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.
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