Questions relating to the Seizure and Detention of Certain Documents and Data (Timor-Leste v. Australia)
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Overview of the case
On 17 December 2013 Timor-Leste instituted proceedings against Australia with regard to the seizure and subsequent detention “by Agents of Australia of documents, data and other property which belongs to Timor-Leste and/or which Timor-Leste has the right to protect under international law”. Timor-Leste contends that these items were seized in the offices of one of its legal advisers in Narrabundah, Australian Capital Territory, allegedly under a warrant issued under Article 25 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act of 1979. Timor-Leste claims that the items seized include documents and data containing correspondence between the Government of Timor-Leste and its legal advisers relating to a pending arbitration under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty between Timor-Leste and Australia. As basis for jurisdiction of the Court, Timor-Leste invokes its declaration of 21 September 2012 under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute, and that made by Australian on 22 March 2002 under the same provision.
On 17 December 2013 Timor-Leste also filed a request for the indication of provisions measures in order to protect its rights and to prevent the use of the seized documents and data by Australia against its interests and rights in the pending arbitration and with regard to other matters relating to the Timor Sea and its resources. Timor-Leste further requested the President of the Court to exercise his power under Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court.
Since it had been agreed that there would be only one round of written pleadings, the case was ready for hearing upon the filing of Australia’s Counter-Memorial (on 28 July 2014), and it was decided that the hearings on the merits would begin on 17 September 2014. Those hearings did not take place, however, the Parties having requested the Court, by a joint letter of 1 September 2014, “to adjourn the hearing . . . in order to enable them to seek an amicable settlement”.
Several months later, in a letter of 25 March 2015, Australia indicated that it “wished to return the materials removed from the premises of Collaery Lawyers on 3 December 2013, which are the subject of the present proceedings”. It therefore requested a modification of the Order of 3 March 2014. Timor-Leste was granted until 10 April 2015 to present its written observations in this regard.
By an Order of 22 April 2015, the Court authorized the return of the documents and data in question, and any copies thereof.
By a letter of 2 June 2015, stating that “following the return of the seized documents and data by Australia on 12 May 2015, it had successfully achieved the purpose of its Application to the Court, namely the return of its rightful property, and therefore implicit recognition by Australia that its actions were in violation of Timor- Leste’s sovereign rights”, Timor-Leste informed the Court that it wished to discontinue the proceedings.
Australia having indicated that it had no objection thereto, the President of the Court, by an Order dated 11 June 2015, placed on record the discontinuance of the proceedings by Timor-Leste and directed that the case be removed from the List.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.