Fear and Loathing in the south Atlantic

As I’ve said before, I mooch, although I suppose that the more modern word would be ‘surf’. I prefer mooch.

Mooching is frustrating though and I get quite annoyed at the sheer lack of material on the internet. Now I know that the internet is vast and contains billions of bits of information, but it’s not big enough. Not when you live miles away from the National Archives which cost the country a small fortune to maintain, but haven’t for all that funding, got around to scanning the lot into the world wide web.

But then sometimes I get lucky.

A few days ago I came across an article from the american, Temple International and Comparative Law Journal entitled – “ Fear and Loathing in the South Pole: The need to resolve the Antarctic sovereignty issue and a framework for doing it…”  by Kevin Tray (Spring 2008).

The article is concerned with the future of oil exploration in the Antarctic which the author considers is likely to start within the next couple of decades. The current international agreements under the Antarctic Treaty don’t forbid exploration as such but the requirement for all the signatories to agree on almost everything in effect bans progress in this area. This is all up for review in 2041 but Mr. Tray obviously believes that the Treaty will break long before then.

Coincidently there were recent news reports of Norway stating its intention of exploring for oil off Bouvet Island which, due to its location, may breach the international agreement.

Mr. Tray’s article is interesting from two perspectives.

Firstly it outlines how the overlapping claims of Britain, Chile and Argentina might be dealt with by the International Court of Justice which the author believes is, “ .. the only venue with sufficiently perceived credibility, expertise, and independence to handle such a case.”

Secondly is the comparison which may be made between any judicial consideration of the Antarctic Peninsula sovereignty issues and a case covering the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

The article highlights the importance of four previous judgements which would carry, at the very least, persuasive authority at the ICJ.

The Islands of Palmas Case 1928 (Perm. Ct. Arb. 1928 / Hague Ct. 1932)

The Clipperton Island Case 1931

The Legal Status of Eastern Greenland Case 1933

The Minquiers and Ecrehos Case 1953

I will not attempt to give a potted version of the author’s arguments of how an Antarctic Peninsula sovereignty case would be viewed at the ICJ or his conclusions but I recommend it as an interesting read.

It has implications for all sovereignty disputes in the south Atlantic.




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