Pulau Sipadan, one of the islands in dispute
ICJ president Gilbert Guillaume
Malaysia`s Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda
Sipadan and Ligitan belong to Malaysia, rules ICJ
The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled that the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan belong to Malaysia.
The landmark ruling, by a majority of 16 to 1 in favour of Malaysia, was delivered on Tuesday morning (Malaysian time, Tuesday evening) on behalf of the full bench of 17 judges by President Gilbert Guillaume.
Each side had said in advance of the ruling that it would abide by the court's decision, which is not subject to appeal.
The court rejected almost all arguments by both sides based on colonial-era maps and treaties. Instead, it upheld Malaysia's claim based on its use of the islands prior to when the dispute arose in 1969.
The court said permits issued by Malaysia in 1917 to regulate the collection of turtle eggs and its 1930 establishment of a bird sanctuary "must be seen as regulatory and administrative assertions of authority over territory.''
Sixteen of the judges endorsed the ruling, and the 17th member of the tribunal dissented. The court is the primary judicial authority of the United Nations.
Malaysia and Indonesia had brought the dispute to the ICJ on November 2 1998 through a special agreement signed between the two countries in Kuala Lumpur on May 31 1997 which entered into force on May 14 the following year.
In the special agreement, the parties requested the ICJ "to determine on the basis of the treaties, agreements and any other evidence furnished by [them], whether sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan belongs to the Republic of Indonesia or to Malaysia".
They also expressed the wish to settle their dispute "in the spirit of friendly relations existing between [them] as enunciated in the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia" and declare in advance that they will "accept the Judgment of the Court given pursuant to [the] Special Agreement as final and binding upon them".
The Philippines intervened on March 15 2001 asking to be a party to the proceedings. However, its request was denied on Oct 23.
The public hearings for the case proper were held from June 3-12 this year.
This is the first South-East Asian territorial dispute to go to the ICJ.
Pulau Sipadan drew international attention in April 2000 after the Abu Sayyaf group from the Philippines raided the island and kidnapped 21 Malaysians and foreigners.
Apart from Guillaume who is from France, the multi-national Bench also comprised:
Vice-President Shi Jiuyong (China), Shigeru Oda (Japan), Raymond Ranjeva (Madagascar), Géza Herczegh (Hungary), Carl-August Fleischhauer (Germany), Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone), Vladlen S. Vereshchetin (Russian Federation), Rosalyn Higgins (United Kingdom), Gonzalo Parra-Aranguren (Venezuela), Pieter H. Kooijmans (Netherlands), Francisco Rezek (Brazil), Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh (Jordan), Thomas Buergenthal (United States of America) and Nabil Elaraby (Egypt).
For the current dispute, two ad-hoc judges were also appointed: Thomas Franck (US) was chosen by Indonesia and Christopher Gregory Weeramantry (Sri Lanka) by Malaysia.
At the hearing, Malaysia was represented by Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad, Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Agent and Dato' Noor Farida Ariffin, Ambassador of Malaysia to the Kingdom of the Netherlands as Co-Agent.
Counsel and Advocates:
Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, Q.C., C.B.E., Honorary Professor of International Law, University of Cambridge, Member of the Institut de Droit International,
Jean-Pierre Cot, Emeritus Professor, University of Paris-I (Panthéon-Sorbonne), Former Minister, Mr. James Crawford, S.C., F.B.A., Whewell Professor of International Law, University of Cambridge, Member of the English and Australian Bars, Member of the Institute of International Law,
Nico Schrijver, Professor of International Law, Free University, Amsterdam and Institute of Social Studies, The Hague; Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Dato' Zaitun Zawiyah Puteh, Solicitor-General of Malaysia,
Halima Hj. Nawab Khan, Senior Legal Officer, Sabah State Attorney-General's Chambers,
Athmat Hassan, Legal Officer, Sabah State Attorney-General's Chambers,
Farahana Rabidin, Federal Counsel, Attorney-General's Chambers.
Plus a team of 11 advisers and technical advisers.
Indonesia was represented by Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda, Minister for Foreign Affairs, as Agent and Abdul Irsan, Ambassador of Indonesia to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as Co-Agent.
Counsel and Advocates:
Alain Pellet, Professor at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, Member and former Chairman of the International Law Commission,
Alfred H. A. Soons, Professor of Public International Law, Utrecht University,
Sir Arthur Watts, K.C.M.G., Q.C., Member of the English Bar, Member of the Institute of International Law, Mr. Rodman R. Bundy, avocat à la Cour d'appel de Paris, Member of the New York Bar, FrereCholmeley/Eversheds, Paris,
Ms Loretta Malintoppi, avocat à la Cour d'appel de Paris, Member of the Rome Bar, Frere Cholmeley/Eversheds, Paris.
Charles Claypoole, Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, Frere Cholmeley/Eversheds, Paris,
Mathias Forteau, Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, Researcher at CEDIN Paris X (Nanterre).
Plus a team of 26 as advisers and technical advisers.
Chronology of events at the ICJ
2 November 1998: Indonesia and Malaysia jointly bring dispute over islands to the International Court of Justice.
15 March 2001: The Philippines requests permission to intervene in the proceedings.
23 October 2001: The Court finds that the Application of the Philippines for permission to intervene cannot be granted.
3 June 2002: Public hearings begin.
12 June 2002: Conclusion of public hearings. Court adjourns to consider its judgment.
17 December 2002: Court delivers judgment.