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080- Certain Phosphate Lands in Nauru (Nauru vs Australia)

On May 19th, 1989 the Republic of Nauru filed an application instituting proceedings against the Commonwealth of Australia in respect of a dispute concerning the rehabilitation of certain phosphate lands mined under Australian administration before Nauruan independence. It contended that Australia had violated: 

  1. Its trusteeship obligations it had accepted under Article 76 of the Charter of the United Nations and under the Trusteeship Agreement for Nauru of November 1st, 1947;
  2. The principles of self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources.

The ICJ delivered its judgment on the merits on June 26th, 1992. It ruled on the objections of lack of jurisdiction raised by Australia:

The respondent State first argued that there was no dispute between the parties on the ground that “any dispute which arose during the trusteeship between ‘the administering authority and the indigenous inhabitants’ should be regarded as settled by the very fact of the lifting of the guardianship (since it had been effected without reservation) as well as by the effect of the 1967 Agreement on the Phosphate Industry of the Island of Nauru”. The ICJ noted that no agreement had been reached after Nauru gained independence on January 31st, 1968. Since the matter had not been resolved before that date, there was indeed a reservation on the part of Nauru. This exception was therefore rejected. The same was true for the other six exceptions.

Among other arguments put forward by Australia, it asserted that Nauru’s claims relating to the overseas assets of the British Phosphate Commissioners were inadmissible on the ground that they constituted a new application in all respects, submitted at the memorandum stage, and that “the subject matter of the dispute originally submitted to it would be transformed if it granted that request”. The Court upheld this exception in its judgment of June 26th, 1992.

Judgment of 26-06-1992.pdf

The parties had to submit their pleadings for the rest of the proceedings. However, both parties informed the Court that they had reached an amicable settlement of the situation and therefore wished to withdraw from the proceedings. The case was consequently removed from the court’s roll by order of the Court of September 13th, 1993.

Order of 13-09-1993.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.