• Copy the reference
  • Tutorial video

Lawyers, other representatives, expert(s), tribunal’s secretary

    Judgment

    1.
    On 22 February 1991, the Ambassador to the Netherlands of the Portuguese Republic (hereinafter referred to as "Portugal") filed in the Registry of the Court an Application instituting proceedings against the Commonwealth of Australia (hereinafter referred to as "Australia") concerning "certain activities of Australia with respect to East Timor". According to the Application Australia had, by its conduct, "failed to observe... the obligation to respect the duties and powers of [Portugal as] the administering Power [of East Timor]... and... the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination and the related rights". In consequence, according to the Application, Australia had "incurred international responsibility vis-à-vis both the people of East Timor and Portugal". As the basis for the jurisdiction of the Court, the Application refers to the declarations by which the two States have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court under Article 36, paragraph 2, of its Statute.
    2.
    In accordance with Article 40, paragraph 2, of the Statute, the Application was communicated forthwith to the Australian Government by the Registrar; and, in accordance with paragraph 3 of the same Article, all the other States entitled to appear before the Court were notified by the Registrar of the Application.
    3.
    By an Order dated 3 May 1991, the President of the Court fixed 18 November 1991 as the time-limit for filing the Memorial of Portugal and 1 June 1992 as the time-limit for filing the Counter-Memorial of Australia, and those pleadings were duly filed within the time-limits so fixed.
    5.
    By an Order dated 19 June 1992, the Court, taking into account the agreement of the Parties in this respect, authorized the filing of a Reply by Portugal and of a Rejoinder by Australia, and fixed 1 December 1992 and 1 June 1993 respectively as the time-limits for the filing of those pleadings. The Reply was duly filed within the time-limit so fixed. By an Order of 19 May 1993, the President of the Court, at the request of Australia, extended to 1 July 1993 the timelimit for the filing of the Rejoinder. This pleading was filed on July 5th, 1993. Pursuant to Article 44, paragraph 3, of its Rules, having given the other Party an opportunity to state its views, the Court considered this filing as valid.
    6.
    Since the Court included upon the Bench no judge of the nationality of either of the Parties, each Party proceeded to exercise the right conferred by Article 31, paragraph 3, of the Statute to choose a judge ad hoc to sit in the case ; Portugal chose Mr. Antonio de Arruda Ferrer-Correia and Australia Sir Ninian Martin Stephen. By a letter dated 30 June 1994, Mr. Ferrer-Correia informed the President of the Court that he was no longer able to sit, and, by a letter of 14 July 1994, the Agent of Portugal informed the Court that its Government had chosen Mr. Krzysztof Jan Skubiszewski to replace him.
    7.
    In accordance with Article 53, paragraph 2, of its Rules, the Court, after ascertaining the views of the Parties, decided that the pleadings and annexed documents should be made accessible to the public from the date of the opening of the oral proceedings.
    8.
    Between 30 January and 16 February 1995, public hearings were held in the course of which the Court heard oral arguments and replies by the following:

    For Portugal: H.E. Mr. Antonio Cascais,

    Mr. José Manuel Servulo Correia,

    Mr. Miguel Galvâo Teles,

    Mr. Pierre-Marie Dupuy,

    Mrs. Rosalyn Higgins, Q.C.

    For Australia: Mr. Gavan Griffith, Q.C.,

    H.E. Mr. Michael Tate,

    Mr. James Crawford,

    Mr. Alain Pellet,

    Mr. Henry Burmester,

    Mr. Derek W. Bowett, Q.C.,

    Mr. Christopher Staker.

    9.
    During the oral proceedings, each of the Parties, referring to Article 56, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, presented documents not previously produced. Portugal objected to the presentation of one of these by Australia, on the ground that the document concerned was not "part of a publication readily available" within the meaning of that provision. Having ascertained Australia’s views, the Court examined the question and informed the Parties that it had decided not to admit the document to the record in the case.
    10.
    The Parties presented submissions in each of their written pleadings; in the course of the oral proceedings, the following final submissions were presented :

    On behalf of Portugal,

    at the hearing on 13 February 1995 (afternoon):

    "Having regard to the facts and points of law set forth, Portugal has the honour to

    — Ask the Court to dismiss the objections raised by Australia and to adjudge and declare that it has jurisdiction to deal with the Application of Portugal and that that Application is admissible, and

    — Request that it may please the Court :

    (1) To adjudge and declare that, first, the rights of the people of East Timor to self-determination, to territorial integrity and unity and to permanent sovereignty over its wealth and natural resources and, secondly, the duties, powers and rights of Portugal as the administering Power of the Territory of East Timor are opposable to Australia, which is under an obligation not to disregard them, but to respect them.

    (2) To adjudge and declare that Australia, inasmuch as in the first place it has negotiated, concluded and initiated performance of the Agreement of 11 December 1989, has taken internal legislative measures for the application thereof, and is continuing to negotiate, with the State party to that Agreement, the delimitation of the continental shelf in the area of the Timor Gap ; and inasmuch as it has furthermore excluded any negotiation with the administering Power with respect to the exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf in that same area ; and, finally, inasmuch as it contemplates exploring and exploiting the subsoil of the sea in the Timor Gap on the basis of a plurilateral title to which Portugal is not a party (each of these facts sufficing on its own) :

    (a) has infringed and is infringing the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination, to territorial integrity and unity and its permanent sovereignty over its natural wealth and resources, and is in breach of the obligation not to disregard but to respect that right, that integrity and that sovereignty;

    (b) has infringed and is infringing the powers of Portugal as the administering Power of the Territory of East Timor, is impeding the fulfilment of its duties to the people of East Timor and to the international community, is infringing the right of Portugal to fulfil its responsibilities and is in breach of the obligation not to disregard but to respect those powers and duties and that right;

    (c) is contravening Security Council resolutions 384 and 389 and is in breach of the obligation to accept and carry out Security Council resolutions laid down by the Charter of the United Nations, is disregarding the binding character of the resolutions of United Nations organs that relate to East Timor and, more generally, is in breach of the obligation incumbent on Member States to co-operate in good faith with the United Nations ;

    (3) To adjudge and declare that, inasmuch as it has excluded and is excluding any negotiation with Portugal as the administering Power of the Territory of East Timor, with respect to the exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf in the area of the Timor Gap, Australia has failed and is failing in its duty to negotiate in order to harmonize the respective rights in the event of a conflict of rights or of claims over maritime areas.

    (4) To adjudge and declare that, by the breaches indicated in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the present submissions, Australia has incurred international responsibility and has caused damage, for which it owes reparation to the people of East Timor and to Portugal, in such form and manner as may be indicated by the Court, given the nature of the obligations breached.

    (5) To adjudge and declare that Australia is bound, in relation to the people of East Timor, to Portugal and to the international community, to cease from all breaches of the rights and international norms referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of the present submissions and in particular, until such time as the people of East Timor shall have exercised its right to selfdetermination, under the conditions laid down by the United Nations :

    (a) to refrain from any negotiation, signature or ratification of any agreement with a State other than the administering Power concerning the delimitation, and the exploration and exploitation, of the continental shelf, or the exercise of jurisdiction over that shelf, in the area of the Timor Gap;

    (b) to refrain from any act relating to the exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf in the area of the Timor Gap or to the exercise of jurisdiction over that shelf, on the basis of any plurilateral title to which Portugal, as the administering Power of the Territory of East Timor, is not a party" ;

    On behalf of Australia,

    at the hearing on 16 February 1995 (afternoon):

    "The Government of Australia submits that, for all the reasons given by it in the written and oral pleadings, the Court should :

    (a) adjudge and declare that the Court lacks jurisdiction to decide the Portuguese claims or that the Portuguese claims are inadmissible ; or

    (b) alternatively, adjudge and declare that the actions of Australia invoked by Portugal do not give rise to any breach by Australia of rights under international law asserted by Portugal."

    11.
    The Territory of East Timor corresponds to the eastern part of the island of Timor ; it includes the island of Atauro, 25 kilometres to the north, the islet of Jaco to the east, and the enclave of Oé-Cusse in the western part of the island of Timor. Its capital is Dili, situated on its north coast. The south coast of East Timor lies opposite the north coast of Australia, the distance between them being approximately 430 kilometres.

    In the sixteenth century, East Timor became a colony of Portugal; Portugal remained there until 1975. The western part of the island came under Dutch rule and later became part of independent Indonesia.

    12.
    In resolution 1542 (XV) of 15 December 1960 the United Nations General Assembly recalled "differences of views... concerning the status of certain territories under the administrations of Portugal and Spain and described by these two States as ‘overseas provinces’ of the metropolitan State concerned" ; and it also stated that it considered that the territories under the administration of Portugal, which were listed therein (including "Timor and dependencies") were non-self-governing territories within the meaning of Chapter XI of the Charter. Portugal, in the wake of its "Carnation Revolution", accepted this position in 1974.
    13.
    Following internal disturbances in East Timor, on 27 August 1975 the Portuguese civil and military authorities withdrew from the mainland of East Timor to the island of Atauro. On 7 December 1975 the armed forces of Indonesia intervened in East Timor. On 8 December 1975 the Portuguese authorities departed from the island of Atauro, and thus left East Timor altogether. Since their departure, Indonesia has occupied the Territory, and the Parties acknowledge that the Territory has remained under the effective control of that State. Asserting that on 31 May 1976 the people of East Timor had requested Indonesia "to accept East Timor as an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia", on 17 July 1976 Indonesia enacted a law incorporating the Territory as part of its national territory.
    14.
    Following the intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in the Territory and the withdrawal of the Portuguese authorities, the question of East Timor became the subject of two resolutions of the Security Council and of eight resolutions of the General Assembly, namely, Security Council resolutions 384 (1975) of 22 December 1975 and 389 (1976) of 22 April 1976, and General Assembly resolutions 3485 (XXX) of 12 December 1975, 31/53 of 1 December 1976, 32/34 of 28 November 1977, 33/39 of 13 December 1978, 34/40 of 21 November 1979, 35/27 of 11 November 1980, 36/50 of 24 November 1981 and 37/30 of 23 November 1982.
    15.
    Security Council resolution 384 (1975) of 22 December 1975 called upon "all States to respect the territorial integrity of East Timor as well as the inalienable right of its people to self-determination" ; called upon "the Government of Indonesia to withdraw without delay all its forces from the Territory"; and further called upon

    "the Government of Portugal as administering Power to co-operate fully with the United Nations so as to enable the people of East Timor to exercise freely their right to self-determination".

    Security Council resolution 389 (1976) of 22 April 1976 adopted the same terms with regard to the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination ; called upon "the Government of Indonesia to withdraw without further delay all its forces from the Territory" ; and further called upon "all States and other parties concerned to co-operate fully with the United Nations to achieve a peaceful solution to the existing situation...".

    General Assembly resolution 3485 (XXX) of 12 December 1975 referred to Portugal "as the administering Power" ; called upon it "to continue to make every effort to find a solution by peaceful means"; and "strongly deplore[d] the military intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in Portuguese Timor". In resolution 31/53 of 1 December 1976, and again in resolution 32/34 of 28 November 1977, the General Assembly rejected

    "the claim that East Timor has been incorporated into Indonesia, inasmuch as the people of the Territory have not been able to exercise freely their right to self-determination and independence".

    Security Council resolution 389 (1976) of 22 April 1976 and General Assembly resolutions 31/53 of 1 December 1976, 32/34 of 28 November 1977 and 33/39 of 13 December 1978 made no reference to Portugal as the administering Power. Portugal is so described, however, in Security Council resolution 384 (1975) of 22 December 1975 and in the other resolutions of the General Assembly. Also, those resolutions which did not specifically refer to Portugal as the administering Power recalled another resolution or other resolutions which so referred to it.

    16.
    No further resolutions on the question of East Timor have been passed by the Security Council since 1976 or by the General Assembly since 1982. However, the Assembly has maintained the item on its agenda since 1982, while deciding at each session, on the recommendation of its General Committee, to defer consideration of it until the following session. East Timor also continues to be included in the list of non-selfgoverning territories within the meaning of Chapter XI of the Charter; and the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples remains seised of the question of East Timor. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is also engaged in a continuing effort, in consultation with all parties directly concerned, to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the problem.
    17.
    The incorporation of East Timor as part of Indonesia was recognized by Australia de facto on 20 January 1978. On that date the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs stated: "The Government has made clear publicly its opposition to the Indonesian intervention and has made this known to the Indonesian Government." He added: "[Indonesia’s] control is effective and covers all major administrative centres of the territory." And further:

    "This is a reality with which we must come to terms. Accordingly, the Government has decided that although it remains critical of the means by which integration was brought about it would be unrealistic to continue to refuse to recognize de facto that East Timor is part of Indonesia."

    On 23 February 1978 the Minister said: "we recognize the fact that East Timor is part of Indonesia, but not the means by which this was brought about".

    On 15 December 1978 the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs declared that negotiations which were about to begin between Australia and Indonesia for the delimitation of the continental shelf between Australia and East Timor, "when they start, will signify de jure recognition by Australia of the Indonesian incorporation of East Timor" ; he added : "The acceptance of this situation does not alter the opposition which the Government has consistently expressed regarding the manner of incorporation." The negotiations in question began in February 1979.

    18.
    Prior to this, Australia and Indonesia had, in 1971-1972, established a delimitation of the continental shelf between their respective coasts; the delimitation so effected stopped short on either side of the continental shelf between the south coast of East Timor and the north coast of Australia. This undelimited part of the continental shelf was called the "Timor Gap".

    The delimitation negotiations which began in February 1979 between Australia and Indonesia related to the Timor Gap; they did not come to fruition. Australia and Indonesia then turned to the possibility of establishing a provisional arrangement for the joint exploration and exploitation of the resources of an area of the continental shelf. A Treaty to this effect was eventually concluded between them on 11 December 1989, whereby a "Zone of Cooperation" was created "in an area between the Indonesian Province of East Timor and Northern Australia". Australia enacted legislation in 1990 with a view to implementing the Treaty; this law came into force in 1991.

    19.
    In these proceedings Portugal maintains that Australia, in negotiating and concluding the 1989 Treaty, in initiating performance of the Treaty, in taking internal legislative measures for its application, and in continuing to negotiate with Indonesia, has acted unlawfully, in that it has infringed the rights of the people of East Timor to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over its natural resources, infringed the rights of Portugal as the administering Power, and contravened Security Council resolutions 384 and 389. Australia raised objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and to the admissibility of the Application. It took the position, however, that these objections were inextricably linked to the merits and should therefore be determined within the framework of the merits. The Court heard the Parties both on the objections and on the merits. While Australia concentrated its main arguments and submissions on the objections, it also submitted that Portugal’s case on the merits should be dismissed, maintaining, in particular, that its actions did not in any way disregard the rights of Portugal.
    20.
    According to one of the objections put forward by Australia, there exists in reality no dispute between itself and Portugal. In another objection, it argued that Portugal’s Application would require the Court to rule on the rights and obligations of a State which is not a party to the proceedings, namely Indonesia. According to further objections of Australia, Portugal lacks standing to bring the case, the argument being that it does not have a sufficient interest of its own to institute the proceedings, notwithstanding the references to it in some of the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly as the administering Power of East Timor, and that it cannot, furthermore, claim any right to represent the people of East Timor; its claims are remote from reality, and the judgment the Court is asked to give would be without useful effect ; and finally, its claims concern matters which are essentially not legal in nature which should be resolved by negotiation within the framework of ongoing procedures before the political organs of the United Nations. Portugal requested the Court to dismiss all these objections.
    21.
    The Court will now consider Australia’s objection that there is in reality no dispute between itself and Portugal. Australia contends that the case as presented by Portugal is artificially limited to the question of the lawfulness of Australia’s conduct, and that the true respondent is Indonesia, not Australia. Australia maintains that it is being sued in place of Indonesia. In this connection, it points out that Portugal and Australia have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court under Article 36, paragraph 2, of its Statute, but that Indonesia has not.

    In support of the objection, Australia contends that it recognizes, and has always recognized, the right of the people of East Timor to selfdetermination, the status of East Timor as a non-self-governing territory, and the fact that Portugal has been named by the United Nations as the administering Power of East Timor; that the arguments of Portugal, as well as its submissions, demonstrate that Portugal does not challenge the capacity of Australia to conclude the 1989 Treaty and that it does not contest the validity of the Treaty; and that consequently there is in reality no dispute between itself and Portugal.

    Portugal, for its part, maintains that its Application defines the real and only dispute submitted to the Court.

    23.
    The Court will now consider Australia’s principal objection, to the effect that Portugal’s Application would require the Court to determine the rights and obligations of Indonesia. The declarations made by the Parties under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute do not include any limitation which would exclude Portugal’s claims from the jurisdiction thereby conferred upon the Court. Australia, however, contends that the jurisdiction so conferred would not enable the Court to act if, in order to do so, the Court were required to rule on the lawfulness of Indonesia’s entry into and continuing presence in East Timor, on the validity of the 1989 Treaty between Australia and Indonesia, or on the rights and obligations of Indonesia under that Treaty, even if the Court did not have to determine its validity. Portugal agrees that if its Application required the Court to decide any of these questions, the Court could not entertain it. The Parties disagree, however, as to whether the Court is required to decide any of these questions in order to resolve the dispute referred to it.
    24.
    Australia argues that the decision sought from the Court by Portugal would inevitably require the Court to rule on the lawfulness of the conduct of a third State, namely Indonesia, in the absence of that State’s consent. In support of its argument, it cites the Judgment in the case concerning Monetary Gold Removed from Rome in 1943, in which the Court ruled that, in the absence of Albania’s consent, it could not take any decision on the international responsibility of that State since "Albania’s legal interests would not only be affected by a decision, but would form the very subject-matter of the decision" (I.C.J. Reports 1954, p. 32).
    25.
    In reply, Portugal contends, first, that its Application is concerned exclusively with the objective conduct of Australia, which consists in having negotiated, concluded and initiated performance of the 1989 Treaty with Indonesia, and that this question is perfectly separable from any question relating to the lawfulness of the conduct of Indonesia. According to Portugal, such conduct of Australia in itself constitutes a breach of its obligation to treat East Timor as a non-self-governing territory and Portugal as its administering Power; and that breach could be passed upon by the Court by itself and without passing upon the rights of Indonesia. The objective conduct of Australia, considered as such, constitutes the only violation of international law of which Portugal complains.
    27.
    The Court notes that Portugal’s claim that, in entering into the 1989 Treaty with Indonesia, Australia violated the obligation to respect Portugal’s status as administering Power and that of East Timor as a non-self-governing territory, is based on the assertion that Portugal alone, in its capacity as administering Power, had the power to enter into the Treaty on behalf of East Timor; that Australia disregarded this exclusive power, and, in so doing, violated its obligations to respect the status of Portugal and that of East Timor.

    The Court also observes that Australia, for its part, rejects Portugal’s claim to the exclusive power to conclude treaties on behalf of East Timor, and the very fact that it entered into the 1989 Treaty with Indonesia shows that it considered that Indonesia had that power. Australia in substance argues that even if Portugal had retained that power, on whatever basis, after withdrawing from East Timor, the possibility existed that the power could later pass to another State under general international law, and that it did so pass to Indonesia; Australia affirms moreover that, if the power in question did pass to Indonesia, it was acting in conformity with international law in entering into the 1989 Treaty with that State, and could not have violated any of the obligations Portugal attributes to it. Thus, for Australia, the fundamental question in the present case is ultimately whether, in 1989, the power to conclude a treaty on behalf of East Timor in relation to its continental shelf lay with Portugal or with Indonesia.

    30.
    Portugal presents a final argument to challenge the applicability to the present case of the Court’s jurisprudence in the case concerning Monetary Gold Removed from Rome in 1943. It argues that the principal matters on which its claims are based, namely the status of East Timor as a non-self-governing territory and its own capacity as the administering Power of the Territory, have already been decided by the General Assembly and the Security Council, acting within their proper spheres of competence; that in order to decide on Portugal’s claims, the Court might well need to interpret those decisions but would not have to decide de novo on their content and must accordingly take them as "givens" ; and that consequently the Court is not required in this case to pronounce on the question of the use of force by Indonesia in East Timor or upon the lawfulness of its presence in the Territory.

    Australia objects that the United Nations resolutions regarding East Timor do not say what Portugal claims they say; that the last resolution of the Security Council on East Timor goes back to 1976 and the last resolution of the General Assembly to 1982, and that Portugal takes no account of the passage of time and the developments that have taken place since then; and that the Security Council resolutions are not resolutions which are binding under Chapter VII of the Charter or otherwise and, moreover, that they are not framed in mandatory terms.

    31.
    The Court notes that the argument of Portugal under consideration rests on the premise that the United Nations resolutions, and in particular those of the Security Council, can be read as imposing an obligation on States not to recognize any authority on the part of Indonesia over the Territory and, where the latter is concerned, to deal only with Portugal. The Court is not persuaded, however, that the relevant resolutions went so far.

    For the two Parties, the Territory of East Timor remains a non-selfgoverning territory and its people has the right to self-determination. Moreover, the General Assembly, which reserves to itself the right to determine the territories which have to be regarded as non-self-governing for the purposes of the application of Chapter XI of the Charter, has treated East Timor as such a territory. The competent subsidiary organs of the General Assembly have continued to treat East Timor as such to this day. Furthermore, the Security Council, in its resolutions 384 (1975) and 389 (1976) has expressly called for respect for "the territorial integrity of East Timor as well as the inalienable right of its people to selfdetermination in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)".

    Nor is it at issue between the Parties that the General Assembly has expressly referred to Portugal as the "administering Power" of East Timor in a number of the resolutions it adopted on the subject of East Timor between 1975 and 1982, and that the Security Council has done so in its resolution 384 (1975). The Parties do not agree, however, on the legal implications that flow from the reference to Portugal as the administering Power in those texts.

    33.
    It follows from this that the Court would necessarily have to rule upon the lawfulness of Indonesia’s conduct as a prerequisite for deciding on Portugal’s contention that Australia violated its obligation to respect Portugal’s status as administering Power, East Timor’s status as a nonself-governing territory and the right of the people of the Territory to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over its wealth and natural resources.
    36.
    Having dismissed the first of the two objections of Australia which it has examined, but upheld its second, the Court finds that it is not required to consider Australia’s other objections and that it cannot rule on Portugal’s claims on the merits, whatever the importance of the questions raised by those claims and of the rules of international law which they bring into play.
    37.
    The Court recalls in any event that it has taken note in the present Judgment (paragraph 31) that, for the two Parties, the Territory of East Timor remains a non-self-governing territory and its people has the right to self-determination.
    Whole document
    para.
    Click on the text to select an element Click elsewhere to unselect an element
    Select a key word :
    1 /

    Instantly access the most relevant case law, treaties and doctrine.

    Start your Free Trial

    Already registered ?