Top UN Court To Rule On Bitter Kenya-Somalia Border Spat

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The UN’s top court will rule in a bitter border dispute between Somalia and Kenya on Tuesday, delivering a verdict with potentially far-reaching consequences for bilateral ties and energy extraction in the region.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), is to give its final word in a case filed by Mogadishu more than seven years ago.

A full bench of 15 judges led by US judge Joan Donoghue will hand down the verdict at the Peace Palace in The Hague at 1300 GMT.

At stake are sovereignty, undersea riches and the future of relations between two countries in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Kenya has already lashed the ICJ as biased and announced it does not recognise the court’s binding jurisdiction.

At the heart of the dispute is the direction that the joint maritime boundary should take from the point where the land frontiers meet on the coast.

Somalia insists the boundary should follow the orientation of its land border and thus head out in a line towards the southeast.

But Kenya says its boundary runs in a straight line east — a delineation that would give it a big triangular slice of the sea.

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Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the area since 1979, when it proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — a maritime territory extending up to 200 nautical miles offshore where a state has the right to exploit resources.

The contested 100,000-square-kilometre (38,000-square-mile) area is believed to contain rich gas and oil deposits.

Nairobi has already granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but Somalia is contesting the move.

Kenyan anger

Established after World War II, the ICJ rules in disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed.

Kenya unsuccessfully argued that the court did not have competence over the case, and in March did not attend hearings, citing difficulties arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

Just over two weeks ago, Nairobi notified the UN secretary-general that it was withdrawing its 1965 declaration accepting the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

“The delivery of the judgement will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with, and withdrawn from,” the Kenyan foreign ministry said last week.

It accused the court of “obvious and inherent bias” in addressing the dispute.

“As a sovereign nation, Kenya shall no longer be subjected to an international court or tribunal without its express consent.”

Long-running dispute

Somalia and Kenya had agreed in 2009 to settle the squabble through bilateral negotiations.

Two meetings were held in 2014, but little progress was made. A third-round that same year fell through when the Kenyan delegation failed to show up without informing their counterparts, later citing security concerns.

Somalia then took the matter to the ICJ in 2014, saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the row had led nowhere.

Monday’s verdict may further sour diplomatic relations between the two countries after Kenya in 2019 recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu after accusing Somalia of selling off oil and gas blocks in the contested area.

Nairobi called the move an “unparalleled affront and illegal grab” at its resources.

It tartly reminded Somalia of Kenya’s sacrifices in the battle against Al-Shabaab jihadists.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to AMISOM, an African Union military operation fighting Al-Qaeda-linked fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.

AFP

Top UN Court Throws Out Qatar Blockade Case Against UAE

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

The UN’s top court on Thursday rejected a case brought by Qatar accusing the United Arab Emirates of discrimination during a blockade of Doha, which has since been lifted.

Qatar filed the case in 2018, a year after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut transport links over claims the gas-rich nation backed Islamists and was too close to Iran.

Doha said the UAE’s actions had breached the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), a UN treaty.

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But the International Court of Justice said it “upholds the first preliminary objection raised by the UAE” that racial discrimination did not include nationality in this case.

“The court finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by the state of Qatar,” ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said in The Hague.

Qatar’s rivals agreed to lift the restrictions at a summit in early January and the UAE reopened its borders to Qatar shortly afterwards.

Myanmar Must ‘Stop This Genocide’ Of Rohingyas, Gambia Tells Court

UN’s International Court of Justice president Abdulqawi Yusuf chairs a three-day hearing of Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Rohingya genocide case, on December 10, 2019 in the Peace Palace of The Hague.  Koen Van WEEL / ANP / AFP

 

The Gambia asked the UN’s top court Tuesday to order Myanmar to “stop this genocide” of the Rohingya Muslim minority, as a hearing attended by Myanmar’s former peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi got underway.

“All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people,” Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told judges.

Charles Taylor accuses UN prosecutors of bribery

Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, who was recently convicted by a UN-backed court of aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone, has accused the UN prosecutors of paying witnesses to testify against him.

Taylor while addressing a war crime court in Hague ahead of his sentencing on May 30, said, “Witnesses were paid, coerced and in many cases threatened with prosecution if they did not give statements,”

According to him, “I was convinced that unless peace came to Sierra Leone, Liberia could not go forward…my sadness and deepest sympathies at the crimes suffered by victims and their families in Sierra Leone.”

Once one of west Africa’s most powerful men, Taylor was found guilty last month of arming and aiding rebels who killed and mutilated thousands in Sierra Leone during a decade-long civil war that killed 120,000 people.

In return, rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) paid Taylor in so-called “blood diamonds” mined by slave labour.

In a landmark first judgment against a former head of state since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg in 1946, Taylor was convicted on all 11 counts against him, including acts of terrorism, murder and rape committed by the RUF.

The court’s chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis recommended an 80-year jail sentence.

“Mr Taylor’s critical role in the entire campaign of terror is deserving an adequate condemnation,” Hollis told the court Wednesday.

“Mr Taylor was the root that aided, abetted and maintained the alliance: without him, the rebel movement would have died sooner” she added.

She said time Taylor had spent behind bars since his arrest in March 2006 and his transfer to The Hague three months later, should be deducted from his sentence, but not the time he spent under house arrest in Nigeria.

Taylor left Liberia in August 2003, to end that country’s civil war,, headed into exile in Nigeria where he lived until his arrest in March 2006 as he tried to flee.

Taylor’s lawyers said the prosecution’s demand was “excessive” and that their client should not be made to carry the blame alone for what happened in Sierra Leone’s war, which ended in 2001.

“Peace would not have come to Sierra Leone but for the efforts of Charles Taylor,” his lawyer Courtenay Griffiths told the hearing in leafy Leidschendam, just outside The Hague.

The trial heard that children under the age of 15 were abducted and conscripted during the conflict, and had the letters “RUF” carved into their foreheads and backs to deter escape.

The RUF rebels were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians.

The trial, which saw supermodel Naomi Campbell testify she had received “dirty” diamonds at a charity ball hosted by former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997, lasted nearly four years, until March 2011.

Handing down the verdict last month, Judge Richard Lussick stressed that although Taylor had substantial influence over the RUF, including its feared leader Foday Sankoh, “it fell short of command and control” of rebel forces.

Sankoh died in 2003 before he could face trial.

Taylor, Liberia’s president from 1997 to 2003, had dismissed the charges as “lies” and claimed to be the victim of a plot by “powerful countries.”

Authorities in Nigeria arrested Taylor in March 2006 as he tried to flee from exile after being forced to quit Liberia three years earlier, ending that country’s own civil war.

He was transferred to The Hague in 2006 amid security fears should he go on trial in the Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.