Chad v. Libya case brief summary
o Traditional perspective
§ state v. state, issue is over borders and territory, conflict surrounding treaties and international agreements/accords between nation-states, and resolved by an international court.
o Libya invades a useless parcel of land (Aouzou Strip) in the 1970’s and claims the territory as its own. Chad disagrees as supposed to a treaty in 1955 made between Libya and France.
§ Libya says that treaty is invalid because of coercion and the inhabitants of the region identified as Libyan.
§ Chad claims that treaty is valid and the treaty set a border.
o Dispute taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
§ Treaty governs because the parties involved conducted themselves as though the treaty were valid. It wasn’t until 1970 that Libya behaved as though the treaty were not valid. Chad never behaved as though the treaty were not in effect.
§ Stability of borders is necessary for the stability of international relations (CB 14, §73).
o ICJ’s power originates from consensus of the states involved to comply with the ICJ’s decision.
§ States involved are entitled to some representation in the ICJ – Judge appointments
o Issues at stake: Respect for borders and the strict limitations on the use of force.
o International reaction demonstrated that there was wide disapproval for the disrespect of borders and the unrestricted use of force.
o Example of the pervasive influence of Colonialism upon International System.
· FACTS: Chad contests that the Aouzou strip belongs to them b/c of the 1955 Treaty of Friendship & Good Neighborliness b/t Libya and France (France’s claims to its borders in colonial Africa); it’s a classical border dispute, territory (classic intl law case)
o At the time Chad was a part of France’s colonial territory, along w/ the Aouzou Strip, and that was included as a part of France’s territory (and thus Chad) in the treaty
o Libya agreed to these boundaries, but NOW it claims that the treaty was invalid (Libya’s king was allegedly coerced to sign the treaty…); also allegiance to Libya in the area; and also title to the area by the Ottoman Empire and then Italy (predecessor; => history)
o If there is a treaty, then there is no question about it; IF there is NO treaty, then the two most important factors to consider are:
§ 1) WHO lived there => where do they have allegiance to (complicated => when?)
§ 2) Not only the inhabitants, but some historical facts; effective administrative control, government/municipality, etc.
o THUS, Libya uses mostly “factual” arguments, and some minor legal arguments
§ One minor legal argument => that the treaty was invalid (coerced to sign)
· But Libya did not fight very hard against this treaty, so hard to support
o BUT, there was also the 1966 Treaty between Chad & Libya =>it discussed frontier questions, but there was nothing about border disputes
§ 1955 treaty was more explicit, but 1966 treaty support is, more direct because it was between Libya and Chad directly (not France and Libya)
· RULING/REASONING: The ICJ ruled that even though one treat supercedes another, the boundary still remains…
o What can we gather from this? => interpretation is a CHOICE (in most cases judges have a choice, which means more than one interpretations)
§ When you make a choice you choose whichever you can support, rationalize
o Thus the Ct held that the 1955 Treaty prevails => there must have been some purpose, an object for this treaty, which led to this interpretive choice by the court
§ The court wanted the boundary to be FINAL => permanence
§ Why is this important? => sanctity of boundary/border, & sanctity of treaty
· If we can so easily vanquish a treaty, than why have treaties in the first place? You should give treaties certain weight, what’s written in them
o ALSO, the subject matter is important; 1955 was specifically about the borders/boundary lines
§ THUS, the court made this choice b/c of the sanctity of borders, & of treaties
o QUES: What is the International Court of Justice?
§ Highest court of the UN; a kind of Supreme Ct of UN (but there are no lower cts)
§ Why can’t an individual file a complaint in the ICJ?
· The individual is a member of the intl community…
· BUT, members of the intl community/ICJ are STATES not individuals
o Intl law is about state-to-state
§ What about jurisdiction?
· 1) Two members sign an agreement (like arbitration)
o Sign a special agreement that gives type of jx
· 2) Automatic Provision
o There are certain explicit provisions that give jx… “if there is a dispute that rises under this issue… can go to ICJ”
· 3) Self-Declaration
o Succumb yourself to the jx of the ICJ
· First, in Chad-Libya think of why these two countries bothered to dispute over this seemingly insignificant piece of land. In resolving this dispute, what do you think was the role (or value) of international law?
o The two countries bothered to dispute over it b/c it’s a power struggle => boundary lines/territory is a significant power to a sovereign state, an exercise of sovereignty…
§ Being able to exercise sovereignty/use that right is part of being a nation state
§ It’s a part of defining oneself, and it can hold historical significance as well
o It could be a political issue => national pride; potential issue => vulnerability
o Intl law helped resolve this issue without resorting to just self-help (war) => there had been several armed conflicts, but it helps avoid outright war; helps promote a sense of international community…
§ Helps sovereign states compromise and live in harmony…
§ INTL law worked here, the stronger/more powerful country (Libya) lost here
· As to the ICJ (International Court of Justice)’s interpretation, what was the main source of international law on which the ICJ relied? Or did the ICJ rely more on other (non-legal) aspects of the dispute, such as actual behaviors of countries concerned?
o The ICJ relied mainly on the 1955 treaty between Libya & France, and used behavior to confirm that => it was almost akin to a contract (there are the terms of the contract, and when/if it’s ambiguous you can consider the actions of the parties…)
o THUS, the ICJ actually interpreted 2 different treaties, the 1955 and the 1966 treaties; they also interpreted many facts (attitudes of the two countries…, other circumstances)
§ They interpreted the behaviors of the parties, AFTER the treaty; it’s very strong supplemental evidence from the legal evidence of the treaty
§ Even after the 1966 treaty, Libya never complained about the border; if it was so important to them and they were so against it, why did they remain silent?
· Logical conclusion is that Libya kind of tacitly agreed => estoppels
§ On the other hand, Chad vehemently advocated their case (3 diff. fora)
· 1) Organization for Unity of Africa
· 2) United Nations General Assembly
· 3) United Nations Security Council
· Libya should comply with the results because their actions went against their words; fear of going against more than just Chad once submitted to ICJ…
o Other countries were more sympathetic to Chad; political pressures for Libya to w/draw
· Can’t it be both a victory for intl law as well as a political loss for Libya?
· Q1: What if Libya unilaterally terminated the treaty?
o Positivism, you can create a treaty, and you can destroy a treaty
o It’s not that easy to terminate a treaty => certain procedural conditions, notification, etc.
§ Even if you effectively terminate, there are factual circumstances => estoppels
§ THUS, still Libya had a very weak case
· Q2: Why did Chad (or Libya) care for such a useless piece of land? (as seen above in notes)
o Maybe there were other disputes between the two countries; manifested in border
o Set an example, weaker countries can win => INTL law worked
· Q3: Why did Libya agree to be subject to the ICJ, adjudicated (it’s a more powerful country…)?
o They knew they had a weak case? That they would lose… => for finality?
o Going to ICJ lends credibility (matter of pride) => they’re not just giving in, it’s forced
o Maybe there was a lot of political pressure => so legalization gives a type of shelter
§ We’re still a good country, respectfully comply with the decision (no humiliation)
o We’re not in a political vacuum; Libya was powerful, but not compared to many other countries, and it was not well favored => so legalization is a deflection of criticism
o THUS, legalization was a win-win for Libya
· Q4: What if a similar dispute arises between China and Russia today?
o Who knows…
· THUS, in this case we can celebrate, that intl law works (it worked here), BUT you can’t say so for every situation that passed or that is to come… => it’s different
o That’s why positivism still exists…o Treaties are still an important part of intl law (source), but there are interesting dynamics with other situations, facts, etc.