Available in:
English French

Summary 2000/2

Summary of the Order of 1 July 2000
Available in:
English French

Press release 2000/23

30 June 2000
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Request for the indication of provisional measures - Court to give its decision on Saturday 1 July 2000 at 11 a.m.
Available in:
English French

Verbatim record 2000/23

Public sitting held on Wednesday 28 June 2000, at 4 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/24

Public sitting held on Wednesday 28 June 2000, at 6 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2000/20

Public hearing held on Monday 26 June 2000, at 6 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Guillaume presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Press release 2000/20

21 June 2000
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - Request for the indication of provisional measures - The Court will hear the Parties at public hearings to be held on Monday 26 and Wednesday 28 June 2000 at 4 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 2000/18

19 June 2000
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Democratic Republic of the Congo requests the Court to indicate provisional measures as a matter of urgency
Available in:
English French

Request for the indication of Provisional Measures
(French version only)

19 June 2000
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
French

Press release 1999/45

25 October 1999
Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) - The Court fixes time-limits for the filing of written pleadings and decides that in two cases the proceedings shall first address questions of jurisdiction and admissibility
Available in:
English French

Order of 21 October 1999

Decision regarding content of written proceedings; fixing of time-limits: Memorial and Counter-Memorial
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Press release 1999/34

23 June 1999
The Democratic Republic of Congo institutes proceedings against Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda on account of "acts of armed aggression"
Available in:
English French