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Key Takeaways 

  • The North Sea is shared by Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark
  • According to Denmark and the Netherlands, the demarginalization of the coastline should be carried out using the equidistance rule
  • The Federal republic of Germany had signed the Convention of 1958 but it had not ratified it. 
  • Germany suggested that the delimitation should be based on the length of the coastlines.
  • The countries asked the International Justice Court to state the principals of the and rules of international law applicable.
  • The court on 20th February,1969 delivered it’s 13th  judgment since its inception in 1945 the basis of an majority ratio of 11:6. 
  • The delimitation was excused by equitable agreement, however it was cleared by the court whatever method of delimitation was applied, the results should be equitable.

INTRODUCTION

One must have heard about the wars and retaliations related to a border piece of land between two nations but over a sea coastline? That’s rare. However not unjustified when the it provides a resource-rich shelf relative 

 series of minerals. In this article today we’ll be discussing a very interesting and the 13th case at International Justice Court since its inception in 1945, between three neighbouring nations and a sea coastline.

Background

The North Sea is shared by Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark; whereas Germany's coast is concave, the latter two share a convex coastline. According to Denmark and the Netherlands, the demarginalization of the coastline should be carried out using the equidistance rule (drawing a line each point of which is equally distant from each shore"), mentioned in Article 6 of the Geneva Continental Shelf Convention, 1958 which was a general rule of conventional practicality, a priori rule, and a customary rule in international law. The Federal republic of Germany had signed the Convention of 1958 but it had not ratified it. 

In case it had been implemented with accordance of Denmark and Netherlands , Germany would have received less of the shelf's plentiful resources compared to the other two states. Germany suggested that the delimitation should be based on the length of the coastlines. Germany requested that the Continental Shelf be divided by the extent of the state's adjacent land, which Germany considered to be "a right and equitable share," rather than according to the principle of equidistance.

The case was brought before the International Justice Court and primarily just focused on the delimitation of the Northern Sea continental shelf between Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as between the Federal Republic of the Netherlands, and were submitted to the Court by Special Agreement.

The countries asked the International Justice Court to state the principals of the and rules of international law applicable, and undertook thereafter to carry out the delimitations on that basis.

Since Denmark and Netherlands were merging with the same interest the court By an Order on 26 April 1968, joined the proceedings in the two cases.

DURING THE COURT PROCEEDING

The major questions to be answered after the court proceedings were if Geneva Convention of 1958, on the Continental Shelf and particularly Article 6 is binding for Germany and if the equidistance principle had become a rule of Customary International Law since the adoption of the Continental Shelf Convention and is Germany bound by it. 

The arguments laid out by Netherlands and Denmark was that Germany should comply to the equidistance principal as, the state has signed the Convention of 1958, however it was to be noted that Germany had not ratified it. It was believed by Denmark and Netherlands, that Germany had unilaterally assumed the obligations arising out of the Convention or had perhaps manifested its acceptance of the provisions of the same, with respect to the shelf delimitation provisions.

If not by the Article 6 of  TheGeneva Convention on the Continental Shelf ,1958, Germany should comply with the equidistance principal since it was argued by Denmark and Germany that it was the way of customary international law since the Article existed independently of the Convention.

Both the arguments were rejected by the International Court of Justice on the grounds that since Germany had not ratified the Convention, Germany would be precluded Germany from denying the applicability of the conventional regime. The second argument was rejected on the reasoning that the principle of equidistance under Article 6 did not form a part of existing or emerging customary law when the Convention was drafted. The Article did not attain the status of customary international law even subsequent to the Convention 

coming into force.

In accordance with ‘opinio juris’, the Court placed emphasis on the elements of generality and uniform practise for the establishment of a customary rule. Germany was therefore not subject to the equidistance principle under either treaty law or customary law.

JUDGEMENT 

The court on 20th February,1969 delivered it’s 13th judgment since its inception in 1945 the basis of an majority ratio of 11:6. The court elaborated that a delimitation is an object of equitable agreement between the involved states. It was mentioned that Article 6, The Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf, 1958, makes the obligation to use the equidistance method a secondary one which comes into play only when agreements between the parties are absent, also the equidistance principle is not part of customary international law.

After taking into consideration all relevant circumstances, the delimitation was excused by equitable agreement. It was cleared by the court whatever method of delimitation was applied, the results should be equitable.

The case primarily dispelled the myth that the duration of state practice formed an essential factor in forming customary international law.

It was further even laid down by the courtthe intricacies which had to be followed while formulating the agreement and carrying out the distribution of the Shelf among the three parties.
 


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