624. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in South Africa1

30257. Subj: South Africa Aide-Memoire on SWA. FYI: Noforn—Following Based on Uncleared Memcon.


SA Ambassador Taswell delivered Aide-Memoire August 17 to Acting Secretary on ICJ judgment re SWA. Text transmitted separately.2

In essence, Aide-Memoire: (a) takes exception to Dept. press release July 27 which indicated we considered earlier ICJ advisory opinions still valid; (b) argues present ICJ decision suggests Court itself regards correctness of 1950 opinion as open question and strongly suggests there is no longer any obligation on part SA to report on SWA to anybody; (c) stresses importance of abandonment by Ethiopia and Liberia of allegations of oppression in SWA which implied basis of repeated UN condemnation of SA administration of SWA was false; (d) expresses hope Western countries will in future adopt more objective attitude on SWA, and those who would have pressed for observance of ICJ judgment adverse to SA will now oppose attempts to persecute SA in or outside UN.

Acting Secy made following comments:
US considered ICJ judgment purely procedural, and not a decision on substance of SWA case.
Legal situation remains same as before ICJ judgment. Dept’s July 27 press release reflected this view, including our conclusion that previous ICJ advisory opinions remain applicable, although we recognize they do not have the same force as would a binding decision in a contentious case.
As far as policy of apartheid concerned, our attitude well known and not changed by ICJ decision.
We had erroneously anticipated ICJ would make substantive judgment against SA, and our Aide-Memoire to SAG3 intended merely to express hope SAG would cooperate and minimize problems expected to flow from Court decision.
While we do not have substantive finding by Court, we expect African UN members to seek political action in UNGA. We must reserve [Page 1057] our position until we see what form requests for such action take and how they fit into our general policy.
We do believe UNGA succeeded to supervisory responsibilities of League of Nations; we will take note of SA Aide-Memoire but believe SAG is mistaken in concluding any substantive question settled by ICJ decision.
Taswell made rather disjointed and mildly impassioned plea in support SAG position that latest ICJ verdict indicated Court threw out case because it was ill-founded. However, he recalled, Courts traditionally rule on minimal number of questions.
Acting Secy responded ICJ had indeed acted on minimal number of questions, to wit, merely that Ethiopia and Liberia lacked standing.
Legal Advisor Meeker re-enforced these points by stressing Court merely said ICJ found that Article 7 did not permit applicants to obtain a judgment on issue of whether SA properly carrying out its mandate since this kind of issue had been entrusted by mandate to League of Nations; ICJ never got to the merits of the case.
Taswell recalled our emphasis on need to support rule of law, said sauce for goose is sauce for gander, and expressed hope we would assure that at GA UN majority will support rule of law.
Acting Secy said we fully agree rule of law should be supported but again disagreed with SAG conclusion that any substantive point of law decided by recent ICJ decision.
Taswell asked for copies of “notes passed to Liberia and Ethiopia” at time our Aide-Memoire delivered them. Asst Secy Palmer said he thought no useful purpose served thereby and that it unclear as to whether our views this matter delivered in writing at these posts.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 19 SW AFR. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Buffum, cleared by Palmer and Meeker, and approved by Buffum. Sent to Cape Town, also sent to Pretoria and USUN, and repeated to London and by pouch to Monrovia and Addis Ababa.
  2. Telegram 30116 to Cape Town, August 17, transmitted the text of the South African aide-memoire delivered August 17. (Ibid.)
  3. The text of the U.S. aide-memoire delivered July 15 was transmitted in telegram 7135 to Pretoria, July 13. (Ibid.)