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Part II: Analysis of Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean

Published on October 20, 2017        Author:  and

An overview of the Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire judgment is provided in the first part of this post. The purpose of this second part is to highlight issues of practical significance which flow from the judgment.

In two important ways, the Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire judgment has demonstrated the functionality of dispute resolution processes under Part XV of UNCLOS, both in the context of maritime delimitation disputes and more generally.

Consistency with international delimitation jurisprudence

First, the ITLOS Special Chamber evidenced a desire to contribute to the development of consistent delimitation jurisprudence, and confirmed that the ‘equidistance/relevant circumstances method’ is now standard in a delimitation process – regardless of whether the coasts of claiming States parties are opposite or adjacent to one another. Importantly, it adhered to the three-step methodology identified and employed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Black Sea. It did so by drawing a provisional equidistance line between the relevant coasts, considering the factors which might warrant adjustment of that line, and then applying an ex-post facto (dis)proportionality test to verify that the delimitation line was equitable. Notably, the Special Chamber maintained consistency with recent maritime delimitation jurisprudence by underscoring the primacy of criteria associated with coastal geography (concavity, coastal length, etc.) and ignoring factors related to offshore oil activities or the presence of seabed resources in the relevant area. Read the rest of this entry…

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Part I: Analysis of Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean

Published on October 19, 2017        Author:  and

On 23 September 2017, the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) rendered an award in Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire. It is only the second case, following the Guyana/Suriname Arbitration of 2007, in which an international adjudicating body has ascertained the meaning and scope of Articles 74(3) and 83(3) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) within the context of unilateral oil and gas operations in disputed areas.

The Special Chamber delimited the parties’ territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf boundaries within and beyond 200 nautical miles (nm) with the boundary being an unadjusted equidistance line favouring Ghana. Other key questions for adjudication were a) Ghana’s claim regarding a long-standing, tacit agreement as to the existence of a maritime boundary and b) Côte d’Ivoire’s allegation that, by continuing with oil activities in the disputed area, Ghana had violated its Article 83(1) and (3) UNCLOS obligations to negotiate in good faith and to make every effort through provisional arrangements not to jeopardise or hamper arrival at an agreement.

In its judgment, the Special Chamber reached a number of conclusions which, taken with its Order for the prescription of provisional measures of 25 April 2015, will have significant, practical implications for the future conduct of unilateral oil and gas activities in disputed maritime areas, as well as for the associated rights and obligations incumbent upon States concerned. Read the rest of this entry…

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Election of Judges to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Published on June 17, 2017        Author: 

2017 will be a busy year for elections to international tribunals. There will be elections later this year to elect five Judges of the International Court of Justice and six judges of the International Criminal Court (see here). Earlier this week, the States Parties to the United Nations Convention of the Sea elected seven Judges to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). ITLOS is composed of 21 judges and elections for seven judges are held every three years. As with the ICJ and the ICC, ITLOS judges serve for a term of 9 years and may be re-elected [Art. 5(1)ITLOS Statute]. The purpose of this post is to simply to report the results of the 2017 ITLOS election and to make a few observations about possible trends in elections to international tribunals.

The States Parties re-elected two judges currently on the ITLOS bench: Judge Boualem Bouguetaia (Algeria) and Judge José Luís Jesus (Cabo Verde). The five new judges taking up their seats on the 1st of October 2017 will be: Mr Oscar Cabello Sarubbi (Paraguay), Ms Neeru Chadha (India), Mr Kriangsak Kittichaisaree (Thailand), Mr Roman Kolodkin (Russian Federation), and Ms Liesbeth Lijnzaad (The Netherlands).  The full list of candidates for the elections can be found here. Judges are elected where they obtain the largest number of votes and a two-thirds majority of the States Parties present and voting, provided that such majority includes a majority of the States Parties [Art. 4(4), ITLOS Statute]

An interesting development in the current ITLOS election is the failure of two serving judges: Judges Joseph Akl (Lebanon) and Rudiger Wolfrum (Germany) to be re-elected.  The qualifications and experience of these judges are beyond doubt. However, both have been on ITLOS since its formation in 1996 and there might be a feeling that 21 years is long enough for anyone. I have heard it said at the UN there is a feeling among states that though there are no formal term limits for judicial positions, treaty bodies and the like, it is not healthy for individuals to be there for too long. It was a surprise to some (myself included) when the late Sir Nigel Rodley was not re-elected to the Human Rights Committee last year and perhaps the long period of service on the Committee was a factor. This is an issue that states should take into account in nominating candidates.

Two of the seven judges elected are women (Neeru Chadha and Ms Liesbeth Lijnzaad, who both recently represented their states in the Enrica Lexicie and Artic Sunrise proceedings before ITLOS.). Read the rest of this entry…

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The ICJ’s Preliminary Objections Judgment in Somalia v. Kenya: Causing Ripples in Law of the Sea Dispute Settlement?

Published on February 22, 2017        Author: 

On 2 February 2017, the International Court of Justice handed down its Judgment on preliminary objections in the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya). Somalia had brought the case to request that the Court determine its single maritime boundary with neighbouring Kenya. The ICJ held that it may proceed to the merits phase, thereby rejecting the respondent’s submissions. Among other arguments, Kenya raised an objection rooted in Part XV (“Settlement of disputes”) of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC). It contended that the Convention’s dispute settlement system is an agreement on the method of settlement for its maritime boundary dispute with Somalia and therefore falls within the scope of Kenya’s reservation to its optional clause declaration made pursuant to Art. 36(2) of the ICJ Statute, which excludes “[d]isputes in regard to which the parties to the dispute have agreed or shall agree to have recourse to some other method or methods of settlement”.

The fact that Kenya relied on this argument is noteworthy in and of itself, as it was the first time that the Court faced a LOSC-based jurisdictional challenge. Moreover, we believe that the way in which the Court disposed of this argument has far-reaching implications since it casts a long shadow over dispute resolution in the law of the sea. But before delving into the ICJ’s reasoning and its ramifications, we will highlight some essentials of the LOSC dispute settlement system.   Read the rest of this entry…

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The Philippines v. China Arbitral Award on the Merits as a Subsidiary Source of International Law

Published on July 12, 2016        Author: 

“Great Game” politics in the Asia-Pacific has just changed irrevocably, especially for all parties, claimants, and affected constituencies in the South China Sea, after the Annex VII UNCLOS arbitral tribunal released its 12 July 2016 Award in Republic of the Philippines v. People’s Republic of China (Permanent Court of Arbitration Case No. 2013-19).  While we will be featuring posts over the coming days on this award that dissect and analyze the award, its international legal significance, and its larger geopolitical consequences for all claimants to the South China Sea dispute and third-party actors (such as the United States), for now, a close read of all 479 pages of this arbitral award reveals it to be an extremely rich and fertile piece of international jurisprudence, one that will certainly have far-ranging doctrinal impacts as an international judicial decision that is also an authoritative subsidiary means for determination of the international law rules under UNCLOS, especially on questions such as the:
1) normative weight of “historic rights” and differentiating the same from “historic title” and “historic rights short of sovereignty”, and clarifying what could still possibly amount to historic rights that States could still validly assert within the UNCLOS treaty regime;

2) authoritative criteria for determining the existence of low-tide elevations (LTEs), noting that the legal consequences of which were not completely settled in the International Court of Justice’s judgment in Qatar v. Bahrain;

3) objective criteria for the authoritative interpretation of Article 121 UNCLOS;

4) objective and subjective criteria for testing the lawfulness and unlawfulness of a coastal State’s asserted ‘enforcement’ activities; and the

5) objective or scientific factors that could be taken into account to determine the existence of actionable environmental damage to the marine environment under Articles 192 and 194 UNCLOS.

Interestingly, the arbitral tribunal did not assume jurisdiction in this case over the interpretation of “military activities” within the meaning of Article 298 of UNCLOS, which the Philippines had asserted in regard to various military and paramilitary incidents with China over Second Thomas Shoal. It would be interesting to see, in the coming days, how the United States reacts to this development, since it has frequently insisted on the prerogative of the coastal State to make the authoritative determination of what “military activities” could be justifiably excluded from compulsory dispute settlement under UNCLOS Article 298(1)(b).

The evidentiary rules and fact-finding procedures of this tribunal will also, I suspect, also provoke considerable commentary, if not critique, since the tribunal drew heavily from numerous statements, published views, and opinions that were attributed to the respondent in this case. One can also expect questions to be raised on why the respondent never chose to participate in the proceedings if only to challenge jurisdiction, to contest the veracity or authoritativeness of the Philippines’ technical, environmental, hydrographical, and other expert submissions under protest, or to otherwise set its own narrative, instead of permitting China’s narrative to be formed from the tribunal’s reconstruction of innumerable media statements and statements of officials.

Clearly, this award has greater consequences beyond China’s repeated refusal to recognize it (at least for now). As a subsidiary means for determining international law, it is conceivably difficult for any of the claimants – the Philippines included – to ignore the legal effect of this ruling and its impact on all future steps to be undertaken in the actual maritime boundary delimitation negotiations. The ruling will likely affect the landscape of interpretation for the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties to the South China Sea, and the ongoing work agenda of the ASEAN-China Working Group on the Code of Conduct for the Parties to the South China Sea. Whatever the stated preferences may be of China or the new Duterte administration in the Philippines, and regardless of objections to the veracity of factual findings of the tribunal, the very existence of the Philippines v. China arbitration award as a subsidiary means for determining the rules of international law arguably changes the very scope and interpretation of actual applicable law to be considered by parties to this dispute.

We look forward to featuring a broad spectrum of views from various international lawyers and scholars on this landmark arbitral award, as we track contemporaneous developments in the Asia-Pacific region, and invite further discussion especially on next steps ahead for the actual disputes between the claimants on maritime boundary delimitation. Read the rest of this entry…

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The ‘Internationalization’ of Maritime Disputes in the South China Sea: Environmental Destruction in the High Seas and Threats to the Global Commons

Published on April 28, 2016        Author: 

What does it mean to ‘internationalize’ a maritime dispute? Accusations of ‘internationalization’ of the maritime disputes in the South China Sea have been strident over the past weeks, most recently from the 18 April 2016 Joint Communique of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, and the People’s Republic of China, which stressed that “Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned. In this regard the Ministers called for full respect of all provisions of UNCLOS, as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC.” (Joint Communique, para. 21). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was also reported to have observed to Chinese media in Moscow during the Russia-China-India April 2016 trilateral summit that “[attempts to internationalize the issue] are completely counterproductive. Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN are pursuing, can bring the desired result; namely, mutually acceptable agreements” – a sentiment echoed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who was also reported to have voiced his opposition to the ‘internationalization’ of the South China Sea dispute on the basis of the Philippines’ “unilaterally-proposed arbitration case”. Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated the call for negotiations only between the states involved, reportedly implying  nations outside the region such as the United States have “no role in regional disputes”.  The Russia-China-India trilateral statement came one week after the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, yielded the April 11, 2016 G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Maritime Security, which stated, among others, that the G7 “express[es]… strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions, and urge all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamations including large scale  ones, building of outposts, as well as their use for military purposes and to act in accordance with international law including the principles of freedoms of navigation and overflight. In areas pending final delimitation, we underline the importance of coastal states refraining from unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment insofar as such actions jeopardize or hamper the reaching of the final agreement, as well as the importance of making every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature, in those areas.” (G7 Statement, para. 5).   Read the rest of this entry…

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The Jurisdictional Rubicon: Scrutinizing China’s Position Paper on the South China Sea Arbitration – Part II

Published on January 30, 2015        Author: 

Yesterday I set out the background to the Position Paper issued by the China, on December 7, 2014, “on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration initiated by the Republic of the Philippines” [hereafter, “China Position Paper”] and examined China’s first objection to the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal. In this post, I consider the other Chinese objections.

Second Chinese Objection: Did the Philippines violate the duty to negotiate in regard to the subject-matter of this dispute, when it initiated the arbitration?

The China Position Paper effectively maintains that the ‘exclusive’ dispute settlement mechanism between the Philippines and China on the South China Sea is friendly consultations and negotiations (China Position Paper, paras. 30-39). This position would appear tenable, if one were to tacitly accept the characterization of the arbitration’s subject-matter as one involving claims for maritime delimitation, rather than merely the “interpretation or application of UNCLOS” to the maritime limits drawn in the 9-dash line map as well as to the submerged geographic features described therein.

Notwithstanding the disputed characterization of the arbitration’s subject-matter, however, it is difficult to see where a duty to exclusively pursue negotiations or friendly consultations exists. Ordinary textual examination of the bilateral instruments and multilateral instrument (e.g. the 2002 ASEAN Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) referenced in the China Position Paper, appears to militate against the notion of an exclusive choice of dispute settlement through ‘friendly consultations and negotiations’. Nothing in the language of the instruments therein definitively rules out compulsory arbitration under Part XV of UNCLOS – which as UNCLOS Part XV also explicitly stresses, is likewise a peaceful means of dispute settlement in international law. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Jurisdictional Rubicon: Scrutinizing China’s Position Paper on the South China Sea Arbitration – Part I

Published on January 29, 2015        Author: 

On December 7, 2014, China officially published its Position Paper “on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration initiated by the Republic of the Philippines” [hereafter, “China Position Paper”]. The China Position Paper was issued two days after the US State Department issued its December 5, 2014 Limits in the Seas No. 143 Report, “China: Maritime Claims in the South China Sea”, authored by its Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs and Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs [hereafter, “US State Department Report”]. The US State Department Report concludes, in particular, that: “unless China clarifies that the dashed-line claim reflects only a claim to islands within that line and any maritime zones that are generated from those land features in accordance with the international law of the sea, as reflected in the [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea/UNCLOS], its dashed-line claim does not accord with the international law of the sea.” (US State Department Report, p. 24). China’s 7 December 2014 Position Paper provides its first official, public, and certainly most authoritative clarification of its arguments and claims to date, and certainly introduces a significant dimension to the ongoing arbitration proceedings. Vietnam is reported to have filed a (hitherto-undisclosed) statement to the Annex VII arbitral tribunal, asking the latter to take into account its legal interests while also refuting China’s claims. Although the China Position Paper explicitly states that it should “not be regarded as China’s acceptance of or participation in [the] arbitration” (China Position Paper, para. 2), the Annex VII tribunal is arguably not prevented from taking cognizance of the statements therein as part of China’s jurisdictional objections in this dispute. China itself circulated the Position Paper to members of the arbitral tribunal, albeit stressing that it should not be construed as acceptance of, or participation in, the arbitration (Permanent Court of Arbitration 17 December 2014 Press Release). In its 22 November 2013 Provisional Measures Order in the Arctic Sunrise case (Netherlands v. Russian Federation) – a case where Russia explicitly refused to appear in the proceedings – the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) took motu proprio judicial notice of two Notes Verbale by Russia to the Netherlands, as evidence of the nature and content of Russia’s jurisdictional challenge to the existence of a dispute between the parties (Arctic Sunrise Order, paras. 64-65, 68). Read the rest of this entry…

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Towards a New Global Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity

Published on August 5, 2014        Author: 

Sadatl4Leila Nadya Sadat is the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and Israel Treiman Faculty Fellow at Washington University School of Law and has been the Director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute since 2007.

Douglas J. Pivnichny, JD, is the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute Fellow at Washington University School of DPivnichny photoLaw in St. Louis, Missouri, and a masters candidate in International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative and Recent Developments at the ILC

On Thursday, July 17, the International Law Commission moved the topic of crimes against humanity from its long-term to its active agenda and appointed Professor Sean D. Murphy as Special Rapporteur. The Rapporteur’s charge is to prepare a First Report, which will begin the process of proposing Draft Articles to the Commission for its approval. The expectation is that, in due course, the Commission will send a complete set of Draft Articles for use as a convention to the United Nations General Assembly. This was a crucial step in filling a normative gap that has persisted despite the development of international criminal law during the past decades:  the absence of a comprehensive global treaty on crimes against humanity.

The Commission’s interest in this topic was sparked by the work of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, launched by Professor Leila Sadat of Washington University School of Law in 2008.  The Initiativeset out to study the current state of the law and sociological reality regarding the commission of crimes against humanity and to address the gap in the current international legal framework by drafting a global, comprehensive model convention on crimes against humanity. Ambitious in scope and conceptual design, the Initiative has been directed by a distinguished Steering Committee and consulted more than 300 experts in the course of elaborating and discussing the Proposed International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity (Proposed Convention), published by Cambridge University Press in English, French and Spanish in Forging a Convention for Crimes Against Humanity (1st  ed., 2011; 2nd ed., 2013). Arabic, Chinese, German and Russian translations are also available. Read the rest of this entry…

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ITLOS order Ghana to release Argentine navy ship

Published on December 17, 2012        Author: 

On 15 December, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ordered Ghana to release the Argentine military training vessel ARA Fragata Libertad (see oral proceedings). NML Capital, an investment company focused on distressed debt based in the Cayman Islands and owned by Elliot Associates, a US hedge fund, had earlier obtained an order from the Ghana Superior Court of Judicature (Commercial Division) to attach the Libertad moored in the port of Trema to satisfy a judgment by a US District Court for payment on defaulted Argentine bonds. The Libertad was on an official goodwill mission in Ghana’s internal waters at the time of the attachment. Read the rest of this entry…

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