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Permanent Court of International Justice

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Français

Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali)

Overview of the case

On 14 October 1983 Burkina Faso (then known as Upper Volta) and Mali notified to the Court a Special Agreement referring to a Chamber of the Court the question of the delimitation of part of the land frontier between the two States. This Chamber was constituted by an Order of 3 April 1985. Following grave incidents between the armed forces of the two countries at the very end of 1985, both Parties submitted parallel requests to the Chamber for the indication of interim measures of protection. The Chamber indicated such measures by an Order of 10 January 1986.

In its Judgment delivered on 22 December 1986, the Chamber began by ascertaining the source of the rights claimed by the Parties. It noted that, in that case, the principles that ought to be applied were the principle of the intangibility of frontiers inherited from colonization and the principle of uti possidetis juris, which accords pre-eminence to legal title over effective possession as a basis of sovereignty, and whose primary aim is to secure respect for the territorial boundaries which existed at the time when independence was achieved. The Chamber specified that, when those boundaries were no more than delimitations between different administrative divisions or colonies all subject to the same sovereign, the application of the principle of uti possidetis juris resulted in their being transformed into international frontiers, as in the instant case.

It also indicated that it would have regard to equity infra legem, that is, that form of equity which constitutes a method of interpretation of the law and which is based on law. The Parties also relied upon various types of evidence to give support to their arguments, including French legislative and regulative texts or administrative documents, maps and “colonial effectivités” or, in other words, the conduct of the administrative authorities as proof of the effective exercise of territorial jurisdiction in the region during the colonial period. Having considered those various kinds of evidence, the Chamber defined the course of the boundary between the Parties in the disputed area. The Chamber likewise took the opportunity to point out, with respect to the tripoint Niger-Mali-Burkina Faso, that its jurisdiction was not restricted simply because the endpoint of the frontier lay on the frontier of a third State not a party to the proceedings. It further pointed out that the rights of Niger were in any event safeguarded by the operation of Article 59 of the Statute of the Court.


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

Institution of proceedings

Agreement
(French version only)

16 September 1983
Available in:
French

Special Agreement
(French version only)

20 October 1983
Available in:
French

Written proceedings

Memorial of Mali
(French version only)

3 October 1985
Available in:
French

Memorial of Burkina Faso
(French version only)

3 October 1985
Available in:
French

Requests for the Indication of Provisional Measures
(French version only)

30 December 1985
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
French

Counter-Memorial of Mali
(French version only)

2 April 1986
Available in:
French

Counter-Memorial of Burkina Faso
(French version only)

2 April 1986
Available in:
French

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 1985

Minutes of the Public Sittings - held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, on 9 and 10 January 1986, President of the Chamber, Judge Bedjaoui, presiding
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1986

Minutes of the Public Sittings - held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, from 16 to 26 June and on 22 December 1986, President of the Chamber, Judge Bedjaoui, presiding
Available in:
Original Language

Orders

Order of 3 April 1985

Constitution of Chamber
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 12 April 1985

Fixing of time-limit: Memorials
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 3 October 1985

Fixing of time-limit: Counter-Memorials
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 10 January 1986

Request for the indication of Provisional Measures
Procedure(s): Provisional measures
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Judgments

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 1986/1

Summary of the Order of 10 January 1986
Available in:
English French

Summary 1986/3

Summary of the Judgment of 22 December 1986
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 1983/5

25 October 1983
Upper Volta and Mali bring a case before the Court
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/6

10 April 1985
The Court forms a Chamber to deal with the case submitted by Burkina Faso and Mali
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/7

22 April 1985
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Chamber to hold first public sitting
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/8

1 May 1985
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Judge Mohamed Bedjaoui elected President of the Chamber formed to deal with the case - Solemn declarations of Judges ad hoc François Luchaire and Georges Michel Abi-Saab
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/1

6 January 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Chamber of Court to hear Burkina Faso and Mali on possible indication of provisional measures
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/2

10 January 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Provisional measures are indicated in the case of the Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali)
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/4

3 April 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Filing of Counter-Memorials by the Parties
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/6

5 June 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Hearing to open on Monday 16 June 1986
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/9

30 June 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Progress and conclusion of public hearings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/17

12 December 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Judgment to be delivered in Frontier Dispute case between Burkina Faso and the Republic of Mali
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/18

22 December 1986
Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Mali) - Judgment of the Chamber
Available in:
English French

Press release 1987/1

16 January 1987
Reactions to the Judgment of 22 December 1986 in the case concerning the Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali)
Available in:
English French

Correspondence

Correspondence

14 October 1983
Correspondence
Available in:
English French