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Subsequent Practice in the Whaling Case, and What the ICJ Implies about Treaty Interpretation in International Organizations

Published on March 31, 2014        Author: 

Today the ICJ delivered its long-anticipated judgment in the Whaling Case (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand Intervening), finding Japan’s whaling program in breach of the Whaling Convention on several counts. It is a rich judgment, which will be more fully digested over the next few days.

In this post I want to draw attention to one specific point on the ICJ’s approach to the interpreting the Whaling Convention – specifically the Court’s approach to subsequent agreement and practice in relation to its prior advisory jurisprudence on the interpretation of the U.N. Charter. The relevant aspect of the Whaling Judgment concerns the Court’s assessment of the weight of resolutions issued by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The IWC is a supervisory body established by the Whaling Convention. It has the capacity to amend certain provisions of the Convention by three-fourths majority vote (though amendments will not bind any State Party that objects). It can also render non-binding recommendations. The Court indicates at the outset that while such resolutions are non-binding, when “they are adopted by consensus or by a unanimous vote, they may be relevant for the interpretation of the Convention.” (¶46). The Court notes that the Commission has amended the Convention several times, and that “the functions conferred on the Commission have made the Convention an evolving instrument” (¶45). Read the rest of this entry…

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ICJ Decides the Whaling in the Antarctic Case: Australia Wins

Published on March 31, 2014        Author: 

This morning the ICJ delivered its judgment in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening). Australia won on almost all counts, and by 12 votes to 4. The Court’s principal reasoning is that while Japan’s whaling programme involved ‘scientific research,’ a concept that the Court did not want to define with particular precision, it was still not conducted for the purposes of scientific research, and thus violated Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The Court took a number of factors into account in making this determination, including: decisions regarding the use of lethal methods; the scale of the programme’s use of lethal sampling; the methodology used to select sample sizes; a comparison of the target sample sizes and the actual take; the time frame associated with a programme; the programme’s scientific output; and the degree to which a programme co-ordinates its activities with related research projects. The determination in the Court’s view required an objective standard of review, rather than a deferential one which would take the state’s professed objectives at face value. It thus found that bearing in mind the design of Japan’s programme, its minor scientific output etc,  it was not set up for the purposes of scientific research. In terms of the remedy, the Court ordered Japan to revoke existing whaling permits and refrain from authorizing new ones under the current whaling programme.

The judgment summary is available here, the judgment itself and a number of separate opinions here. We will have more coverage of the case in the week to come.

 

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