010- International Status of South-West Africa

On December 27th, 1949, the Secretary-General of the United Nations transmitted to the Registry of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) a resolution of the General Assembly in which the latter requested the Court to give its opinion on the following questions:

”What is the international status of the Territory of South West Africa and what are the international obligations of the Union of South Africa arising therefrom, in particular : (a) Does the Union of South Africa continue to have international obligations under the Mandate for South-West Africa and, if so, what are those obligations ? (b) Are the provisions of Chapter XII of the Charter applicable and, if so, in what manner, to the Territory of South-West Africa ? (c) Has the Union of South Africa the competence to modify the international status of the Territory of South-West Africa, or, in the event of a negative reply, where does competence rest to determine and modify the international status of the Territory ?”

After confirming that it has jurisdiction and verifying that there were no reasons preventing the Court from pronouncing, it delivered its opinion on July 11th, 1950 considering that:

  • South West Africa is a territory subject to the International Mandate assumed by the Union of South Africa on December 17th 1920;
  • The Union of South Africa continues to be subject to the international obligations set out in article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Mandate for South West Africa;
  • The provisions of Chapter XII of the Charter shall apply to the Territory of South West Africa in the sense that they provide the means of placing the Territory under trusteeship;
  • The Union of South Africa acting alone does not have jurisdiction to change the international status of the Territory of South West Africa, and that jurisdiction to determine and modify that international status rests with the Union of South Africa acting with the consent of the United Nations.

Advisory Opinion of 11-07-1950.pdf

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.