On recent approaches of the International Court of Justice to presumptions and the burden of proof: a comment on the Judgement in Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) (9 February 2022)

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Author: Adam Nal’giev

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2023-1-3-20

Keywords: burden of proof; presumptions; circumstantial evidence; International Court of Justice; international disputes; international law


This article constitutes a comment on the Judgement of the International Court of Justice in the case Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) (9 February 2022) regarding the amount of reparations to be paid by Uganda for the damage caused to the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the armed conflict 1998–2003 (“the Second Congo War”). In deciding the case, the Court grappled with the task of establishing the large amount of the facts of the case with very limited evidence available, making the Court’s approach to evidence of crucial importance. In the article, the author analyses the Court’s decision to establish the presumption of Uganda’s responsibility for the damage occurred in Ituri, an eastern province of Democratic Republic of the Congo, during its occupation by Uganda, and to shift the burden of proof to Uganda. The author proposes potential arguments for such an approach and provides a critical assessment of them. The most plausible argument – that Uganda excercised control over Ituri during the occupation – is not considered by the author to fully correspond to the prevailing practice of international courts and tribunals, in which the burden of proof is shifted only after determining the specific evidence under the opponent’s control and its important to the dispute. However, the Judgement does not specify which particular evidence was not accessible for the applicant on account of the occupation of Ituri and does not explain its significance to the case. The author concludes that, in such cases where there is a high degree of uncertainty about the facts, international courts and tribunals should take a more active role in fact-finding, including by requesting the necessary evidence from the parties. Likewise, courts’ conclusions about presumptions and shifting the burden of proof should be clearly articulated and justified in their decisions.

About the author: Adam Nal’giev – Ph.D. Student, School of International Law, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Nal’giev A. (2023) O novykh podkhodakh Mezhdunarodnogo Suda OON k prezumptsiyam i bremeni dokazyvaniya: kommentariy k resheniyu ot 9 fevralya 2022 goda po delu Voennye deystviya na territorii Kongo (Demokraticheskaya Respublika Kongo protiv Ugandy) [On recent approaches of the International Court of Justice to presumptions and the burden of proof: a comment on the Judgement in Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda) (9 February 2022)]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 3–20. (In Russian).


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