Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Frontier Dispute Case (Burkina Faso v. Mali) case brief

Frontier Dispute Case (Burkina Faso/Mali)


Procedural History:
Interpretation of a statement made by tbe head of state.

Overview:

The Mali Head of State made a declaration tbat was interpreted to be a unilateral act.

Issue:

Do unilateral declarations made by heads of state bind the state to its terms only when the intention confers on the declaration the character of a legal undertaking?

Rule:

unilateral declarations made by heads of state bind the state to its terms only when the intention confers on the declaration the character of a legal undertaking

Analysis:

In the Nuclear Tests cases, the Court interpreted the French government’s unilateral declarations as effectively communicating the intent to terminate atmospheric testing. In that case, the French government had no alternative but to express its intentions by unilateral declarations. This case is distinguished since the parties had the normal method of formal agreement available.

Outcome:

Yes. Unilateral declarations made by heads of state bind the state to its terms only when the intention confers on the declaration the character of a legal undertaking. It  is for the court to “form its own view of the meaning and scope intended by tbe author of a unilateral declaration which might create a legal obligation.” In order to assess the intentions of the author of a unilateral act, account must be taken of all  the factual circumstances in which the act occurred. Here, there was nothing to hinder the parties from entering a formal agreement. Since no such agreement was entered, there are no grounds to inter pret the Mali Head of State’s declaration as a unilateral act with legal implications.

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