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068- The Continental Shelf Case (Libya vs Malta)

On July 26th, 1982, Libya and Malta notified the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of a special agreement in which it requested the Court to answer the question presented as follows:

“What principles and rules of international law are applicable to the delimitation of the areas of the continental shelf which appertains to the Republic of Malta and the area of the continental shelf which appertains to the Libyan Arab Republic, and how in practice such principles and rules can be applied by the two Parties in this particular case in order that they may without difficulty delimit such areas by an agreement?”

In the course of the proceedings, Italy sought to intervene on the basis of preserving its legal interest under article 62 of the Statute. The Court examined this question in its judgment of March 21st, 1984 and held that the intervention requested by Italy fell, in view of its subject matter, within a category which, according to Italy’s own demonstration, could not be accepted and therefore rejected it.

Judgment of 21-03-1984.pdf

The ICJ delivered its judgment on the merits on June 3rd, 1985. It firstly defined the scope of its mission by distinguishing between the two questions on which it had to rule, namely, on the one hand, to set out the principles and rules of law applicable to the delimitation of the continental shelf by the parties and, on the other hand, to explain how to apply those rules to the present case.

The Court specified the factors that had to be taken into account in order to achieve a fair result, namely:

  1. The general configuration of the coasts of the Parties, the fact that they face each other and their reciprocal situation in the general geographical framework;
  2. The disparity in the lengths of the relevant coasts of the Parties and the distance between them;
  3. The need to avoid in the delimitation any excessive disproportion between the extent of the continental shelf area under the responsibility of the coastal State and the length of the relevant part of its coasts, measured according to the general direction of the coastlines.

Finally, with regard to the application of such rules and principles, the Court held that a fair result could be achieved by drawing “as a first stage in the process, a median line every point of which is equidistant from the low-water mark of the relevant coast of Malta (excluding the islet of Filfla), and the low-water mark of the relevant coast of Libya, that initial line being then subject to adjustment in the light of the above-mentioned circumstances and factors”.

Judgment of 03-06-1985.pdf

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.