Sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan (Indonesia v. Malaysia)
Through the history of the world there have been disputes all around the globe between states for issues that concern the sovereignty of certain territories, the better way to solve these conflicts is by requesting the International Court of justice to determine the sovereignty of the territories, such is the case ofIndonesia and Malaysia disputing for the sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan, which case will be explained below.
Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sidapan are two small islands located in the Celebes Sea, in the north-east coast of the island of Borneo; they lie approximately 15.5 nautical miles apart. Ligitan is the smallest island of both; it lies at the southern extremity and extends southwardsfrom the islands of Danawan and Si Amil. It is situated around 21 nautical miles from Tanjun Tutop on the Semporna Peninsula, the nearest area on Borneo. The island is not permanently inhabitated, it stands permanently above the level of the sea, lacks of vegetation, and it has only a few trees. Sidapan, on the other hand, is also small but not as Ligitan, it has an area of approximately 0.13 sq.km. It is located around 15 nautical miles from Tajung Tutop, and 45 miles from the east cost of the island of Sebatik. It was originated by volcanoes and the top of a submarine mountain that is around 600 to 700 m in height, in which a coral atoll has formed. It was not permanently inhabitated, until it became a tourists resort for scuba diving in the 1980´s.
On November 2nd of 1998 Indonesiaand Malaysia presented to the Registrar of the Court a Special Agreement between both of the States, signed at Kuala Lumpur on 31 May 1997, which entered into force on 14 May 1998. In that Special Agreement both States requested the Court to determine on the basis of the treaties, agreements and any other evidence presented by the Parties, whether the sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and PulauSipadan belonged to the Republic of Indonesia or to Malaysia. In order to start the process by the Court, each of the parties filled a Memorial, Counter-Memorial and Reply within the time limit established by the Court. In spite the fact, that the Court did not included any judges of the nationality of either of the Parties, each Party was allowed to choose a judge ad hoc to sit in the case: Indonesiachose Mr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen while Malaysia chose Mr. Christopher Gregory Weeramantry. A little after, Mr. Shahabuddeen quit the case, and Indonesia chose Mr. Thomas Franck to replace him.
Thereafter, about two and a half years later, the Republic of the Philippines filed in the Registry of the Court an Application for consent to intervene in the case, basing principally in the Article 62 ofthe Statute of the Court. A little after, “in a Judgment that took place on 23 October 2001, the Court found that the Application presented by the Philippines could not be granted basically because it was out of time.
To solve the case the Court had to review the complex historical background of the dispute between this States. In the first place, Indonesia’s statements of its sovereigntythat over the islands relied primarily on the convention which Great Britain and the Netherlands had concluded on 20 June 1891. This convention intended to define “the boundaries between the Netherlands possessions in the island of Borneo and the States in those Islands which were under British protection”. Indonesia also relied on a series of effectivités, Dutch and Indonesian, which supposedlyconfirmed its conventional title. Furthermore, as the document of the Court says, “by the oral proceedings Indonesia contended, as an alternative argument, that if the Court were to reject its title based Convention, it could still claim sovereignty over the disputed islands, as successor of the Sultan of Bulungan because he had possessed authority over the islands”.
On the contrary, Malaysia...
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