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Qatar v.

Bahrain | ICJ 1994


A claim to settle a dispute involving sovereignty over certain islands, sovereign rights over certain shoals and
delimitation of a maritime boundary was filed by Qatar in the International Court of Justice against Bahrain.
The Courts jurisdiction was however disputed by Bahrain.
FACTS: A dispute concerning sovereignty over certain islands and shoals, including the delimitation of a
maritime boundary were issues upon which Qatar and Bahrain sought to resolve for 20 years. During this period
of time, letters were exchanged and acknowledged by both parties heads of state. A Tripartite Committee for
the purpose of approaching the International Court of Justice. was formed by representatives of Qatar,
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Though the committee met several time, it failed to produce an agreement on the
specific terms for submitting the dispute to the Court. Eventually, the meetings culminated in Minutes, which
reaffirmed the process and stipulated that the parties may submit the dispute to the I.C.J. after giving the
Saudi King six months to resolve the dispute. The Courts jurisdiction was disputed by Bahrain when Qatar
filed a claim in the I.C.J.
ISSUE: Whether or not the minutes a record of negotiation can serve as a basis for jurisdiction
RULING: Yes. An international agreement creating rights and obligations can be constituted by the signatories
to the minutes of meetings and letters exchanged. Though Bahrain argued that the Minutes were only a record
of negotiation and could not serve as a basis for the I.C.J.s jurisdiction, both parties agreed that the letters
constituted an international agreement with binding force.
There is no doubt that language plays a vital role in influencing a courts decision as to whether an agreement
has been entered into and in this particular case, the language was the main focus of the I.C.J and it was the
contents of the Minutes that persuaded the I.C.J. to reject the Bahrain foreign ministers claim that he did not
intend to enter into an agreement. Where this is compared to general U.S. contract law, where a claim by one of
the parties that no contract existed because there was no meeting of the minds might be the ground upon which
a U.S. court would consider whether a contract did exist with more care and thought than the I.C.J. gave the
foreign minister of Bahrains claims.