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Kenya-Somalia Maritime Dispute Public Hearings Commence At the ICJ

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is to hold public hearings from today Monday 19 September to Friday 23 September 2016 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court.

The hearings will concern solely the preliminary objections raised by Kenya to the jurisdiction of the Court and to the admissibility of the Application. In accordance with Article 79, paragraph 5, of the Rules of Court, the proceedings on the merits have been suspended.

The case filed on 28 August 2014 by the Federal Republic of Somalia instituting proceedings against the Republic of Kenya with regard to a dispute concerning the delimitation of maritime spaces claimed by both States  with which Somalia contends that both States “disagree about the location of the maritime boundary in the area where their maritime entitlements overlap”, and asserts that “[d]iplomatic negotiations, in which their respective views have been fully exchanged, have failed to resolve this disagreement”.

Somalia requested the Court “to determine, on the basis of international law, the complete course of the single maritime boundary dividing all the maritime areas appertaining to Somalia and to Kenya in the Indian Ocean, including the continental shelf beyond 200 [nautical miles]”.

Somalia further asked the Court “to determine the precise geographical co-ordinates of the single maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean” based on the provisions of Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute. Somalia in its application is also referring to the declarations recognizing the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court made by Somalia and Kenya on 11 April 1963 and 19 April 1965, respectively.

In response to Kenya’s objections on the jurisdiction of the court Somalia further maintains that “[t]he jurisdiction of the Court under Article 36, paragraph 2, of its Statute is underscored by Article 282 of UNCLOS [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]”, both the Parties having ratified that Convention in 1989.

Discovery wells kenyaKenya will lead the first round of oral arguments today before the Somalia legal team take the stage tomorrow. The second round will commence on Wednesday when Kenya takes the floor and end on Friday with Somalia’s turn.

Representing Somalia include lawyers from Foley Hoag LLP, New York and Frenchman Prof Allain Pellet. The Kenyan side has Prof Payam Akhavan, Prof Mathias Forteau, Prof Vaughan Lowe QC,  Prof Alan Boyle and Amy Sanders.

The case solely seen by pundits as an economically motivated suit based on the recent discoveries of oil and gas in the Indian Ocean could see Kenya loose oil blocks that are currently on the exploration base including: blocks L-21, L-23 and L-24.

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