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Permanent Court of International Justice

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Français

Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)

Overview of the case

On 9 January 2006, the Republic of Djibouti filed an Application against the French Republic in respect of a dispute :

“concern[ing] the refusal by the French governmental and judicial authorities to execute an international letter rogatory regarding the transmission to the judicial authorities in Djibouti of the record relating to the investigation in the Case against X for the murder of Bernard Borrel, in violation of the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the [Djiboutian] Government and the [French] Government, of 27 September 1986, and in breach of other international obligations borne by [France] to . . . Djibouti”.

In its Application, Djibouti also alleged that these acts constituted a violation of the Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation concluded between France and Djibouti on 27 June 1977. Djibouti indicated that it sought to found the jurisdiction of the Court on Article 38, paragraph 5, of the Rules of Court. This provision applies when a State submits a dispute to the Court, proposing to found the Court’s jurisdiction upon a consent yet to be given or manifested by the State against which the Application is made. This was the second occasion that the Court had been called upon to pronounce on a dispute brought before it by an Application based on Article 38, paragraph 5, of its Rules (forum prorogatum). France consented to the jurisdiction of the Court by a letter, dated 25 July 2006 in which it specified that this consent was “valid only for the purposes of the case, within the meaning of Article 38, paragraph 5, i.e., in respect of the dispute forming the subject of the Application and strictly within the limits of the claims formulated therein” by Djibouti. However, the Parties disagreed as to the exact extent of the consent given by France.

In a Judgment rendered on 4 June 2008, the Court, having read Djibouti’s Application together with France’s letter in order to determine the extent of the mutual consent of the Parties, concluded that (a) it had jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute concerning the execution of the letter rogatory addressed by the Republic of Djibouti to the French Republic on 3 November 2004 ; (b) it had jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute concerning the summons addressed to the President of the Republic of Djibouti on 17 May 2005 and the summonses addressed to two senior Djiboutian officials on 3 and 4 November 2004 and 17 June 2005 ; (c) it had jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute concerning the summons addressed to the President of the Republic of Djibouti on 14 February 2007 ; and (d) it had no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute concerning the arrest warrants issued against two senior Djiboutian officials on 27 September 2006.

Having established the precise scope of its jurisdiction in the case, the Court turned first to the alleged violation by France of the Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation between France and Djibouti of 27 June 1977. While pointing out that the provisions of the said Treaty constituted relevant rules of international law having “a certain bearing” on relations between the Parties, the Court concluded that “the fields of co-operation envisaged in th[at] Treaty do not include co-operation in the judicial field” and thus that the above-mentioned relevant rules imposed no concrete obligations in this case.

The Court then turned to the allegation that France had violated its obligations under the 1986 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Under that Convention, judicial co-operation is envisaged, including the requesting and granting of “letters rogatory” (usually the passing, for judicial purposes, of information held by a party). The Convention also provides for exceptions to this envisaged co-operation. Since the French judicial authorities refused to transmit the requested case file, a key question in the case was whether that refusal fell within the permitted exceptions. Also at issue was whether France had complied with the provisions of the 1986 Convention in other respects. The Court held that the reasons given by the French investigating judge for refusing the request for mutual assistance fell within the scope of Article 2 (c) of the Convention, which entitles the requested State to refuse to execute a letter rogatory if it considers that that execution is likely to prejudice its sovereignty, its security, its ordre public or other of its essential interests. The Court did however conclude that, as no reasons were given in the letter dated 6 June 2005, whereby France informed Djibouti of its refusal to execute the letter rogatory presented by the latter on 3 November 2004, France had failed to comply with its international obligations under Article 17 of the 1986 Convention.


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

Institution of proceedings

Written proceedings

Memorial of the Republic of Djibouti
(French version only)

15 March 2007
Available in:
French

Counter-Memorial of the French Republic
(French version only)

13 July 2007
Available in:
French

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 2008/1

Public sitting held on Monday 21 January 2008, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2008/2

Public sitting held on Tuesday 22 January 2008, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2008/3

Public sitting held on Tuesday 22 January 2008, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2008/4

Public sitting held on Thursday 24 January 2008, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2008/5

Public sitting held on Friday 25 January 2008, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2008/6

Public sitting held on Monday 28 January 2008, at 10 a.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Verbatim record 2008/7

Public sitting held on Tuesday 29 January 2008, at 3 p.m., at the Peace Palace, President Higgins presiding, in the case concerning Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France)
Available in:
Original Language
Translation
(bilingual version) Translation

Other documents

Orders

Order of 15 November 2006

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

Judgments

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 2008/2

Summary of the Judgment of 4 June 2008
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 2006/1

10 January 2006
The Republic of Djibouti seises the International Court of Justice of a dispute with France
Available in:
English French

Press release 2006/32

10 August 2006
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - The French Republic consents to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to entertain an Application filed against France by the Republic of Djibouti - The Court enters the new case in its List
Available in:
English French

Press release 2006/39

16 November 2006
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - Fixing of time-limits for the filling of the initial pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 2007/27

2 October 2007
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - Public hearings to open on Monday 21 January 2008
Available in:
English French

Press release 2007/31

20 December 2007
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - Schedule of the public hearings which will open on Monday 21 January 2008
Available in:
English French

Press release 2008/2

17 January 2008
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - Additional information regarding the hearings opening on Monday 21 January 2008
Available in:
English French

Press release 2008/3

30 January 2008
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - Conclusion of the public hearings - Court begins its deliberation
Available in:
English French

Press release 2008/11

26 May 2008
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - Court to deliver its Judgment on Wednesday 4 June 2008 at 10 a.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 2008/14

4 June 2008
Certain Questions of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Djibouti v. France) - The Court finds that France, by not giving Djibouti the reasons for its refusal to execute the letter rogatory presented by the latter on 3 November 2004, failed to comply with its international obligation under Article 17 of the 1986 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and that the finding of this violation constitutes appropriate satisfaction; it rejects all other claims by Djibouti
Available in:
English French