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Organization and jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is an intergovernmental organization created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. It was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on December 10, 1982. The Convention entered into force on November 16, 1994, and established an international framework for law over "all ocean space, its uses and resources". The tribunal is based in Hamburg, Germany. The Convention also established the International Seabed Authority, with responsibility for the regulation of seabed mining beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, that is beyond the limits of the territorial sea, the contiguous zone and the continental shelf.

The Tribunal has the power to settle disputes between party states (there are currently 161: 160 states plus the European Union).

According to its founding statute, the Tribunal has a set of 21 serving judges from a variety of states parties in three primary bodies:

The Chamber of Summary Procedure

The Chamber for Fisheries Disputes

The Chamber for Marine Environment Disputes

In addition, at the request of Chile and the European Union, the Tribunal also set up a special chamber to deal with the case concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of Swordfish Stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean (Chile/European Union).

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is based in Hamburg, Germany.

The Tribunal has jurisdiction over any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention, and over all matters specifically provided for in any other agreement which confers jurisdiction on the Tribunal (Statute, article 21). The Tribunal is open to States Parties to the Convention (i.e. States and international organisations which are parties to the Convention). It is also open to entities other than States Parties, i.e., States or intergovernmental organisations which are not parties to the Convention, and to state enterprises and private entities "in any case expressly provided for in Part XI or in any case submitted pursuant to any other agreement conferring jurisdiction on the Tribunal which is accepted by all the parties to that case" (Statute, article 20).

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982. It entered into force 12 years later, on 16 November 1994. A subsequent Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention was adopted on 28 July 1994 and entered into force on 28 July 1996. This Agreement and Part XI of the Convention are to be interpreted and applied together as a single instrument.

The mechanism established by the Convention provides for four alternative means for the settlement of disputes: the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice, an arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VII to the Convention, and a special arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VIII to the Convention.



A State Party is free to choose one or more of these means by a written declaration to be made under article 287 of the Convention and deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations (declarations made by States Parties under article 287).

If the parties to a dispute have not accepted the same settlement procedure, the dispute may be submitted only to arbitration in accordance with Annex VII, unless the parties otherwise agree.

Pursuant to the provisions of its Statute, the Tribunal has formed the following Chambers: the Chamber of Summary Procedure, the Chamber for Fisheries Disputes, the Chamber for Marine Environment Disputes and the Chamber for Maritime Delimitation Disputes.

At the request of Chile and the European Community, the Tribunal also formed a special chamber to deal with the Case concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of Swordfish Stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean (Chile/European Community).

Disputes relating to activities in the International Seabed Area are submitted to the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the Tribunal, consisting of 11 judges. Any party to a dispute over which the Seabed Disputes Chamber has jurisdiction may request the Seabed Disputes Chamber to form an ad hoc chamber composed of three members of the Seabed Disputes Chamber.

The Tribunal is open to States Parties to the Convention and, in certain cases, to entities other than States Parties (such as international organizations and natural or legal persons) (Access to the Tribunal).

The jurisdiction of the Tribunal comprises all disputes submitted to it in accordance with the Convention. It also extends to all matters specifically provided for in any other agreement which confers jurisdiction on the Tribunal. To date, ten multilateral agreements have been concluded which confer jurisdiction on the Tribunal (relevant provisions of these agreements).

Unless the parties otherwise agree, the jurisdiction of the Tribunal is mandatory in cases relating to the prompt release of vessels and crews under article 292 of the Convention and to provisional measures pending the constitution of an arbitral tribunal under article 290, paragraph 5, of the Convention.

The Seabed Disputes Chamber is competent to give advisory opinions on legal questions arising within the scope of the activities of the International Seabed Authority. The Tribunal may also give advisory opinions in certain cases under international agreements related to the purposes of the Convention.

Disputes before the Tribunal are instituted either by written application or by notification of a special agreement. The procedure to be followed for the conduct of cases submitted to the Tribunal is defined in its Statute and Rules.


Date: 2015-12-18; view: 286


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