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Source: International Court of Justice (ICJ)
26 April 1988
International Court of Justice
Case Summaries
APPLICABILITY OF THE OBLIGATION TO ARBITRATE UNDER SECTION 21 OF
THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS AGREEMENT OF 26 JUNE 1947

Advisory Opinion of 26 April 1988

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Submission of the request and subsequent procedure

(paras. 1-6)

Events material to the qualification of the situation

(paras. 7-22)

For that purpose the Court set out the sequence of events which led first the Secretary-General and then the General Assembly to conclude that such a dispute existed. "notwithstanding any provision of the law to the contrary, to establish or maintain an office, headquarters, premises or other facilities or establishments within the jurisdiction of the United States at the behest or direction of, or with funds provided by, the Palestine Liberation Organization  . . ."

The text of that Bill became an amendment, presented in the Senate in the autumn of 1987, to the "Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989". From the terms of that amendment it appeared that the United States Government would, if the Bill became law, seek to close the office of the PLO Observer Mission. On 13 October 1987 the Secretary-General accordingly emphasized, in a letter to the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, that the legislation contemplated ran counter to obligations arising from the Headquarters Agreement, and the following day the PLO Observer brought the matter to the attention of the United Nations Committee on Relations with the Host Country. On 22 October a spokesman for the Secretary-General issued a statement to the effect that sections 11-13 of the Headquarters Agreement placed a treaty obligation on the United States to permit the personnel of the Mission to enter and remain in the United States in order to carry out their official functions.

"that the United States Secretary of State had stated that the closing of that mission would constitute a violation of United States obligation under the Headquarters Agreement, and that the United States Government was strongly opposed to it; moreover the United States Representative to the United Nations had given the Secretary-General the same assurances". "under an obligation to permit PLO Observer Mission personnel to enter and remain in the United States to carry out their official functions at United Nations Headquarters",

was also cited by another representative and confirmed by the Representative of the United States.

The Secretary-General responded, however, by observing that he had not received the assurance he had sought and did not consider that the statements of the United States enabled full respect for the Headquarters Agreement to be assumed. He went on: The Secretary-General then proposed that negotiations should begin in conformity with the procedure laid down in section 21. On 11 February 1988 the Legal Counsel of the United Nations informed the Legal Adviser of the Department of State of the United Nations' choice of its arbitrator, in the event of an arbitration under section 21, and, in view of the time constraints, urged him to inform the United Nations as soon as possible of the United States' choice. No communication in that regard was however received from the United States. Material events subsequent to the submission of the request

(paras. 23-32)

"pending a decision in such litigation. Under the circumstances, the United States believes that submission of this matter to arbitration would not serve a useful purpose".

The Secretary-General took strong issue with that viewpoint in a letter of 15 March. Meanwhile the Attorney-General, in a letter of 11 March, had warned the Permanent Observer of the PLO that, as of 21 March, the maintenance of his Mission would be unlawful. Since the PLO Mission took no steps to comply with the requirements of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Attorney-General sued for compliance in the District Court for the Southern District of New York. The United States' written statement informed the Court, however, that no action would be taken

"to close the Mission pending a decision in that litigation. Since the matter is still pending in our courts, we do not believe arbitration would be appropriate or timely."

Limits of the Court's task

(para. 33)

Existence of a dispute

(paras. 34-44)

Qualification of the dispute

(paras. 46-50)

Condition of non-settlement by other agreed means

(paras. 51-56)

Conclusion

(paras. 57-58)

"that the United States of America, as a party to the Agreement between the United Nations and the United States of America regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations of 26 June 1947, is under an obligation, in accordance with section 21 of that Agreement, to enter into arbitration for the settlement of the dispute between itself and the United Nations".

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