After two weeks of legal tussle between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) yesterday set the end of September 2017 as the date to deliver judgment on the maritime boundary between two countries.
The tribunal set the date after Cote d’Ivoire concluded its final round of oral arguments at its sitting in Hamburg, Germany yesterday.
The President of the Special Chamber constituted to hear the case, Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, told the parties that the tribunal would deliver its judgement at the end of September 2017.
He did not give the exact date but told the parties that the tribunal would communicate the date to them via its registrar on time.
The Registrar of the Special Chamber, Mr Philippe Gautier, told the parties that they (parties) had up to Friday, February 24, 2017 to correct the mistakes in their presentations “without modifying the meaning”.
Other members of the panel hearing the case are judges Rüdiger Wolfrum of Germany and Jin-Hyun Paik of the Republic of Korea.
Ad hoc judges Thomas Mensah, Ghana, and Ronny Abraham, France, were selected by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, respectively, per the rules of the ITLOS.
Cote d’Ivoire finished its final arguments four hours ahead of schedule and prayed the tribunal to declare that Ghana had moved into its (Cote d’Ivoire’s) maritime boundary.
Ghana, led by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, ended its round of oral arguments on Monday, February 13, 2017 and prayed the tribunal to reject Cote d’Ivoire’s claims that Ghana had moved into its maritime boundary.
Cote d’Ivoire’s agent, Mr Adama Toungara, told the tribunal that he was a witness to 10 unsuccessful negotiations between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
He said there had never been a tacit agreement between the two countries with regard to the maritime boundary in question.
He said there was nothing like a customary equidistance line between the two countries and accordingly prayed the tribunal to reject Ghana’s claims and hold that Ghana had undertaken unilateral activities that had violated the sovereign rights of Cote d’Ivoire and its continental shelf.
Mr Toungara further prayed the tribunal to hold that Ghana had violated the provisional measures spelt out by the tribunal on April 25, 2015.
According to him, the tribunal’s decision would set a precedent for the sub-region.
Earlier, one of the lawyers for Cote d’Ivoire, Sir Michael Woods, had described Ghana’s arguments of a tacit agreement between the two countries as “baseless”.
Ghana’s closing address
Ms Akuffo had, on Monday, February 13, 2017, officially ended Ghana’s oral arguments and asked the tribunal “to reject Cote d’Ivoire’s attempts to argue that an oil field built up and developed over decades should have been abandoned overnight in 2009 when Cote d’Ivoire decided that a different boundary would suit it better. The cynicism here is all that of Cote d’Ivoire, I am afraid to say, not of Ghana”.
She prayed the Special Chamber to apply well-established legal principles to a clear and consistent body of evidence.
“We submit that the law and the evidence point inexorably to the maritime boundary observed by both parties for half a century — the line which we have termed the customary equidistance boundary. We say: You must uphold that line either as a result of the parties’ tacit agreement or by way of an adjustment to the provisional equidistance line to achieve an equitable solution,” Ms Akuffo had prayed.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is praying the Special Chamber to declare that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire mutually recognised, agreed and applied an equidistance-based maritime boundary in the territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelf within 200 miles.
She is also praying the chamber to hold that the maritime boundary in the continental shelf beyond 200 miles follows an extended equidistance boundary along the same azimuth as the boundary within 200 miles to be the limit of the national jurisdiction.
Ghana is also asking the Special Chamber to reject Cote d’Ivoire’s claim that Ghana violated the Special Chamber’s April 25, 2015 order, as well as claims that Ghana violated Article 83 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Cote d’Ivoire’s rights.