In a case filed by Somalia over the contended potentially oil-rich seabed off the country and neighbour, Kenya’s Indian Ocean coasts, the latter has dismissed the role of the International Court of Justice in deciding the case.
Somalia launched a case with the United Nations’ highest judicial organ in 2014 asking it to rule on the maritime border between the east African states, saying that diplomatic efforts to resolve the disputed boundary had failed.
Somalia wants the court to demarcate the maritime boundary, and to determine the exact geographical coordinates as an extension of its southeastern land borders. Kenya, on the other hand, wants the border to run in parallel along the line of latitude on its eastern border.
Kenya says Somalia jumped the gun when it filed a case before the International Court of Justice though it had signed an agreement to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels.
During the preliminary hearing on Monday, Kenya argued that the world court has no jurisdiction because there are two other methods for resolving the dispute — a 2009 memorandum of understanding between the two countries and a United Nations maritime treaty. Lawyer Payam Akhavan, representing Kenya, told the court that “basic principles of treaty interpretation” mean that “this dispute falls outside its jurisdiction.”
The agreement had stated that the border would run east along the line of latitude although further negotiations were to be held through the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS).
This hearing in The Hague will either result in dismissal of the case or a resolution.
The court’s decision will be final, and both countries will be expected to adhere to the verdict. If dismissed, the original 2009 agreement holds, and the two nations will have to resolve the issue through regional diplomatic means.