SA Dassault Brguet v Association Europenne Droit contre Raison d'Etat

Date30 juin 1992
CourtCourt of Cassation (France)
France, Court of Appeal of Versailles.
Court of Cassation (First Civil Chamber).

(Doze, President)

(Massip, President; Lemontey, Rapporteur; Gaunet, Advocate General)

SA Avions Marcel Dassault Brguet Aviation
Association Europenne Droit contre Raison d'Etat

States Conduct of foreign relations Contract for sale of weapons by commercial undertaking to foreign State Whether justiciable in French courts Contract subject to authorization of French Government Whether such contract constituting an acte de gouvernement Whether severable from conduct of foreign relations by French Government

Economics, trade and finance International arms sales Private company concluding contract for sale of military aircraft to foreign State Requirement of Executive authorization Whether municipal courts having jurisdiction to examine legality of such contracts The law of France

Summary: The facts:The Association Europenne Droit contre Raison d'Etat (the Association) instituted proceedings in 1988 against Dassault Aviation in which it sought to prevent that company from continuing to sell military aircraft and equipment to Iraq. The President of the Tribunal de commerce of Nanterre held that the proceedings were inadmissible. The Association appealed, arguing that it was entitled to intervene as a shareholder in the company, because the aircraft already supplied had been repeatedly used to bomb Kurd regions of Iraq with chemical weapons, in violation of international conventions and resolutions and despite repeated condemnations at international level, so that further deliveries would be contrary to international law and French public policy. Dassault argued that the French courts had no jurisdiction over transactions which were subject to permanent State control and required prior Executive authorization, so that they constituted actes de gouvernement.

Held (by the Court of Appeal of Versailles):The courts had no jurisdiction over the claim.

The contract between Dassault and Iraq merely constituted the performance, through the agency of that company, of an acte de gouvernement which was a matter of public policy not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts, so far as the moral aspect of the dispute was concerned. The proceedings were an abuse of procedure in so far as they concerned a matter manifestly foreign to their proper object.

The Association appealed.

Held (by the Court of Cassation):The appeal was allowed and the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Versailles was quashed.

The conclusion of contracts for the sale of war materials by a commercial undertaking was separable from both the Executive decision of authorization or agreement to which it was subject and the conduct of the relations of the French Government with the authorities of foreign States. Consequently the conclusion of the contract at issue did not constitute an acte de gouvernement.

The judgment of the Court of Cassation commences at p. 221. The following is the text of the relevant part of the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Versailles:

The European Association Droil contre Raison d'Etat (Law against Reason of Statethe Association) instituted proceedings against the Socit Avions Marcel Dassault Brguet Aviation (Dassault) before the Tribunal de Commerce of Nanterre on 15 September 1988, seeking an order...

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