UN court to start hearings next year in French-Djiboutian dispute on witnesses

2 November 2007 – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced today that it will begin public hearings next January in a case between France and Djibouti over whether high-level figures in the African country, including its Head of State, can be summoned as witnesses as part of a French judicial investigation.

In a statement issued from its headquarters in The Hague, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations said the hearings will start on 21 January and a detailed schedule will be published later.

The dispute relates to an investigation by French judicial authorities into the circumstances surrounding the death of Bernard Borrel, a French judge, in Djibouti in 1995.

The ICJ agreed to hear the case in August last year after France formally consented to the Court’s jurisdiction following an application filed by Djibouti in January that year, and the two sides have since filed written pleadings on the matter to ICJ.

Djibouti’s application stated that France had violated its international obligations under two bilateral treaties – the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation (signed in 1977) and the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (1986) – by not handing over information relating to its judicial investigation into Mr. Borrel’s death.

The Horn of Africa nation also stated that France had breached its obligations by seeking to call as witnesses to the inquiry “certain internationally protected nationals of Djibouti, including the Head of State.”

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