By a Special Agreement notified to the Court in 1978, the ICJ was asked to determine what principles and rules of international law were applicable to the delimitation as between Tunisia and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya of the respective areas of continental shelf appertaining to each. After considering arguments as well as evidence based on geology, physiography and bathymetry on the basis of which each party sought to support its claims to particular areas of the sea-bed as the natural prolongation of its land territory, the Court concluded, in a Judgment of 24 February 1982, that the two countries abutted on a common continental shelf and that physical criteria were therefore of no assistance for the purpose of delimitation. Hence it had to be guided by “equitable principles” (as to which it emphasized that this term cannot be interpreted in the abstract, but only as referring to the principles and rules which may be appropriate in order to achieve an equitable result) and by certain factors such as the necessity of ensuring a reasonable degree of proportionality between the areas allotted and the lengths of the coastlines concerned.
The Court found that the application of the equidistance method could not, in the particular circumstances of the case, lead to an equitable result. With respect to the course to be taken by the delimitation line, it distinguished two sectors : near the shore, it considered, having taken note of some evidence of historical agreement as to the maritime boundary, that the delimitation (beginning at the boundary point of Ras Adjir) should run in a north-easterly direction at an angle of approximately 26° ; further seawards, it considered that the line of delimitation should veer eastwards at a bearing of 52° to take into account the change of direction of the Tunisian coast to the north of the Gulf of Gabes and the existence of the Kerkennah Islands, to which a “half-effect” was attributed.
Categories: International Law