International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is an intergovernmental organization created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. It was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on December 10, 1982.

The Convention entered into force on November 16, 1994, and established an international framework for law over “all ocean space, its uses and resources”. The tribunal is based in Hamburg, Germany. The Convention also established the International Seabed Authority, with responsibility for the regulation of seabed mining beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, that is beyond the limits of the territorial sea, the contiguous zone and the continental shelf.

The Tribunal has the power to settle disputes between party states (there are currently 161: 160 states plus the European Union).

Composition:

According to its founding statute, the Tribunal has a set of 21 serving judges from a variety of states parties in three primary bodies:

  • The Chamber of Summary Procedure
  • The Chamber for Fisheries Disputes
  • The Chamber for Marine Environment Disputes

In addition, at the request of Chile and the European Union, the Tribunal also set up a special chamber to deal with the case concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of Swordfish Stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean (Chile/European Union).

The Tribunal:

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention. The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members, elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction over any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention, and over all matters specifically provided for in any other agreement which confers jurisdiction on the Tribunal (Statute, article 21). The Tribunal is open to States Parties to the Convention (i.e. States and international organisations which are parties to the Convention). It is also open to entities other than States Parties, i.e., States or intergovernmental organisations which are not parties to the Convention, and to state enterprises and private entities “in any case expressly provided for in Part XI or in any case submitted pursuant to any other agreement conferring jurisdiction on the Tribunal which is accepted by all the parties to that case” (Statute, article 20).

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982. It entered into force 12 years later, on 16 November 1994. A subsequent Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention was adopted on 28 July 1994 and entered into force on 28 July 1996. This Agreement and Part XI of the Convention are to be interpreted and applied together as a single instrument.

The origins of the Convention date from 1 November 1967 when Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations and called for “an effective international regime over the seabed and the ocean floor beyond a clearly defined national jurisdiction”. This led to the convening, in 1973, of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which after nine years of negotiations adopted the Convention.

Members:

The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members elected by secret ballot by the States Parties to the Convention. Each State Party may nominate up to two candidates from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.

No two members may be nationals of the same State and in the Tribunal as a whole it is necessary to assure the representation of the principal legal systems of the world and equitable geographical distribution; there shall be no fewer than three members from each geographical group as established by the General Assembly of the United Nations (African States, Asian States, Eastern European States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and Other States). Members are elected for nine years and may be re-elected; the terms of one third of the members expire every three years.

The current composition of the Tribunal is as follows:

President

Vladimir Vladimirovich Golitsyn (Russian Federation)

Vice-President

Boualem Bouguetaia (Algeria)

Judges

P Chandrasekhara Rao (India)

Joseph Akl (Lebanon)

Rüdiger Wolfrum (Germany)

Tafsir Malick Ndiaye (Senegal)

José Luis Jesus (Cabo Verde)

Jean-Pierre Cot (France)

Anthony Amos Lucky (Trinidad and Tobago)

Stanislaw Pawlak (Poland)

Shunji Yanai (Japan)

James L. Kateka (United Republic of Tanzania)

Albert J. Hoffmann (South Africa)

Zhiguo Gao (China)

Jin-Hyun Paik (Republic of Korea)

Elsa Kelly (Argentina)

David Joseph Attard (Malta)

Markiyan Z. Kulyk (Ukraine)

Alonso Gómez-Robledo Verduzco (Mexico)

Tomas Heidar (Iceland)

Jurisdiction:

The jurisdiction of the Tribunal comprises all disputes and all applications submitted to it in accordance with the Convention. It also includes all matters specifically provided for in any other agreement which confers jurisdiction on the Tribunal (Statute, article 21). The Tribunal has jurisdiction to deal with disputes (contentious jurisdiction) and legal questions (advisory jurisdiction) submitted to it.

Contentious jurisdiction

The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention, subject to the provisions of article 297 and to the declarations made in accordance with article 298 of the Convention.

Article 297 and declarations made under article 298 of the Convention do not prevent parties from agreeing to submit to the Tribunal a dispute otherwise excluded from the Tribunal’s jurisdiction under these provisions (Convention, article 299).

The Tribunal also has jurisdiction over all disputes and all applications submitted to it pursuant to the provisions of any other agreement conferring jurisdiction on the Tribunal. A number of multilateral agreements conferring jurisdiction on the Tribunal have been concluded to date.

Advisory jurisdiction

The Seabed Disputes Chamber is competent to give an advisory opinion on legal questions arising within the scope of the activities of the Assembly or Council of the International Seabed Authority (article 191 of the Convention).

The Tribunal may also give an advisory opinion on a legal question if this is provided for by “an international agreement related to the purposes of the Convention” (Rules of the Tribunal, article 138).

Sources: www.itlos.org, Wikipedia

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