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Permanent Court of International Justice

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Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta)

Overview of the case

This case, which was submitted to the Court in 1982 by Special Agreement between Libya and Malta, related to the delimitation of the areas of continental shelf appertaining to each of these two States. In support of its argument, Libya relied on the principle of natural prolongation and the concept of proportionality. Malta maintained that States’ rights over areas of continental shelf were now governed by the concept of distance from the coast, which was held to confer a primacy on the equidistance method of defining boundaries between areas of continental shelf, particularly when these appertained to States lying directly opposite each other, as in the case of Malta and Libya. The Court found that, in view of developments in the law relating to the rights of States over areas of continental shelf, there was no reason to assign a role to geographical or geophysical factors when the distance between the two States was less than 400 miles (as in the instant case). It also considered that the equidistance method did not have to be used and was not the only appropriate delimitation technique. The Court defined a number of equitable principles and applied them in its Judgment of 3 June 1985, in the light of the relevant circumstances. It took account of the main features of the coasts, the difference in their lengths and the distance between them. It took care to avoid any excessive disproportion between the continental shelf appertaining to a State and the length of its coastline, and adopted the solution of a median line transposed northwards over a certain distance. In the course of the proceedings, Italy applied for permission to intervene, claiming that it had an interest of a legal nature under Article 62 of the Statute. The Court found that the intervention requested by Italy fell, by virtue of its object, into a category which — on Italy’s own showing — was one which could not be accepted, and the Application was accordingly refused.


This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.

Institution of proceedings

Special Agreement

26 July 1982
Available in:
English French

Written proceedings

Memorial of Malta

26 April 1983
Available in:
English

Application for Permission to Intervene of Italy
(French version only)

24 October 1983
Procedure(s): Intervention
Available in:
French

Counter-Memorial of Malta

26 October 1983
Available in:
English

Oral proceedings

Verbatim record 1984/10

Minutes of the Public Sittings held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, from 25 to 30 January and 21 March 1984, President Elias presiding
Procedure(s): Intervention
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1984

Oral Arguments - Minutes of the Public Sittings held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, from 26 November to 3 December 1984, President Elias presiding
Available in:
Original Language

Verbatim record 1984

Oral Arguments (concluded) - Minutes of the Public Sittings held at the Peace Palace, The Hague, from 6 to 14 December 1984, from 4 to 22 February 1985 and on 3 June 1985, President Elias presiding
Available in:
Original Language

Other documents

Orders

Order of 27 July 1982

Fixing of time-limit: Memorials
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 26 April 1983

Fixing of time-limit: Counter-Memorials
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 21 March 1984

Fixing of time-limit: Replies
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Judgments

Summaries of Judgments and Orders

Summary 1984/1

Summary of the Judgment of 21 March 1984
Available in:
English French

Summary 1985/1

Summary of the Judgment of 3 June 1985
Available in:
English French

Press releases

Press release 1982/14

27 July 1982
A new case is submitted to the Court - Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta)
Available in:
English French

Press release 1983/1

9 May 1983
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Filing of Memorials and Fixing of Time-limit for Counter-Memorials
Available in:
English French

Press release 1983/4

11 October 1983
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Solemn Declaration by two judges ad hoc
Available in:
English French

Press release 1983/6

25 October 1983
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Application by the Government of Italy for permission to intervene
Available in:
English French

Press release 1984/1

19 January 1984
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Hearing to open on Wednesday 25 January 1984 at 10 a.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 1984/2

1 February 1984
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - (Request by Italy for permission to intervene) - Closure of oral proceedings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1984/7

15 March 1984
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Court to give its Judgment on Wednesday 21 March 1984 at 10 a.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 1984/37

19 November 1984
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Hearing to open on 26 November 1984 at 3 p.m.
Available in:
English French

Press release 1984/40

4 December 1984
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - First stage of the oral proceedings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1984/41

14 December 1984
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Hearing in progress
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/3

28 January 1985
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - The Court resumes the oral proceedings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/5

22 February 1985
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Conclusion of public hearings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/10

21 May 1985
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Court to give its Judgment on 3 June 1985
Available in:
English French

Press release 1985/11

3 June 1985
Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta) - Judgment of the Court
Available in:
English French

Correspondence

Correspondence

26 July 1982
Correspondence
Available in:
English French