At Peace Palace, the Women of the ICJ

Women of the ICJ2
Further to Cymie Payne’s excellent IntLawGrrls post regarding ongoing oral hearings before the International Court of Justice in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) (webcasts and transcripts available here; prior post here):

Cymie cites among the “great international litigators” on the case Laurence Boisson de Chazournes (below), a professor of international law at the University of Geneva. Also well worth mentioning, of course, is the work done on this case by the jurists depicted above – the Women of the ICJ. ICJ Judge Xue Hanqin of China stands at left. At right is ICJ Judge Julia Sebutinde of Uganda; next to her, ICJ Judge Joan E. Donoghue of the United States. laurenceBetween Donoghue and Xue is ICJ Judge ad hoc Hilary Charlesworth, an Australian National University international law professor (not to mention an IntLawGrrls contributor). They flank the portrait of the ICJ’s first woman member, Rosalyn Higgins of Great Britain. She began service as an ICJ Judge in 1995– four years after the publications of a milestone article in which Charlesworth et al. decried the absence of women on that bench. Higgins was the ICJ’s President from 2006 until her retirement in 2009.

(With thanks to Don Anton for forwarding the featured group photo. Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann.)

Whaling at the ICJ – Oral Proceedings in Australia v Japan

Common Minke Whale Photo By Simon Pierre Barrette Creative Commons ShareAlike License
What had seemed a quixotic effort to stop Japan’s Southern whaling program using international law is looking like a more even fight. In the oral proceedings underway for Australia’s challenge to Japan’s whaling program (JARPA II) at the International Court of Justice, Japan argues that—in a world of more than 7 billion people—cultural differences must be respected and the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) must be applied with a “margin of appreciation” for Japan’s interpretation of the treaty. (Australia notes that the concept of a margin of appreciation developed in the European Union Courts to allow states to fine-tune EU law according to national culture and social policy, and is not a rule of international law.)

According to Japan, it hunts whales to collect scientific information as permitted by an exception to the global moratorium on “harvesting” whales under the ICRW. Australia argues that JARPA II has no scientific basis or merit, and that Japan conducts it in the manner of a commercial venture, not scientific research; it quotes a statement made in the Japanese Diet vowing to use the scientific exception to continue whaling.

New Zealand, intervening as a party to the ICRW, stresses that the treaty was intended “to replace unilateral whaling with a system of collective regulation,” whether a state’s interest is in using whales or protecting them for their own sake. Japan’s actions, Australia argues, have in effect reduced its treaty obligations to facultative ones and so dissolved the treaty rights of all other treaty members.
Australia has decided not to make claims based on two other conventions, CITES and the Convention on Biodiversity mentioned in its application (for discussion of these, see Don Anton’s ASIL Insight).

The most interesting arguments have discussed the nature of scientific research and its relation to law. Japan argues that “the case concerns the legality of Japan’s activities under international law and not ethical values or the evaluation of good or bad science” and that the ICJ has no role in evaluating JARPA II. It has submitted very little by way of scientific evidence to support the validity or productivity of the whaling program.

In contrast, Australia and New Zealand emphasize that the questions before the Court are straightforward and offer the Court a number of criteria to assess whether JARPA II is scientific research. These include the lack of peer review of JARPA II, the arbitrary determination of sample sizes (i.e., the number of whales to be killed each year), and the insistence on lethal methods. The presentation and cross-examination of experts is a highlight of the video; a great change from the criticized approach to experts in the Pulp Mills case. The judges’ numerous questions indicate that they are interested in the scientific arguments, and not deferential to Japan’s claim of right to determine unilaterally whether JARPA II is, in fact, research.

Although killing whales—particularly endangered species such as humpback and fin whales, both of which are included in Japan’s whaling program—is an issue of grave concern to many states and nongovernmental organizations, only New Zealand has intervened and the ICJ has not invited amicus briefs or expert opinion from non-parties.

The jurisdictional issue has received scant attention. It is possible that the Court may, in the end, accept Japan’s argument that it does not have jurisdiction. While that may change the dynamic of the conflict over whaling, there are still many political avenues where it will continue to play out. Although anti-whaling activists have thwarted the whalers in recent years—acknowledged in the Japanese oral argument—Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research has retaliated with a lawsuit in U.S. court and won a favorable decision in the 9th Circuit.

A decision is expected from the ICJ by the end of the year around the time the next whaling season will begin. The oral proceedings will continue with Japan’s second round of oral argument on 15 July: live and archived webcasts and transcripts are available. It provides an exceptional opportunity to watch many of the great international litigators, including Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, at work.

Bolivia’s Maritime Claim before the ICJ

It is our pleasure to welcome back Elizabeth Santalla as today’s blogger.  Elizabeth reports the following regarding Bolivia’s maritime claim before the International Court of Justice:

On 24 April 2013, Bolivia instituted proceedings before the International Court of Justice requesting that the Court adjudge and declare, in general terms, the existence of an international obligation on the part of Chile to negotiate in good faith and effectively sovereign access to the sea for Bolivia. The issue has been a longstanding thorn in bilateral relations between the countries. The way Bolivia lost its access to the sea, as a result of a treaty signed to put an end to a the “War of the Pacific” and under the pressure of continuing Chilean  military occupation, has created feelings of unfairness embedded in Bolivian generations since then. Leaving to one side one unsuccessful attempt to bring the claim to an international judicial forum (in the context of the League of Nations) in 1920, Bolivia’s recent move is a departure from the traditional approach of fruitless diplomatic conversations and negotiations.

My blog post on the topic for the Peace Palace Library is available here.